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Green pilgrimage network GPN

This logo was designed by the US-based Green Maps: pdf versions can be downloaded here .

“What would your pilgrim city be like if it were a sustainable pilgrim city?”

The GPN is a global network of 28 pilgrim cities and other sites sacred to many different religious traditions around the world. They are all united in wanting to be models of green action and care. Members of the GPN share a vision of pilgrims on all continents, and the pilgrim cities that receive them, becoming models of care for the environment and leaving a positive footprint on the earth.

Article in The Economist

Green Pilgrimage Network Flickr stream of photographs

Trondheim meeting July 2013

Sikh pilgrims in Amritsar drink clean water distributed by volunteers: plastic bottles are rare at the Golden Temple

Downloadable resources

GPN handbook
GPN Catholic Handbook (English)
GPN India Handbook
GPN founding members.
GPN Newsletters
GPN leaflet
GPN logos

How did it come about?

ARC and WWF have been working with the environmental side of sacred sites and pilgrimage routes for more than 20 years. In many countries this has also included sacred cities. In November 2009, in cooperation with the UNDP, ARC held a major event at Windsor Castle, England. Nine major world religions launched long-term commitments to environmental action in what the UNDP described as “potentially the world’s largest civil society movement on climate change”.

Imagine the good that could be done for the people and places on pilgrimage routes, and in the cities and sacred places at the end of the journeys. (Photograph: Jerusalem, holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims)
Several of these commitments included greening pilgrimage cities and routes. The Armenian Orthodox Church, for example, proposes in its Seven Year Plan to green the holy city of Etchmiadzin; the Muslims announced a plan for a network of Al-Kher cities (cities which are “beneficial, wonderful and beautiful”) and that Medina in Saudi Arabia would become a Green Pilgrim City alongside nine other Muslim cities.

At Windsor, several faith leaders responded enthusiastically to the idea of setting up a network of green pilgrimage cities and have been involved in the initial stages of this programme. The aim is to help faiths green their holy cities according to their own theology and understanding.

What does a Positive Footprint Involve?

Garbage collectors gather the rubbish left by millions of pilgrims attending the 2013 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India.
A positive footprint requires pilgrims to leave every place more beautiful than it was when they arrived. On a simple level that can involve taking away your own litter and other people’s; trying to avoid buying bottled water; choosing tourist agencies with a sustainable ethos; eating food that is local, organic and free-range; buying only sustainably sourced souvenirs; walking rather than driving.

On a more ambitious level it can involve engaging voluntarily with social and ecological programmes during your pilgrimage; financially supporting programmes to improve the city environment and biodiversity; sharing ideas and inspiration with other pilgrims and city residents; returning home with a greater sense of awe and wonder at the natural environment, and breathing life into that feeling, by doing something active to protect your hometown.

Seeking partnerships

The network will only work if it engages secular partnerships as well as faith partnerships. From transport providers to solar power experts to local NGOs, local authorities, academic institutions, environmental organizations and other stakeholders will be encouraged to come into discussion and partnership with religious groups to promote all aspects of greening pilgrimages. It is vital for the Mayor and City Council in each city to commit to the goals of the network. One of the network’s first secular partners is ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of more than 1100 local governments in 68 countries taking responsibility in creating a sustainable society.

When will it happen?

The network was launched at a meeting in Assisi, Italy in November 2011 - Assisi was one of the pilot green pilgrim places - and the membership rose when a further 16 pilgrim places joined at a meeting in Trondheim, Norway. Now each of the pilgrim cities and towns is using the Green Pilgrimage Network handbook to create an action plan on what its vision is of how it could be a Green Pilgrim City.

What will the network do?

The Network will inspire Pilgrims to:

  • prepare mindfully for their pilgrimage...
  • travel responsibly in the spirit of their faith...
  • choose sustainable tourist agencies...
  • eat and drink sustainably and ethically...
  • minimise their water use...
  • dispose of their rubbish... and pick up after others...
  • support a fund to green the city they are visiting...
  • bring greener ideas for living home with them...

The Network will inspire pilgrim places to:

  • receive and accommodate pilgrim visitors sustainably...
  • green their religious buildings, energy and infrastructure ...
  • safeguard their wildlife and parks...
  • create a green pilgrim fund...
  • create ‘green maps’, highlighting the environmental projects,
  • achievements and opportunities for volunteering in their cities...
  • bring faiths and local authorities together to create sustainable cities...
  • provide clean, accessible drinking water ...
  • improve sanitation for pilgrim routes...
  • work with tour operators, airlines and other transport providers to provide carbon neutral travel...
  • spread greener living habits among their own population...
  • publicise their status as Green Pilgrimage places...
  • celebrate their pilgrims and green their faith festivals ...
  • work with, and support, each other in greening initiatives...


Trondheim meeting July 2013
The Green Pilgrimage Network handbook
List of members.
GPN Newsletters
Green Pilgrimage Network Leaflet
Press release on the Green Pilgrimage Network.

Press release from American Hindu temples endorsing the network.
Kindling an Extravagant Hope - a thoughtful historical essay by Richard Frazer on the significance of Green Pilgrimage.

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Related information

Green Pilgrimage Theologies
Theological statements prepared by faith leaders from Green Pilgrimage Network sites to explain their teachings and traditions linking spirituality, pilgrimage and the care of the natural world.
April 25, 2013:
Green Pilgrimage Newsletter, April 2013
Updates from Trondheim, Jerusalem, India, Scotland and Buckingham Palace.
July 25 2013:
PRESS RELEASE: Condolences to Santiago de Compostela pilgrim train crash
On the eve of our Green Pilgrimage Network meeting we express our sympathies for the pilgrims who died in the terrible train crash outside this holiest place.