Written by Emily Mullins
Nothing like a little friendly competition to kick off Mission 4/1 Earth. From March 30 to April 27, members of Forest Grove United Church of Christ in Forest Grove, Ore., will compete to see which team can rack up the most earth-care points through what they are calling the "Green Game." With detailed rules, an elaborate scorecard, and team coaches to oversee the process, the Rev. Jennifer Yocum thinks this is an activity her congregation will take seriously and have fun with at the same time during the UCC's 50-day church wide earth care initiative.
"We had the idea few months ago to try to put together a contest that would encourage people to engage in sustainable behaviors," Yocum said. "Our members already have a commitment to sustainability, plus it sounded like a lot of fun."
More than 10 teams of five people have signed up for the challenge, and each team has a coach who collects and tallies the points at the end of each week and offers encouragement along the way. Participants get an outline that lists various activities and how many points each one is worth. For example, composting all possible food scraps for one day is worth one point, shopping at a local vendor is worth five points, and changing to a low-flow shower head is worth 10 points. Participants can also earn 10 points for one-time activities like planting vegetables or joining a sustainability group. The scorecard is broken down into categories of daily, weekly and one-time activities, and participants keep track of their points by filling out the card as they go.
"People are going to get to make choices about what they are going to do," Yocum explains. "It will be fun to see what behaviors and activities generate the most points, and to be able to celebrate all of them."
The ideas for what sustainable behaviors to include on the list came from finding resources online and from brainstorming sessions of the congregation's Be Earth Stewards Today (BEST) Team. But Stephanie Edwards, member of the BEST Team, said this process presented a challenge in itself. For example, eating no processed, packaged or fast food for one day is worth one point. But what exactly constitutes processed food?
"The only food that is truly unprocessed is something you pull out of your garden and eat, other than that, it's been through many hands and processed in some way," Edwards explains. "If you make macaroni and cheese by hand, it's better than if it came from a box, but the cheese and macaroni are still processed."
Said Yocum of compiling the list, "Even though it could seem like a struggle, it generated conversations about where our food comes from – a side effect we were hoping this project would have."
The Green Game winning team will be announced during church services on April 28, and each member will receive $25 in merchandise sold by the BEST Team. The team sells items like fair trade coffee and chocolate, and all proceeds go toward making green updates or repairs to the church. For example, they recently replaced the bulbs in all of the large building's exit signs with LED versions. In addition to coordinating the Green Game, the BEST Team also leads recycling and composting programs, and organizes activities like environmental education sessions and church clean-up days.
"The BEST Team is a real inspiration to me and many of our church members," said Yocum. "There is a lot of emphasis on sustainability, and folks engage in whatever they can to show their faith in the earth."
The United Church of Christ has been working for environmental justice for almost 30 years, and recognizes the opportunity for a shared mission campaign to live out our faith — in unity, as one church — for the sake of our fragile planet Earth.
With the help of UCC congregations everywhere, Mission 4/1 Earth, which begins Easter Monday 2013, hopes to accomplish more than 1 million hours of engaged earth care, 100,000 tree plantings across the globe, and 100,000 advocacy letters written and sent on environmental concerns.
Here's a preview of Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days.