Religious Environmentalism Blooms on Earth Day

Religious Environmentalism Blooms on Earth Day

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

This message contains:
1. Press release about religion and environmentalism
2. Live online discussion about religion and environmentalism
3. Earth Day links & resources for congregations and individuals

1. Religious Environmentalism Blooms on Earth Day

Washington, D.C.— Spring trees in bloom aren’t the only things turning green these days. So are religious groups of all stripes. People of faith are giving a boost to the environmental movement, offering a spiritual dimension to Earth Day.

"Passover and Easter both celebrate life and its renewal, as does Earth Day," says Gary Gardner, author of Invoking the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in the Quest for a Sustainable World. "The coincidence of these religious and secular events is symbolic of the increasing collaboration among the religious and sustainability communities."

This collaboration, says Gardner, is founded on complementary strengths. Environmentalists have a strong grounding in science. Religious institutions enjoy moral authority and a grassroots presence that shape the worldviews and lifestyles of billions. As these groups meld their strengths, they are successfully addressing issues from sustainable consumption in Sri Lanka to green investing by stockholders in New York.

In the United States, 3,500 Lutheran, Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Quaker congregations have committed to purchasing fairly-traded, shade-grown, often organic coffee. Just five years old, the Interfaith Coffee Program now supplies about one percent of the country’s congregations and is the fastest-growing source of revenue for the Equal Exchange Coffee Company, the program’s sponsor.

In the 1990s, “environmentalist monks” in Thailand opposed shrimp farming and dam and pipeline construction and protected mangroves and bird populations. They even preserved trees by “ordaining” them within sacred community forests.

"You might not think spirituality and environmentalism are natural allies," says Gardner, "yet in a recent survey, 56 percent of Americans said we should preserve the environment 'because it is God's creation.' Religious motivations for environmentalism lie just below the surface for many Americans. These sentiments are blossoming in the U.S. worldwide, helping to renew the environment."


Additional resources and information:
  • View the report’s full press release:
  • Purchasing Information: Worldwatch Paper 164: Invoking the Spirit costs $5 plus shipping and handling, and can be purchased through the Worldwatch website: or by calling 1.888.544.2303 (in US) or 1.570.320.2076 (from overseas) or by faxing 570.320.2079.

2. Online discussion: Engaging Religion in the Quest for a Sustainable World

Friday, April 18, 2003
12 NOON -1PM EDT (1600 -1700 GMT)

Join Worldwatch researchers Gary Gardner and Erik Assadourian as Earth Day approaches to discuss how unconventional alliances between environmentalists and people of faith could give an energizing boost to the environmental movement.

Questions for this chat may be submitted starting on Friday, April 18, 2003 at 11 AM EDT (1500 GMT). For more information about this webchat or other online discussions, visit us on the web at

3. Faithfully Celebrating Earth Day:
Ways You and Your Spiritual Community Can Care for the Planet

With Earth Day 2003 (Tuesday, April 22) falling close to religious holidays like Easter and Passover, your religious or spiritual community has the perfect opportunity to get more involved in restoring our planet’s health.

This spring, many religious communities will contemplate such themes as renewal, rebirth, preservation, and social justice– all sentiments that Earth Day also conveys. Here are a few ways you can mobilize your place of worship, your neighborhood, or your friends and family to bring about positive social and environmental change.

Ideas Especially for Communities of Faith:
1) Become an Energy Star Congregation and make your community more energy efficient. (

2) Lead a discussion, religion class, or sermon on the importance of the environment. The National Council of Churches provides many ideas on discussion topics ( as does the Coalition of Environment and Jewish Life (

3) Switch to fair-trade, environmentally friendly coffee and join thousands of congregations whose coffee hours are friendly to local farmers and ecosystems (

4) Join the larger religious environmental movement. In the U.S., learn more about this from the National Religious Partnership for the Environment ( Around the world, visit the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (

Ideas for Religious Communities or Unaffiliated Individuals:
1) Volunteer to clean up your local environment. Check The Earth Day Network for a global listing of sites in need of individual and groups of volunteers ( There are hundreds of events already registered. If there isn't one near you, start your own! The network gives tips on how to do this (

2) Detoxify your community. Whether at church or home, let Earth Day motivate you to get dangerous chemicals out of the basement and properly disposed of in your local recycling facility. Read a brief article about alternatives to toxic cleaners in the environmental e-magazine Grist and give them a try (

3) Get into the garden and start planting—but without the pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Think about building a small compost bin. It will reduce the organic waste that enters landfills and provide your garden with a source of earth-friendly fertilizer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a good introduction to composting and how to build a compost bin ( Don’t have room for a garden? Learn about community gardens from the American Community Gardening Association (

4) Calculate your “ecological footprint!” Find out if your lifestyle is environmentally sustainable with the Earth Day Network’s ecofootprint calculator ( Make a pledge to live more “lightly” on the Earth and track your progress with The Center for a New American Dream’s Turn the Tide Campaign (