St George continues to go green…

St George’s Church in Wash Common, nr Newbury have been busyover the last few years making their building more welcoming and warmer.

Through their innovative George Goes Green project the church has been creating a warm, welcoming, usable, sustainable, community space by:

  • Ensuring the church building is accessible, flexible, affordable and widely used for local events
  • Installing a cost effective heating system with low running costs to benefit future generations
  • Lowering our carbon footprint; using green energy and moving away from fossil fuels
  • Flexible hire rates according to means What have we done so far…?
  • Replaced and insulated the church ceiling
  • Installed 129 solar panels plus control systems, and connected to the national grid
  • Added secondary glazing to high windows
  • Created a thermal lobby at the cloister entrance with independent accessAdded a welcome area and re-worked the north car park
  • Resolved pre-existing damp problems

“So much has already been achieved. And now it’s time for the final push; to install a sustainable heating system and open up the church to community use.”
Revd Paul Cowan, Vicar

The project is now moving on to renewable heat through a ground source heat pump.

What’s left to do?

  • To harness ground source heat, requiring 5 boreholes in church grounds
  • To replace the old and inefficient boiler with a ground source heat pump
  • To replace the church floor and install under-floor heating
  • To glaze the north transept to enable its use as a multipurpose meeting space

To help the church to realise the final phase of the project they are asking people to:

  • Use, and recommend, St George’s as an events venue to your friends and neighbours
  • Donate to the project – collect a green form from the back of church
  • Organise a fundraising event
  • Keep your eyes peeled for external funding opportunities
  • Spread the word – raise our profile!
  • Pray for the church community and this project

For more information about the project visit:

For more information about renewable energy options and your church visit the Diocese o Oxford website.

Greening Thatcham and the West Berkshire Green Exchange

At the 2nd February Earthing Faith network gathering we heard from Richard Foster and his involvement in Greening Thatcham and the West Berkshire Green Exchange.

Richard shared how he had been convinced of the reality of climate change through a talk he had heard through his church and as a result helped setup Thatcham Good Life, which is a group of people living in or around Thatcham in West Berkshire who are concerned about the warming of the planet due to CO2 emissions. Together they carry out three areas of activity:
  • Outreach – helping people to become aware of the problem 
  • Lifestyle Change – looking at how lifestyles might have to change to meet a 80% reduction in CO2 emission levels
  • Communication and Campaigning –  including lobbying politicians at local, national and European levels and supporting national organisations, especially charities, with similar objectives.

Richard and the Thatcham Good Life group then went onto help Thatcham adopt the Greening Campaign, and setup Greening Thatcham. They chose 8 simple activities that people could carry out in their homes to conserve energy and natural resources, and then delivered a card to every household in Thatcham with these “challenges”. Each household was asked to display the card in the window of their home when they had completed, or were doing, 5 of the 8 challenges. Cards displayed were then counted.  The total result was 217 cards counted which translated to CO2 savings of 145,07 kg, water saving of 221,751 litres and a financial saving of £26,928.

Another benefit of this work has been the local council helping to start the West Berkshire Green Exchange, which meets quarterly to allow West Berkshire’s green and sustainability groups to network and share information. It has been a rgeat forum to come together, hear a speaker and share ideas, and has helped provide a unified communication channel to the council.

All Saints Carbon Reduction Project – case study

Tamzin Evershed shares the story behind All Saints Carbon Reduction project and their bid to gain funding from the energyshare website. From an original project looking at the church building they have developed a project to install Solar Panels on their community centre and fund the work that goes on there.

When we launched the All Saints Carbon Reduction project, we probably didn’t really think too much about what we’d let ourselves in for.  A long-standing eco-congregation,  in Wokingham, the eco-congregation team  had already done lots of great things to get our congregation more interested in green issues.  We’re blessed with a clergy team that doesn’t apologise for giving its congregation a proverbial kick up the backside about environmental issues,  and as an eco-congregation group in general we preach to the converted.  So, in 2010 the eco-congregation team decided to do something more challenging and kicked off a project focused on reducing the carbon footprint of the church buildings.

