Top environmental award for Edinburgh church

An Edinburgh church has won a top award in recognition of its environmental practices and addressing the climate crisis.

Greenbank Parish Church has been presented with an Eco-Congregation Scotland Gold Award.

Assessors commended members for the broad range of work that they have been involved in for many years that benefits people at home and abroad in sustainable, practical ways.

Greenbank Church
Greenbank Parish Church - insert David Jack.

David Jack, a member of the church's Eco Group, said: "We are delighted to have been recognised for our efforts to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

"The crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our age and the consequences are severe for those in low income parts of the world who have done the least to cause it.

"We all have a small but crucial part to play to try and prevent or minimise the devastating effects of climate change on our brothers and sisters."

Eco-Congregation Scotland described the church's decision to invite guest preachers to Sunday worship as "inspiring" and an excellent way to introduce a variety of Eco topics and encourage and stimulate further discussion and action.

Greenbank eco stall
Green credentials - the church has Fairtrade status and has run a stall for 10 years.

The congregation was praised for "thinking outside the box" and installing a hydrogen-enabled boiler and assessors commended member Karen Young who collected 217 bags of rubbish from the side of a busy road during the lockdown.

They noted that another member, Alison Muirson, in her capacity with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, worked with Edinburgh City Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland on the £8 million award winning renovation of Saughton Park and Walled Garden.

The recent COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow was also a focus for the congregation with Mrs Young creating a nature garden in the Blue Zone for the World Leader's summit.

As a legacy of this, elements of it will go on display in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Karen Young
Litter picker extraordinaire - Karen Young.

Recalling the beginnings of the congregation's journey, Mr Jack said: "A small number of participants built up the range of activity from early Fairtrade commitments to modest green initiatives in the church grounds, awareness raising on lifestyle choices and climate change, and a number of one-off events.

"The momentum grew rapidly to the point where the whole ethos of the congregation is now characterised by eco principles – travel, ethical purchasing, greener energy use, organic and vegetarian food consumption and other themes.

"The starting point for most of Greenbank's action now is ‘how do we ensure that this initiative demonstrates our commitment to Care for Creation?'"

The church on Braidburn Terrace has Fairtrade status and has run a stall for 10 years which sells teas, coffees and a wide variety of other products to help producers make a sustainable living.

Fairtrade commitments are linked to the congregation's concerns for church partners across the world.

Assessors noted that the Eco-Group highlighted the impact of climate change on the world's poorer nations, explaining the challenges faced by small-scale, low income farmers in particular, during the Fairtrade Foundation's 2021 ‘Virtual' Fairtrade Fortnight.

Those attending were encouraged to read a document produced by Fair Trade called "A Climate of Crisis: Farmers, Our Food and the Fight for Justice".

tree planting
Members plant trees in the church grounds.

Assessors also noted that church members participated in the Kilombero Rice Challenge in support of African rice producers to market their product.

Judith Macleod, Eco-congregation Scotland programme co-ordinator, said: "We really were very impressed with the Greenbank Eco-group and feel they thoroughly deserve the gold rather than the silver that they applied for."

Greenbank Parish Church has supported a charity called ‘Scottish Love in Action' (SLA) since 1999 when founder Gillie Davidson took the congregation's QII Youth group to the town of Tuni in Andhra Pradesh in India.