Five Leaf Eco-Awards, from theory to action

Five Leaf Eco-Awards, from theory to action

After September 20, 2019, when over 300,000 people attended 100 rallies across the country to raise their voice during the global climate strike, and with the current bushfire crisis the country is facing, many have been wondering about what to do next, how can we actively make a change.

Climate action is required NOW. But where to start? Jessica Morthorpe, a Uniting Earth Advocate and the Five Leaf Founder and Church Project Coordinator, asked herself the same question several years ago. And so, she found the way of linking her two passions: God and the environment. While talking to her, she introduced us to the concept of Ecotheology, a form of constructive theology that focuses on the interrelationships of faith and nature, particularly in the light of environmental crisis. Under this contextual theology, Jessica created the Five Leaf Eco-Awards.

Congregations that have thought about this issue can work to earn any of the Five Leaf Eco-Awards, the ecumenical environmental change program specifically designed for churches and religious organisations.

Using a series of non-competitive awards, the program assists, inspires and rewards faith communities for taking environmental action and becoming more sustainable in response to God’s call to care for creation.

The Five Leaf Eco-Awards encourage holistic action for the environment covering five areas:

  • Buildings
  • Worship
  • Congregation
  • Outreach
  • Community Leadership

There are currently six awards available in the program, two introductory and four advanced awards. To earn an award, churches must complete specific actions to receive certificates of recognition for their achievements.

The Basic Certificate has only seven easy criteria to fulfil, including self-conducting an Energy Audit, taking some actions to reduce resource use (e.g. Change to more efficient lights, switch to GreenPower just by calling your electricity supplier, install a water tank, among others) and conducting one ‘green’ event.

One very challenging award that requires active and positive involvement of the community is the Eco-Congregation Leaf Award. It is one of the four advanced awards and requires that  members of the congregation are demonstrably involved in environmentally friendly activities such as the installation of alternative energy sources in at least 40 percent of the congregation homes and demonstrable commitment to ethical consumption.

The last but not least is the Five Leaf Award. To achieve this highest level, your church or religious organisation must have proof that it fits requirements compiling what it must have done in previous stages, and go beyond. Some of the requirements are: to include environmental education in the life of the church (such as regular eco-sermons and Bible studies), and have a shared library of environment and sustainability texts and further reduce the impact of the congregation by assisting them to generate at least 50 percent of their energy use. You must also assist them in travelling to and from the church with minimal environmental impact, reduce their ecological footprints and carbon emissions, and a Fair Trade Faith group accreditation or the equivalent, among others requisites.

Of course, there are several ways to measure the success of each of the tasks so that you can earn each award, and if at some stage you are lost, you can always reach out to them for support. But the real beauty of this initiative is that, according to Morthorpe, while working towards becoming greener, you will also witness how a whole network of religious organisations will be there and will include you in a process that directly impacts your community.

Its has been eleven years now since the first award was given to the Port Melbourne Uniting Church. Since then, around forty religious organisations have earned at least one award, but many have accomplished all the stages.

To find out more about the awards, application forms and awards criteria, visit https://fiveleafecoawards.org/.

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