Edinburgh church eco group goes from strength to strength

Granton Goes Greener, an environmental group part-funded by the Kirk's Go For It Fund, has gone from strength to strength since its formation three years ago. The group, run by Granton Parish Church in Edinburgh, works with the local community to care for God's creation by holding upcycling workshops, family fun days, school uniform swap shops and guided cycling tours.

The Swap Shop at Granton Parish Church has been a big success, with at least 80 people visiting on a weekly basis.

Granton Parish Church is part of the Eco Congregation Scotland network; a worldwide movement to help churches make the link between environmental issues, the Christian faith and better demonstrating a commitment to better stewardship of the earth's resources.

Rev Norman Smith, the minister at Granton Parish Church, said:

"We set up the group because we believe God wants people to use their gifts and we believe God wants us to be salt and light in our community. We believe faith is relevant to where people are at.

"In our community this means being good stewards of creation. To achieve that we are helping people discover ways they can support one another in using what God has given them well.

"If you have more materially, or if you have less, it does not matter to us. What matters is that you are a child of God and we have responsibilities towards each other.

"That responsibility extends to the environment and how we relate to God's creation."

Caring for God's creation

Rev Norman Smith addresses the crowds at the official launch of Granton Goes Greener in June 2018

In 2018, the group were awarded funding by the Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund in order to help set the project up, and have been able to run events such as community open days and exhibiting at local events.

"Over the next three years, we want to see people make lifestyle changes so that caring for God's creation becomes a higher priority," Norman said.

"We hope to gather a community of people around the project who are users, supporters, volunteers and activists - a group who will be meeting and worshipping together in a fresh expression of church centred on our stewardship of God's wonderful world.

"And, on a more basic level, we want to save tonnes of clothes and bread from going to landfill."

Through their eco activities, Granton Parish Church has also been able to develop deeper ties within the community.

"We have opened up a whole different avenue of community engagement, including developing formal and informal partnerships with local groups such as Granton Gardeners, Granton Primary School, Spartans Community Football Academy, the Pilton Community Health Project and of course Bayne's Bakery to whom we are hugely grateful.

"Those are just some of the places. The list of partners is now quite long."

Clothing Swap Shop

Natasha and Kez, volunteers at the Granton Goes Greener Swap Shop, unpacking donations

One notable event introduced by the group over 15 months ago is the weekly clothing Swap Shop, which has expanded over time and is run in the Granton Parish Church hall.

Three rails of clothing – one for women's clothing, one for men's and one for children's, with baby clothes on a table – are on offer to locals.

"The main objectives of the Swap Shop are to encourage local residents to be more mindful of the environment and to do more recycling, as well as addressing general poverty in the area," Anna Baran, the Community Engagement Officer at Granton Goes Greener, said.

"From the beginning we were only accepting books, clothes and shoes but taking into account some feedback, we have expanded and started dealing with children's items such as buggies, scooters, bric-a-brac, household items, etc.

"We also share items out to different projects, like giving most of our household items to Fresh Start or wooden furniture to the local Community Shed for renovation or up-cycling.

"After 7-8 months of running the project, we introduced a free food shelf stocked up on weekly basis by the Pilton Community Health Project and FareShare. We also get a range of free sanitary products from FareShare, which are currently being accessed and used by over 80 different women.

"The Swap Shop has definitely made a huge difference in the area, especially to families in need. We now have regular customers and usually at least 80 people visiting us on a weekly basis.

"Our range of clients is very diverse and includes homeless people, families on benefits, single-parent families, asylum seekers or simply people interested in helping the environment.

"We are currently working with 7-8 volunteers, who support us on a weekly basis. Through volunteering, we try to help them gain relevant work experience, confidence in English as a second language and to tackle social isolation."

Local partnerships

The swap shop is open all the time but is staffed by volunteers at the following times:

  • Wednesday between 3-4pm
  • Thursday between 4:30-6pm
  • Friday between 12-1pm

Locals are invited to bring along good quality clothing which is no longer needed and take away something new.

Donations can also be made on a Sunday morning during the Church service by using the donation box.

"In addition, we have partnered with Edinburgh College where we take a rack of clothes in once a fortnight and so far the students have really embraced it," Norman added.

Regular cycle rides, guided by trained leaders, are helping locals to get to know the local area better and improve their cycling skills.

With the funding secured so far from sources such as the Kirk's Go For It Fund, the project is due to continue until at least June 2020.

"Without Go For It we would not be running. The financial support is greatly appreciated but so is the recognition that this is a legitimate activity for the Church of Scotland to undertake," Norman said.

"It is transforming our congregational life which, without the Go For It support, would not have happened."

Applications for the final round of Go For It funding

Thinking of applying for the final round of funding with Go For It?

The next and final deadline for submitting a Main or Continuation Grant application is Thursday 12 September. Find out how to apply for a Main Grant.

For Small Grants, applications are open throughout the year until Friday 15 November. Find out how to apply for a Small Grant.

At this year's General Assembly, it was agreed that a Growth Fund of £20-£25 million would replace the Go For It Fund, which has spent millions on supporting community projects the length and breadth of the country since its inception in May 2012.

Paid for from reserves, the newly approved seven-year Growth Fund will go to supporting projects which will ‘encourage greater faith-sharing, innovation and creativity at local and regional levels'.

This will include continuing and expanding the work of the Go For It Fund, with a particular focus on projects to reach young people and families, on work in Priority Areas, and on church planting - specifically, the envisioning of 100 new worshipping communities.

However, the Go For It Fund is still open to applicants until the final Small Grant deadline on 15 November.