IPL-DMV spoke with Greg Drury, Reid Detchon, and Nicole Holstein of the St. Columba’s Environmental Committee.
What is your proudest green accomplishment at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church?
We are proudest of the way the Environmental Committee has become a force within the congregation to inspire St. Columba’s members’ enthusiastic engagement in caring for the Earth. Over its 10 years, the Environmental Committee has grown from a few members to over 30 active participants; the current email list for the Committee has 300 members. A recent addition to the Committee’s activities includes its sponsorship of a youth subcommittee. Over the course of its existence, the Environmental Committee has successfully engaged the Vestry (St. Columba’s governing board) and the clergy in the effort to raise environmental consciousness both in the St. Columba church community and in the wider community, as well. The work of the Environmental Committee has increased the church’s visibility, which has assisted in membership growth, while garnering financial savings from energy efficiency improvements.
How did the Environmental Committee get the rest of the parish involved?
We have found that there are two keys to engaging members in our work: 1) clearly connect the efforts of the Environmental Committee to our moral responsibility as a faith community; and 2) maintain a positive, non-scolding tone in our communications.
One Environmental Committee activity that has been very successful is the St. Columba’s Environmental Film Fest. Greening St. Columba’s building has saved money, while raising environmental consciousness within the community. Twice each year, the Environmental Committee sponsors an Adult Education program between the Sunday morning worship services. Finally, the Environmental Committee has worked closely with other groups within St. Columba’s to insure that large community events generate zero waste; this has involved many hours of hands-on service by Committee members to provide recycling opportunities at every level of these functions.
What is the impact of your committee’s efforts?
The St. Columba’s Environmental Committee has been able to continually increase awareness of the moral obligation to care for Creation and the practical steps to do so — both within the parish and the wider Washington, DC community — throughout its ten years of existence.
What did you learn from these efforts?
Reid: Over the decade or more that I have worked with St. Columba’s Environmental Committee, I have come to understand that each member brings a different perspective to the Committee’s work, and that is good! Our Environmental Committee has grown and prospered by having a space where each person can pursue their passion within the group’s overall framework; there has been room for us to work on small chunks of our big goals, while creating synergy in the Committee as a whole.
What is the most difficult obstacle St. Columba’s Environmental Committee has faced with its green efforts?
At the very start—about twelve years ago—the Environmental Committee found the parish’s leadership needed some education about the link between environmental issues and the mission of a faith community.
What is most rewarding about the green initiatives at St. Columba’s?
Reid: Having Nicole become Environmental Committee chair. It is great to welcome a new generation of leadership!
Greg: The way the Environmental Film Fest has raised the profile of the parish within the wider community, while educating attendees about environmental issues
Nicole: Finding a faith community where people are as passionate about helping the environment as I am.
What are the next three green things you’d like to do to respond to climate change?
Nicole: 1) Sourcing all energy renewably. 2) Changing over to non-toxic lawn-care products. 3) Bringing more people on board the Environmental Committee.
Greg: 1) Developing the environmental youth leadership within the parish. 2) Integrating St. Columba’s Environmental Committee’s efforts with the Washington Episcopal Diocese’s green programming. 3) Maintaining the success of the Environmental Film Fest.
Reid: 1) Encouraging more messaging from the clergy on the link between loving creation and loving ones neighbor. 2) Working with the Vestry to go solar. 3) Empowering congregants to improve environmental stewardship in their homes.
Do you have any advice for other Green Team Leaders trying to save energy, go green, and respond to climate change?
Greg: Get clergy “buy-in.”
Nicole: Tap the passions of Green Team members.
Reid: Don’t talk, LISTEN to Green Team members, to help them find where their environmental passions lie.