posted by Ben Margolis

faith case studies

How the faithful are shrinking their carbon footprints

Here at 10:10 nothing warms the cockles of our hearts more than hearing from our 10:10 sign-ups about the nitty gritty of their carbon-cutting journeys.

Over the past few weeks we’ve had stories flooding in from faith groups of all shapes and sizes, who’ve been getting their teeth into the 10:10 challenge. 

Here’s a taster:

London Jewish Community Centre



Why did the Jewish Community Centre sign up to 10:10?

Well, the JCC programme of events is becoming more orientated towards the environment –we have an allotment at the back of a residential care home where we teach people how to grow their own veg, we run lots of cycling proficiency sessions and bike maintenance workshops in coalition with the council, we show films about environmental issues, and team up with Transition Town groups to run food foraging workshops.. so we thought it was time we got our own house in order!

Our approach is to give people practical skills, to give them the ability to transform their own way of living. A lot of climate change awareness-raising tends, frankly, to be boring and depressing! So we focus on the fun, as 10:10 does, and it seems to be quite successful. 

What have you been doing to cut your 10%?

So far we’ve switched over to using high spec eco paper suppliers and printers, who minimise the embedded carbon in their paper-making and printing processes. We’ve more or less got rid of our taxi account; there’s much more bike riding nowadays! And, most excitingly, we’re getting a new wormery to turn all our food waste into compost for our allotment! The next step is to look at our energy bills.

What are the biggest challenges and rewards for you?

It’s been really complicated for us to calculate our carbon emissions. It became quickly obvious that our direct emissions – the things that you can measure easily like electricity and gas - are pretty low, because we don’t have our own premises yet. But we are responsible for massive indirect carbon emissions, because we organise hundreds of events a year in different premises, and spend lots of money on marketing materials.

So we’ve been seeking advice from a couple of consultants, to help us identify where to concentrate our efforts, and two members of staff have taken on the task of getting trained up to lead the efforts.

It’s been really good to set ourselves the challenge and see whether we can live up to a self imposed standard. Having to think about every aspect of what we do is complicated and makes you realise quite how much needs changing, but at the same time you realise how easy some of those changes can be.

Islamic Aid

Mahmood Hassan is the chairman of Islamic Aid which provides emergency relief and long-term solutions to poverty.  


Why did Islamic Aid join 10:10?

There are two things that motivated us to commit to 10:10. Firstly, of course, climate change is such an urgent issue now. As a trustee for Practical Action [formerly The Intermediate Technology Group] I’ve had the opportunity to learn first hand about what climate change means for communities. I’ve been to Bangladesh twice, where just a 1 degree temperature rise will put an extra 77 million people at risk from flooding. And that’s just one example of where climate change is already causing devastation.

But also the Islamic faith has a very serious emphasis on conservation of resources. And so we’ve always tried to run Islamic aid with minimal resources, with very small overheads, a small office, minimal power usage and minimal travel. Even as the Chairman of a charity with a £3.5 million turnover I don’t travel more than once or twice a year. 

What do you do to meet your 10:10 commitment?

Well, all our work is done through the internet, and we try to prioritise getting our printing supplies – which is one of our main overheads - from other companies which have signed up to 10:10 principles.

But our commitment to 10:10 goes deeper than that. Increasingly our charitable work overseas involves building schools, hospitals and training centres. Sustainability is now really paramount in all that we do; we’re trying to integrate renewable technologies in the construction of new buildings, and have them designed so that they stay cool in summer and warm in winter, so that they won’t need energy-intensive heating or air-conditioning.

What’s the biggest challenge for you?

We are limited in what we can do to save on heating etc here in London, because our accommodation is rented. But we’re on the look out to buy a property which is as energy efficient as possible.

Reading Quakers

Anne Wheldon is a member of Reading Quakers environmental group, used to be a renewable lecturer, and now works for the Ashden Awards – a charity which champions local sustainable energy.

Why did you decide to sign up to 10:10

Well, Quakers have a longstanding involvement with protecting the environment. It is part of our concern for fairness and social justice, and our attempt to live more simply and not exploit the earth’s resources.

