Religious Organizations Growing with Green Trends

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COLUMBIA - At an October service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia (UUCC), several churchgoers are sitting, listening to the sermon, singing to the songs and laughing at jokes. That day's service revolves all around one topic: the environment.

The church has a Green Sanctuary Team that focuses on environmentalism and thinking of new ways for the church to remain sustainable. Now the congregation is trying to receive official certification from the church. In order to receive this certification, the church must participate in a number of different projects and activities involving green living and sustainability.

Some believe that incorporating a green lifestyle is an important trait to spread throughout religious congregations.

"I think it's really relevant right now," Peter Holmes, a Green Sanctuary Team member from UUCC, said. "It seems that churches in the U.S. need to take on this issue. It's a spiritual issue as much as it is practical. Issues of the environment, issues of reconnecting. Spirituality all about connections. Trying to do this in a bigger way and make it more important."

Other churches are jumping on the green trend as well. The Olivet Christian Church has a garden full of plants like peppers and tomatoes. It also focuses on environmental education, recycling and considering composting.

"I think many churches and different faith organizations are realizing that creation care and caring for the Earth is something we're called to... like a responsible stewardship," Ariel Morrison, a member of Olivet, said.

Morrison has always been interested in preserving the environment since she was little. When members at the church started talking about forming an environmental committee she jumped on board. She said members of her church have a natural affinity toward the environment.

"Several people in our church and different families come from agricultural backgrounds," Morrison said. "It's a very strong community. A lot of rural Missourians as well. So people have a natural interest in taking care of the

As green trends are growing, some churches feel it's part of its responsibility to teach environmentalism and care for the Earth.

"It's a way to, you could say make up for or acknowledge past histories of not taking such good care of the planet," Morrison said. "Or not answering that call to Christian environmental stewardship."

Morrison and Holmes agree religious beliefs and environmental beliefs go hand-in-hand.

"I think the heart of this belongs in churches because it's a matter of spiritually and important in all churches," Holmes said. "Realizing it's churches role to take a lead in this. Making it important, centered for churches."

Morrison said going green is not only better for the earth, but can also save money. By growing plants, people won't have to purchase natural ingredients. With solar panels, while they do have a hefty price tag, they eventually pay back and conserve more energy in the long run. She hopes that positive environmental changes will happen and become part of everyday life.

"Every church is at a different stage I think," Morrison said. "With the hope being someday congregations will have all bases covered in the way of energy conservation, having a garden, having an education program."

During the Sunday service at the UUCC, a speaker read a story about a father describing what he did as a child. The main difference was the father used to play all the time outside and care for the earth, whereas his modern-day son stays in time all day, playing video games and watching TV. Holmes said it is absolutely vital for churches to focus on the environment and get children back to their roots.