The idea of investigating renewable energies and energy conservation brought forward church members who had previously  been supportive, but had not shown an active interest in eco-congregation activity.  Just as women expecting their first babies find themselves noticing babies in the street for the first time, as a group we suddenly began to realize that we weren’t the only church to be thinking this way, but in fact were some way behind the curve of early adopters.  That said, our path has not been easy, and it has often required faith and determination to carry on.

We took a holistic view, and divided the project up into loose chunks of activity and research: solar panels, lighting, insulation, behavioural change and heating.  We then ran our plans tentatively past the PCC and got the go ahead to investigate further.  At each step we feared that we might meet objections, but fortunately none was raised.

We spoke to various suppliers and experts and got quotes for things like  low energy lighting systems.  That showed us that whatever we did, making an impact was not going to come cheap. Like many churches in these recessionary times, All Saints has a budget deficit, and we knew that solar panels and the like might be seen as an eccentric luxury.  As a result we were careful to emphasise that these measures would save money in the long run, as well as achieve our aim of demonstrating our commitment to caring for creation.  We were also careful to build on work already budgeted for and planned, to ensure that it was carried out with carbon reduction in mind.  We also were clear that aesthetics and design were important considerations. For example we hope eventually to install a lighting system that enhances our church and optimizes its use as well as reducing its carbon footprint.

The project was, and still is, so large, that prioritising our actions was tricky.  However, due to the fact that at the time the top rate of Feed in Tariff was due to be cut in April 2012, we realized that that time constraint meant that we should focus on the solar panels first.

Our first thoughts were to install solar panels on the church roof.  We’re a grade II listed Norman church, but internet searches showed us that a listing wasn’t in fact an insurmountable hurdle to a solar panel installation.  Knowing that was one thing, but seeing it with our own eyes was another, so we organized a visit to St. Michael and All Angels in Withington, Gloucester.  This was well worth it, not only because they have a wonderful example of a pellet boiler and solar panels on a listed church, but also because they have a truly marvelous pub just two minutes down the road.  We returned to Wokingham and engaged with the Council’s Conservation Officer and English Heritage to discuss our plans. We also got some solar panel quotes, although it was surprisingly difficult to get them.  Many companies told us that it was impossible to install solar panels on a grade II listed building, and we found ourselves having to convince them we could!

Another hurdle we knew we had to surmount was the fact that the church roof needed re-doing (despite several recent repairs, due to the lead disappearing in the middle of the night) and there was no point in putting solar panels on the roof if they would have to be removed for later roof repairs. Meeting the deadline of April 2012 looked increasingly unlikely.

Things looked bleak, but when one door shuts another one always seems to open.  As part of our research we  learnt that solar panels can be installed on non-South facing roofs and so we switched our focus from the church to the church’s community centre, the Cornerstone.

The Cornerstone was built in 2002 and was built with energy conservation in mind. It also has the advantage as a site for a solar installation that  it is not listed, and has a large surface area of roof.  We discovered that if we used the Cornerstone roof,  and got funding for it, we would generate a Feed in Tariff that would both pay for refurbishment of the facilities and leave us with extra money to fund much needed community projects.  The Cornerstone is in an area of extreme relative deprivation, and much of the work that All Saints does is in helping the community of Norreys ward, which is one of the most deprived areas in Britain. Whilst public funding was being cut and intermittent, we could see a new way of getting an index linked income for 25 years.

At about that time we also became aware of one of the few sources of grant funding  for solar panels. Although the Feed in Tariff and savings on energy bills would have paid for the panels in time, we didn’t have the capital sum to pay for them.  British Gas and River Cottage are offering the “ Energyshare”  grant of up to £100,000 to fund renewable energy projects that benefit the community.  The grant administration is run through a website  Once we got into this process it really drove us according to its timetable.

There are three rounds. The first required us to get sufficient supporters signed up on the website to be in the top 100 of registered groups. We only had a month to do this, but managed it with just over 100 supporters. The second round was much more challenging.  Selection to be in the final round is based on a written application and the number of supporters registered on the website.  Following some pretty grueling work drumming up supporters and preparing a persuasive bid, we were delighted to find that we had been selected as one of 7 projects with a chance of 2 grants.

