Dr DJ Johnston-Smith

Director, Scotland’s Churches Trust

It was Earth Day on the 22nd April, when individuals, communities, organisations, companies and nations all around the globe reflect upon the environment, biodiversity and climate change and what each of us can positively do to leave our particular tiny patches of the planet better than how we found it.

For our own small contribution to the day, we used our social media to share some examples of the recent amazing work being carried out in churches by congregations and communities across Scotland to reduce their carbon footprints and improve their long-term sustainability with various environmental initiatives.

Social media, by its very nature, is fleeting, so we thought we would further mark these local efforts below with a more lasting blog to celebrate their activities and offer some ideas to anyone looking for inspiration.

During this ongoing climate emergency, since every single day essentially needs to be Earth Day, we will also update this page as we become aware of other examples of further environmental innovations in other Scottish churches. 

The congregation of the remarkable 17th century Dalserf Parish Church in South Lanarkshire recently won the prestigious Silver Award from Eco Congregation Scotland for its many practical environmental activities and wider global environmental awareness.

Their eco-sub-group prepared an action plan for improving their environmental activities and took on new projects such as creating a new reflection garden. Countryside rangers came in to work with younger members of the congregation and older members improved their recycling activities and planted trees and built bird boxes to encourage wildlife into their grounds.

You can read more about the award here.

In January, in recognition of their wide variety of environmental activities, including local litter-picking days, eco stalls at public events in the town, regular fairtrade initiatives, recycling ventures and much more, the congregation of the historic Tranent Parish Kirk were given a Bronze Award for their efforts from Eco Congregation Scotland.

You can read more about their excellent work here.

Cairnlea Parish Church in Airdrie had been considering for some time how it might reduce its long-term heating bills and improve its energy efficiency, so its congregation looked to replace its old oil-fired heating system, that warmed its well-used community halls, with a new air source heat system.

The hard-working congregation made a successful bid to the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) for funding towards two 16 kW air source.

CARES Fund administrators Local Energy Scotland have produced this excellent case study explaining all about the project.

Another church looking at new and novel ways to reduce its carbon impacts and improve its sustainability is the 14th century St Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington. 

In March, local planners in East Lothian approved plans for two air source heat pumps and 54 solar panels to be installed on the church roof in another project that seeks to replace the old, inefficient and expensive fossil fuel fed boilers.

Read more about this project here.

The community-led team at Govan Stones (formerly Govan Old Parish Church) have embarked on a hugely innovative project to harness the waters of the adjacent river Clyde to heat their historic A-listed church building in a much more sustainable way.

The Govan Heritage Trust has been awarded a grant of £150,000 by SP Energy Network’s Transmission Net Zero Fund to invest in this revolutionary river source heat pump system.

The University of Glasgow, whose Archaeology Department has had a long involvement with the Govan Stones project, has produced this excellent blog explaining more about the new initiative.

If you are a congregation or a community group looking for practical ideas and inspiration to improve the sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of your church building, do have a look at this excellent page of resources pulled together by Eco Congregation Scotland. It contains a wealth of suggestions and useful information to help you dig in where you stand and make small changes that will help contribute to a collective positive impact on all of our futures.