Churches across the country are becoming increasingly environmentally aware and adapting both building and churchyards in innovative ways. Shrinking the Footprint, as the Church of England’s environment campaign, supports congregations looking for ways to reduce their impact and adapt in the face of a changing climate. Here are just some examples of inspiring projects….

St Michael and All Angels, Withington, Gloucestershire

St Michael and All Angels Church, Withington, is a Grade 1 listed late Norman church in Gloucestershire, which could be the first zero carbon church in the UK after completing a combined programme of energy reduction and renewable energy generation. The programme started by gaining a full understanding of the energy demand of the church and then developed ways to reduce this consumption from limiting floodlighting times to installing solar panels.

The church is open every day for worship.

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All Saints, Wing, Buckinghamshire

All Saints Church, Wing, is one of the finest Saxon churches in the country, and a Grade 1 listed building. It dates to the 10th century, with some extensions over the following five centuries. The church is also part of a vibrant community life within the parish with a Saturday café, children’s group and regular services. To help provide the energy needed for all this activity the building has an array of 54 solar panels on the nave and south aisle roofs. In addition to their renewable installation the church community is exploring numerous other ways to help reduce their carbon footprint.

The church is also open during the daytime.

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St John, Old Trafford, Greater Manchester

St John’s, Old Trafford, is a huge 20th century church with a very active community centre set up after the Moss Side riots to increase inclusion and cohesion. The church has created a Co-operative/community group/business which uses its expansive roof to generate low carbon energy. The funds gained from feeding this energy back into the grid are then distributed in the form of grants that aid local people to benefit the community or the environment. They actively explore means to reduce their environmental impacts and encourage others in the community to do likewise.

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St Giles, Stanton St Quintin, Wiltshire

St. Giles Church, Stanton St. Quintin, is using a novel and environmentally friendly way to get visitors to the church. As part of a wider project communicate how the churchyard is managed for biodiversity volunteers set up a nano Geocache (a tiny waterproof treasure box which is then tracked down by using GPS) in an empty snail’s shell. After placing the geocache at the churchyard and obtaining the coordinates, they uploaded the description to the Geocaching.com website. Within the first day it had been visited three times. Most finders aren’t local to Stanton St Quintin, so they’re bringing people to the churchyard that otherwise wouldn’t visit. Most geocachers look around the churchyard and church after finding the cache and which has led to many complimentary comments.

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St Paulinus, New Ollerton, Nottinghamshire

The churchyard at St Paulinus Church, Ollerton, is used as a community vegetable garden as part of a project co-ordinated by the charity Feel Good Foods which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of growing and eating fresh, locally-produced food. The church itself was built in 1931by the Butterley Company at the geographical centre of the New Ollerton colliery village as a ‘cathedral for the new coalfield’. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was asked to provide a design for the church but his plans were turned down in favour of Derby based architects Naylor, Sale, & Woore. The church was much affected in the miners’ strike of 1984/5 when there was considerable hardship and suffering in the village. The then Vicar, Dennis Hibbert, ensured that striking miners were provided with food and cigarettes to try to alleviate suffering. Ollerton Colliery finally closed in 1994 but a stained glass miners’ window in the west wall commemorates the longstanding connection.

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St Mary and St John, Cowley, Oxfordshire

The Churchyard at the Victorian St Mary and St John, Cowley has a special role in the life of what is now a culturally diverse, vibrant urban community. As well as being a quiet green space that invites appreciation of the protected wildlife the restored 2 acre churchyard is being used as a learning resource. In partnership with Wildknowledge and Oxford Brookes University the church have created four interactive and educational trails which include information on wildlife, conservation and history. The trails use Smartphone and GPS location technology to guide you round the churchyard with 10 to 12 interest points per trail. At each interest point you can access text information, photographs and a quiz question. These trails are available free of charge and give both visitors and the local community the opportunity to explore the churchyard.

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