Written by Emily Mullins
Seven themes for seven weeks was the initial concept behind Karen Sherper Rohs informational insert campaign for the UCC's Mission 4/1 Earth initiative. One issue at a time, the Green Team member at Elk River (Minn.) Union Congregational Church UCC wants her congregation members to ride home the wave of environmental momentum, and then make it easy for them to green their homes and communities with ready-made ideas and resources suitable for rookies and experts alike.
"We've done earth care services in the church before, and people are overall supportive of it. But they get riled up, go home, and then everything goes back to normal," she said. "I wanted people to have something tangible that they could go home and just implement without having to stop and think about it or do research."
The first week's insert focused on sustainable food, and included information about fair trade coffee and chocolate, and the environmental effects of beef production. The second discussed fuel consumption, and the remaining inserts will highlight water consumption, personal care and cleaning products, green building, energy consumption, and recycling and the accumulation of "stuff." Each insert is divided into four sections to appeal to people at different stages of environmental awareness, from simple, one-time decisions, to long-term lifestyle changes.
"I acknowledge that just like people are in different places on their faith journey, they are also in different places on their environmental journey," Sherper Rohs said. "For someone who hasn't recycled, it's a big step to learn how to do it, how you store it, how to get it to where it needs to go. I'm trying to give them actual momentum to follow through."
While she considers herself pretty environmentally savvy – she has recycled since the 1980s and lives in a green-certified home – Sherper Rohs also learned some new information while compiling research for the inserts. For example, she initially thought the biggest change individuals could make to lessen their environmental footprint would be in the form of transportation, such as driving slower or taking mass transit. But while making the sustainable food insert, she learned about the environmental impacts of grass-fed beef production, and now believes that if everyone reduced their beef intake there would be significant reductions in carbon emissions and water usage.
"If anything, this has made me update my own knowledge and push myself to answer more specific questions," she said.
Elk River UCC, an Earthwise Congregation, has an array of other Mission 4/1 Earth plans in the works, including planting trees, writing advocacy letters, attending a workshop about water conservation through the city of Elk River, posting a daily environmental tip on its Facebook page, and hosting an Earth Day celebration. As with her weekly action items, Sherper Rohs wants these efforts to last long after Mission 4/1 Earth's 50 great days have passed.
"We are hoping Mission 4/1 Earth will be a year-long sustained effort on behalf of the church," she said. "We're always doing things, but hope the awareness and activities from the campaign keep the momentum going."
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written, report in as often as you like here.
Share the goals of Mission 4/1 Earth with your family and friends and invite them to join the movement.