Working with faith networks to encourage green behaviour
The three-year Faith project in Peterborough has trialled the dissemination of pro-environmental messages within faith networks, working with five faith groups – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Buddhist – in a range of interactive hands-on workshops about the environment. The groups have also been attending green events to share eco-friendly tips with other members of their communities.
Sustainability organisation Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) received funding from DFID (Department for International Development) to help people from the five different faith groups to learn about climate change and how to reduce their impact on the environment.
Forum for the Future’s 2011 Moving Mountains report on how faith can shape the future suggested that religious leaders and groups can be critical intermediaries in the promotion of environmental messages. PECT is recognised nationally for its cutting edge work in the practical application and testing of environmental research. The Faith project explored how to reach a diverse range of people with an environmental message and how to get that message passed from person to person within a faith community.
Devinder Kaur with young members of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh place of worship, who participated in the Faith in the Environment project
Karen Lawrence, project officer at PECT, led the delivery of the project and explained its importance:
“Most faiths have religious teachings about preserving the environment and this project helped people to practically apply those teachings and make a difference.
“It’s usually the poorest people of the world who are hit first and hardest by the effects of climate change, for example by extreme weather conditions like flooding and drought. The everyday actions of people living in richer parts of the world directly contribute towards climate change and impact on those living in the poorest parts of the world. Raising awareness of this fact has encouraged faith groups in Peterborough to change their behaviour to live in a greener way.”
More sustainable schools
Students from Iqra Academy, Peterborough’s independent Islamic secondary school for girls, have been taking part in the project. Teachers at the school have seen students use their initiative to make the school more sustainable, for example by ensuring the school stocks Fairtrade goods. The environment is also now a key part of the Academy’s curriculum.
Aishah Ali, 17, from Iqra Academy is one of the participants in the project and described its influence:
“It’s been great taking part, I’ve learnt so much and I’ve made sure I’ve passed the green message onto my family and friends. The project has given me so many ideas and the confidence to encourage other people to live in a more environmentally friendly way too. I’m excited to see my eco-art on display. I feel much more involved in the programme to make Peterborough the greenest city – a great place for us all to live.”
Encouraging social cohesion
Mrs Devinder Kaur is a member of the local Sikh place of worship, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sahib. She believes the project has broken down barriers and given a more diverse range of people the chance to contribute towards Peterborough’s eco ambitions:
“I’ve learnt a lot about the environment, how to live in a greener way, and how all this links directly to my faith. I’d heard a bit about Peterborough’s Environment Capital work before, but never had the opportunity to get involved.”
The project is seen as an important next step for Peterborough’s aspiration to become the UK’s Environment Capital, ensuring that a more diverse range of people are engaged with the city’s programme.
The overall results of the project are still being evaluated by PECT. In the meantime, ‘eco’ artwork that has been created by project participants has been displayed at Peterborough Museum and is now on tour until March 2013 – it can be viewed at religious sites throughout the city.
The art-work, ranging from paintings and poetry to sculptures, was made of materials that would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Works includes a sculpture, ‘Recycled earth with rubbish’ made by a member of the Sikh Group, and ‘Harvest’ a silk painting in a wooden frame by a member of the Christian group. There are also three Mosques made from recycled materials made by students from the Iqra Academy.
Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) is a charity set up following Peterborough’s designation as a UK Environment City in 1992.
PECT carries out research and implements practical projects to protect and improve the environment. PECT’s mission is to lead and support the city in delivering growth and regeneration in a truly environmentally sustainable way. As a successful charity PECT works work with a wide variety of stakeholders to make a difference for our environment – through innovation, enterprise and commitment to action on the ground. PECT has a strong track record of delivering projects of regional and national significance. It has a staff of 35 working on initiatives from green spaces to business environmental management to sustainable communities and lifestyles.
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