As part of our bid we have pledged to help those in fuel poverty in the Norreys ward reduce their energy costs, and apply for Government grants, using our solar installation and our own energy saving measures as real-life examples. We have also pledged to share our experience with other community buildings, so are happy to hear from any other churches who would like to pick our brains.

So, currently we are working hard to drum up votes to get that all-important funding.  It’s now votes that count, not supporters. Alongside the mainstream circulation of flyers, we’ve done a school assembly, addressed a convocation of eco-congregations and asked for help from a local Sikh temple.  We’re also hoping that members of the Earthing Faith network will help us and vote.  All you need do is go to and click “Vote Now”.  You will then be signed up as an energyshare member. You then need to go back to the voting page and press “Vote” again.  The process of sign up is downright confusing, but every vote counts and we know that based on the current number of supporters, if every supporter counts we stand a very good chance of getting that funding!

Tamzin Evershed is a member of All Saints’ Wokingham and coordinator of their Carbon Reduction project.

Your Church and Heat Pumps

The Diocese of Oxford has published an information sheet to introduce how heat pumps could be used to heat your church. It will help you assess the suitability of your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project to install heat pump technology and benefit from the government Renewable Heat Incentive.

Download the document or view it online:

Your church and Woodfuel (Biomass)

The Diocese of Oxford has published an information sheet to introduce how biomass could be used to heat churches.

It aims to help you assess the suitability of your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project to install a biomass boiler and benefit from the government Renewable Heat Incentive.

Download the document or view it online:

What is so special about homemade?

Chris Sunderland from EarthAbbey reflects on the recent harvest festival celebrations he has been involved in.

Why did many people say it felt so good to celebrate in this way? Part of the attraction was that it was something we had done ourselves. It felt raw and approachable. There was no hype, or hard sell. There were no celebrities, no big egos. We were just human beings who had done something.

What is so special about homemade?


The recent Homemade Festival here in Bristol had a very special feel to it. I wondered why. We had asked people to come and contribute something they had made, or grown, or cooked, or music they could sing, or a game they could lead…

We had food from Poland, Bangladesh, a curry made from homegrown ingredients. We had musicians, all working unplugged, a group which sang unaccompanied, others who had written their own work. We sat around on straw bales, eating the food, which was served from our new outdoor kitchen, which had been built by the community using traditional woodworking skills and unmachined wood. Outside the young people were playing, making dens and walkways between trees in the park beside the road, while a whole selection of crafts were displayed with bright quilts, and other textiles, homemade carpets and cakes.

imageThe focus of the festival was our Walled Garden in Barton Hill in Bristol. Many people took the chance to see what had been going on there, like the remarkable pumpkin that had spread so far, even up the trees or the thirty types of tomato and the beginnings of the forest garden. The garden is still in its early stages really, but it is already a great place to be. Soon there will be a roundhouse, built as a reflective space, a cob oven for the new kitchen and a rainwater harvesting system.

We had organised the festival in partnership with many of the local organisations and the burden of responsibilities had been shared between different people. Many people said it felt good.
I guess part of the attraction was that it was something we had done ourselves. It felt raw and approachable. There was no hype, or hard sell. There were no celebrities, no big egos. We were just human beings who had done something.

Matthew Crawford in his book The Case for Working with your Hands points out how much of our world today is based around pretence of some form or another. We are all very insecure as we shout across the internet to each other, trying to attract attention to our latest idea. Yet he points out that the person who has actually made something need say nothing. They only need to point.

Chris Sunderland, EarthAbbey

This article originally appeared in the EarthAbbey blog and is reproduced with permission.

Get Generating – A Renewable Energy Guide for Rural Communities

Get Generating: A Renewable Energy Guide for Rural Communities is a new resource that gives an overview of community based renewable energy options. The guide, produced by The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) in partnership with Action for Communities in Rural England (ACRE), the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), aims to help rural communities interested in generating renewable energy locally.

“Rural communities are becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities that renewable energy can offer particularly for the many rural areas that do not have a mains gas connection. However the huge range of organisations, resources and information available nationally and locally on renewable energy can be confusing. This new guide is now available to assist groups in considering their option when thinking about developing a renewable energy scheme.”

You can download a copy of the guide at: Get Generating A Renewable Energy Guide for Rural Communities

via Shrinking the Footprint website