Environment Update February 2024 – St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church is lucky to be located in a wonderful rural location where the natural environment can be seen in all its beauty, however the PCC recognises that the church can have impacts on the wider environment. In 2019 we gained the A Rocha Eco-church silver award, however we were aware that we need to keep trying to improve and so, in 2023, we reviewed our environmental Policy (Appendix 1) and committed to protect and improve the environment and minimise the harmful impacts of our activities.
Throughout 2023 we have made a number of improvements.
We recognise that human beings are having a harmful impact on the natural world due to the emission of carbon dioxide, particularly from the burning of fossil fuels, which is causing climate change. At the start of the year we set a target to reduce our energy consumption in the church by 15%.
An energy audit was carried out in late 2022 to identify possible ways in which we can reduce our energy consumption. Making sure that heat is only used when needed is a good place to start, so temperature recorders were borrowed from the diocese to provide data on how quickly the church heats up and cools down. This allowed us change the times that the heating comes on to ensure that it is warmed up sufficiently for services but not at times when the heat is not needed. We also adjusted the frost stat. to ensure that it prevents the church pipes from freezing but does not waste energy by coming on too soon. Other quick wins from the audit were to change all the light bulbs to LED’s and fit a low energy infra-red heater in the vestry. These actions were implemented by the end of the year. As a result, we reduced our electricity consumption by 28.4% and gas consumption by 10.5% in 2023 compared with 2022. When combined this resulted in an overall energy saving of 14%.
We hope that this
can be maintained and that further savings will be made in 2024 as the benefits
of the new LED lighting kicks in.
In the longer term we will be reviewing whether there are alternatives to the current gas heating, such as electric heaters under the pews; this was another of the suggestions that came out of the energy audit.
Use of mains water has environmental impacts due to both the energy that is used to purify it and get it to our taps and in the summer, impacts on land and river ecosystems due to shortage of water. To reduce our consumption of mains water, a water butt was installed at the back of the Turner Hall in 2023, allowing rainwater off the roof to be collected and used for flowers in the cemetery.
Biodiversity and the churchyard
In late 2022 a management plan was prepared for the churchyard and agreed with the Parish Council whose contractors maintain the area. The plan included a number of features that will improve biodiversity by encouraging more plant, animal and bird species to thrive there. New areas have been identified as ‘no mow’ areas in the spring and early summer to allow plants to flower and set seed. In one of these new areas we were delighted to see a number of new flowers in 2023 including Pyramid orchids as shown in the adjacent photograph. A plant survey from 1986 has been found on line which identified eighty seven plant species in the churchyard. This is great background information and allows us to see how things have changed since then. We surveyed plants throughout the summer of 2023 and identified 38 of those on the original list as well as 15 new plant species. The survey record was left in the church for people to add to if they noticed plants whilst in the churchyard. Though not many people participated, we will do the same this year and we encourage all to take part- it is a lovely spot to spend half an hour or so on a summers day or evening and there are several phone apps now that help identify plants!
To encourage wildlife we installed 5 birdboxes around the churchyard. These were given to us by the charity ‘Welcome to Our Future’ and
included boxes suited to wagtails, robins, wrens, starlings, sparrows, tits and
nuthatches. We have also hung up a bird feeder so are hoping that
this spring, birds will take up residence in the boxes.
Several small insect hotels have been hung in the trees
and we have also constructed a larger bug hotel from some pallets. It includes
compost from our own heap on its roof and has varied habitats inside including
straw, hay, twigs, rotting wood, fir cones and canes with holes in the middle.
If anyone feels they have other materials that would provide further bug habitat, please feel free to push it into some of the remaining voids in the wooden structure.
We hope that by encouraging biodiversity in the churchyard people will find it a peaceful spot to enjoy spending some time. It can also be used for more structured activities. In the school summer holiday a group of children enjoyed a morning of environmentally themed activities in the church and churchyard, including making edible animal models from fruit and cocktail sticks, a plant treasure hunt, making bird feeders, discussing climate change and singing under a huge spread out parachute!
We will be continuing our environmental work throughout 2024 and would like people from the community to join in. We know that many people are taking actions at home to safeguard and improve the environment but if you have any thoughts on how to build on some of the actions mentioned above, please let us know. This may be in or around the church, in your own homes and gardens or elsewhere – the air, water, plants and animals don’t stick to boundaries, so the more we can do in the spaces that we have access to, the more our whole environment can be protected and enriched.
Appendix 1 - Environmental Policy