Am I the only one in our church who had never heard of the Five Leaf Eco Awards? It’s the creation of Jessica Morthorpe whose passion is motivating our Uniting Churches to be more environmentally friendly.

Recently a Five Leaf survey arrived at our church (St Luke’s in Mt Waverley) and I groaned at the long list of questions. But our property committee grew more positive about it as we realised that several environmental issues had already been implemented or were on our list of priorities.

We had just installed five split systems in the church and manse. The toilets are flushed by rain-water tanks. LED lights had been ordered. Several Sunday services each year are on an environmental theme. Our recent kitchen renovation was a great success. Recycling of silver paper, corks, stamps etc has happened for over a decade. We had held an inspiring forum on the Climate Crisis.

But Jessica’s survey opened our eyes to more possibilities. Receiving the eco awards at the Presbytery Meeting in August has encouraged us to reassess our efforts and develop further projects. She showed us churches with solar panels and community gardens. We have the space for these too! Why not?

Thank you, Jessica and Presbytery for our awards. We’ll let you know what exciting new environmental projects occur at our church in the coming months!

Tony Lucas

Phone 0435 654 243

Take part in the Five Leaf Eco Awards survey and watch Jessica’s presentation to Port Phillip East Presbytery meeting on Saturday August 21 below.

Glen Waverley Uniting Church

Glen Waverley Uniting Church desires to make a difference in the community and in the world around us. We were pleased to recently receive the Basic Five Leaf Eco Award.

In 2008 we installed a water harvesting system using voluntary labour. This included three large tanks capturing the rain water from our roof, one supplying church toilets, one supplying toilets in the manses, and one for the church gardens.

In 2014 we invested in a 30kW solar panel installation, expecting cost recovery in 6 to 8 years. Recovery of cost actually occurred within 5 years. The panels are visible from across the street and we hoped this initiative would encourage others to take a step like this as well. Three years ago, we had a display of the solar panel installation and water tanks at our annual fete. This created much community interest and conversation. Two manses have solar hot water and one has panels generating electricity. We plan to add panels to the second manse.

In 2017 we replaced the electric blanket heaters in the church with split system heat pumps, with the added attraction of providing cooling. Also gas heaters in meeting rooms were supplemented or replaced with heat pumps. Over time more efficient lighting was installed. All these measures turned us into a net generator of electricity for 2018 and each year since.
We have held seminars on environment issues with speakers such as Jessica Morethorpe from the Five Leaf Eco Awards and David Karoly, a climate scientist. We had screenings of an “Inconvenient truth”, have had worship services where we have looked at our households carbon footprint & generation of waste and we have communally collected bread tags and plastic bottle tops & aluminium can pulls to be recycled into wheel chairs & prosthetic limbs.
Extensive use of electronic communication with the congregation has greatly reduced our paper consumption. Weekly communication with most of the congregation is by email. We use recycled office and toilet paper and appropriate cleaning products.

We are very happy to share our experiences, particularly on electricity, with other congregations.

David Morgan Church Council Secretary

South Port Uniting Church

Since receiving the first Five Leaf Eco Award in 2009, South Port Uniting Church has continued to explore what it means, as a Christian community, to live more sustainably in the inner city.

The Simply Living Community Garden in the grounds of Port Melbourne Uniting Church has provided a connection point with the neighbourhood since 2008. The garden is open 24/7 providing access to vegetable plots, herbs, fruit trees, community composting, a seed exchange and a Little Free Library. Alongside the productive garden wildlife habitat is being improved with wildflowers, insect hotels and microbat housing. The garden is a meeting place for neighbours, passers-by and families from the Uniting kindergarten next-door, and a backdrop for outdoor worship, such as the annual Harvest Service (weather permitting!). It has been a valued haven during the lockdowns.

Connecting with the local community and sharing skills are important. Throughout the year people of all ages share and learn skills around gardening, cooking, mending, recycling and repurposing both at regular activities and one-off workshops and events, although this has been difficult or even impossible during the pandemic.

Through these activities the church has connected with many other people, community groups and networks, including affiliation with the Port Phillip EcoCentre and joining with other local churches in the Christians Together for Climate campaign. In 2018 the church was one of four local services selected to participate in the City of Port Phillip Smart Solutions for Community Services program.

Energy efficiency and recycling are also improving and now include energy efficient lighting, roof-top solar panels, rainwater tanks. Indoors there are separate bins for compost, soft plastics and oral care.

Congregation members have been challenged to live more lightly through participation in Simply Sharing Week, Plastic Free July, studies and reflection. The congregations also look beyond the local community and support students in Timor Leste and Zambia to gain the skills they need to make their own communities more sustainable.

There is always more to learn and the 5-leaf EcoAwards provide a framework for taking the next steps.

Janet Hoare
Simply Living Project Worker

Photographs below:
Simply Living Community Garden
Recycling, repurposing and rehoming at the Garage Sale Trail
Hands on at a Know Your Soil workshop