St Stephen’s is the first parish in the Haslemere area to win an Eco Church award in the countrywide challenge launched in 2016 and run by A Rocha – a Christian conservation charity, with the backing of the Church of England, Christian Aid, Tearfund and the Methodist Church.
Eco Church encourages churches to ‘go green’ in all areas, including worship and teaching, and the management of buildings and land.
One of 10 churches in the Guildford Diocese to win an award, St Stephen’s kicked off by forming a ‘green team,’ with members including Haslemere town councillor Nikki Barton, and taking action on a variety of fronts.
The church switched to green electricity, installing LED lights (with reminder notices to turn them off), introducing more recycling bins, using eco-friendly products, serving more seasonal, sustainable food, making its churchyard more wildlife-friendly, encouraging lift shares, cycling and walking to church, and getting members of the congregation to do a lifestyle audit to reduce their environmental impact.
St Stephen’s also supported a campaign to reduce the amount of food thrown away, including holding its own food waste brunch with donated surplus food from local suppliers – and provided green services to residents in the town last summer, including litter picks and tidying up gardens.
Church curate the Rev Clare Shepherd told The Herald: “We are delighted to receive the Eco Church bronze award, as we think it’s really important to care for God’s earth and set a good environmental example in our community.
“A year ago, we weren’t even doing enough recycling, but now we’ve taken lots of steps to reduce our environmental impact.
“Becoming an Eco Church has been really good for us and we hope other churches in the area will consider it too.”