So carbon cutting had already been on our agenda. In fact we calculated that our CO2 emissions in 2008-09 were 30% lower than in 2004-05, because of measures like getting rid of an old fridge, installing cavity wall insulation where possible, and and replacing unused doors with insulated plasterboard. We also held a ‘swap shop’ to exchange surplus possessions!

So we’d already made some serious progress. But 10:10 is well known, and many members of our Meeting were keen that we should join.  So now we’re trying to cut carbon emissions by a further 10% in 2010.

What are you doing to cut your 10%?

The Warden Liz: our smart heating control system

Many actions were obvious, once we thought about them. For instance, we realised that we never opened all eight sash windows in the main Meeting room, so sealed half of them up completely and draught-proofed the rest. And instead of letting heat leak through the windows over night, we’ve fitted thermal blinds. We have a lofty kitchen which lost all the heat to a concrete ceiling and single-glazed skylights, so we installed a suspended ceiling – and transparent panels in it still let in quite a lot of daylight. 

It has been really useful to read the meters every month – we knew this already but had not quite got round to doing it before 10:10. But the real credit has to go to our Warden, Liz, who’s very good at keeping carbon cutting at the forefront of our minds, and nipping round herself to check everything’s switched off after meetings. That’s no simple task when over 50 other organisations use our premises through the year, as well as Reading Quakers. Our very own smart heating control system you might say!

We’re on target. Our 2009-10 emissions are 8% lower than 2008-9, even though the weather was much colder, and use of premises went up a bit. So we are really pleased, particularly since we had already made significant cuts over the previous few years.

What are the main challenges?

95 year old Connie sporting new quilt

Well, there is a limit to what you can do with a listed building. Also many of our elderly members really feel the cold. I don’t think that we can reduce heating any further, and we may actually need to heat more.

But a recently retired member of the group has been busy making patchwork quilts, which keep knees cosy in our big Georgian meeting hall! We’ve got a box for collecting fabric, and I think she’s even getting the children involved now.


Lam Rim Buddhist Centre

Omar Qarwan has been a resident at Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Monouthshire since April, just before they committed to cut their emissions by 10% in a year.


Why did Lam Rim Buddhist Centre sign up?

In Buddhism there is an emphasis on how interconnected we all are, not just humans but all life and how dependent we are on each other. Therefore it is so essential to live in harmony as much as possible with the natural environment. Often the way to make a change is to be a positive example which I think the Dalai Lama’s message is all about.

We heard about 10:10 through the Guardian, and just found it really inspiring, so we called a community meeting, to discuss how we could start to cut our emissions. At the moment we’re at the stage of going through our bills working out how much energy we use and how, so we know what to focus on, but also so that we can draw up a pie chart and make sure the people who are visiting for yoga and meditation courses are aware of what we’re trying to do. We want everyone to play a part.

How will you meet your 10:10 commitment?

It turns out that at the moment we consume nearly £1000 worth of oil a month, so as a first step we’ve started to turn off the boiler after everyone has showered in the morning, and we’re currently looking into underfloor heating for the winter, which can be quite an energy efficient way of heating these kind of buildings. We’ve also put up signs encouraging people to turn off lights.

At the moment we have a cess pit, which has to be pumped out and taken away by a big truck. So we’re keen to create a reed bed instead, which would process our sewage and allow us to recycle some of the nutrients and water.

And, although this is not directly related to our 10:10 commitment, we have recently started to collect and use our waste water for the garden, and our 18 foot long polytunnel. We grow all sorts of produce, vegetables, mainly to feed the people who come for residential courses.

What are the biggest challenges and rewards for you?

We live in quite a rural location, which is only accessible by car. Better transport links would help. We were talking about getting a wood pellet boiler to replace this ghastly oil, but we couldn’t find a free sawdust source nearby. 

I think what we have enjoyed most about doing 10:10 is working towards a target together as a community with a sense of being part of a global effort, something much greater. By actively making changes to the way we all live our lives, day to day, we are contributing to a big step in the right direction. It is important to rejoice that we have this precious opportunity to make a difference to the planet and life on it.