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ARC Home > Projects > Long-term plans :
Do your own environmental audit | Eco Audit - Quick Guide | Step 1: Commit | Step 2: Review | Step 3: Plan | Step 4: Communicate

Step 3: Improve Energy Efficiency

Do you have a recycling policy?

After having collected records of the energy consumption you will be able to identify where to start.

Any initial expenditure should be seen as an investment that will be repaid in the long-term as well as reducing CO2 for the local and global community.

The main areas to address will be insulation, temperature control (heating), temperature control (cooling), electrical appliances, lighting, transport, purchases, recycling.

Religious communities can reach many people. Religious shareholders are capable of pushing big companies and even states into reconsidering their positions.
Keep records of the programme – and pass them on to other members of the congregation who might like to apply them to their homes and offices.

Work out whether it is possible to use the building for other activities. There has recently been a proposal from the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds that churches in Britain should return to the wider community role they had in the Middle Ages. They could, for example, have post office facilities, space for community support workers, areas for kindergartens or brownie meetings – fulfilling a necessary community role while benefiting from existing buildings. Be creative.


If a building is not properly insulated, money is wasted in high fuel bills.

Roofs are major causes of heat loss. Most draught proof materials are cheap and widely available in DIY shops. Consider increasing loft insulation to at least 200mm – which according to the Energy Saving Trust (UK) can save 20 percent of heating costs.

Walls can lose up to one third of wasted heat. Check what materials your building’s external walls are made of: solid and cavity walls need different approaches.

Windows must be insulated to avoid draughts. If you have a tight budget, sealant tapes are cheap and easily fitted. Also thermally-lined curtains can reduce heating costs. Consider double-glazing, or the more expensive superwindows , which capture solar heat even on cloudy days. The clear, colourless windows let in three-quarters of visible light and half of solar energy, but allow little heat to escape. They can insulate at least six times more than normal windows. Close windows when rooms are empty.

Doors are usually a source of heat loss. You can easily fix strips along the border of your doors. Nylon brush seals or spring flaps can be fixed onto letterboxes and covers can be put onto keyholes. Double doors or “draught lobbies” are more efficient but more expensive.

Floors lose heat through the gaps between wooden floorboards. Consider filling the gaps or insulating under the ground floor. Even floorboards under carpets can let heat escape.

Radiators radiate heat into the wall: fit radiator insulator panels between radiators and the wall.

Hot water pipes and tanks should be insulated.

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Temperature control: Heating

According to the UK National Energy Foundation over 25% of UK primary energy goes towards heating buildings, more than for any other purpose.

Time switches, room thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves are vital to control energy use. If you already have these, check the settings and make sure they have been serviced.

There are different systems to heat and cool a building. For example infra-red and fan heaters are ideal for well-insulated areas that are rarely used, but they are inefficient for well-used areas.

Consider installing underfloor heating. In many churches and other buildings of worship, this can be the most efficient method, as it is possible to heat only the area that is being used.

Turn down the heating. A reduction of one degree Celsius can reduce costs by up to 10%.

Fit shelves above radiators to deflect warm air into the room, but also make sure there is free space around the radiators and hot air grills to allow hot air to circulate.

Water should not be heated to more than 60º C/140º F.

Close windows and doors.

A more expensive solution is to go solar. According to the UK National Energy Foundation domestic households can save up to 50 percent in energy costs by using the sun to heat water. In summer the panels may provide all hot water needs, and even in winter savings can be significant. Energy is captured even on overcast days.

Consider switching to a supply company that get electricity from renewable sources.

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Temperature control: Cooling

In India, the Palace of Winds in Jaipur uses an intricate system of corridors and windows to keep the temperature pleasant throughout the hot season.

Many public buildings in hot countries use air conditioning systems. Although they are more expensive to install, new technologies can reduce bills and CO2 emissions.

In new construction, good architecture is vital. Making buildings the right shape and pointing them in the right direction can often save a third of their energy.

Check the thermostats – is the building colder than it needs to be? Also check the timers: are there times when a building is cooled unnecessarily?

Check insulation. Are you losing cooled air through windows, doors, letterboxes or floors?

If you live in a warm dry climate, investigate alternative air conditioning systems. One recent example pioneered in America is WhiteCap, a system that sprays water over a building’s roof at night – the cooled water is collected, filtered, and then the next day it is used to cool the building.

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Electrical appliances

A PC monitor left on overnight wastes enough energy to laser-print 800 A4 sheets of paper.

Check labels. Within the European Union, all fridges, freezers, washing machines, dryers and dishwashers have to display an energy efficiency label which grades appliances from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and shows consumption in kWh. The rating allows the EU to remove the least efficient models from sale – cutting costs for consumers and reducing CO2.

In the US the Energy Star sign is an energy rating system applied to computers, printers, modems, scanners and monitors. Ask your supplier for the energy rating of any new equipment you are considering.

Most computers, photocopiers machines and TVs are not being used for about 90 percent of the time they are on. Use devices that put machines into a standby state until they are needed. Screensavers do not save energy, and sometimes sockets use electricity even when the appliance is off.

Remember that laptops are more energy-efficient than desktops.

Consider buying ink-jet printers. They use about 50 times less electricity than laser printers, which take hundreds of watts and heat the environment as well.

more energy-efficient and reduce the number of toxic batteries to be disposed of.

Keep fridges away from heaters and cookers; keep the coils at the back of the fridge clean to minimise energy.

Only use washing machines with full loads – and avoid washing at more than 50º. Washing clothes at 40º can cut energy usage by 10 per cent.

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In the US, lighting counts for 20 per cent of electricity used - and half of that goes into ordinary incandescent light bulbs.

Install compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use 70 per cent less electricity than incandescent or halogen lights - and they last ten times longer.

Make the most of daylight by painting walls with pale colours, keeping windows clean and laying light-coloured carpets. This will also help artificial light be more efficient.

Check the wattage of your lights: can you decrease some of the bulbs from 100W to 60W?

Put timers on some lights.

Switch off lights when you leave a room and remind visitors to do the same.

Implementing these changes can work: At Fort Polk, an Army base in Louisiana, peak hour electricity use fell by 43 percent installing fluorescent lights, low-flow shower heads, attic insulation and better heating and cooling systems.

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Electrical cars are generally the most environmentally sound choice for urban cars.

What cars are members of the congregation using? Are they fuel-efficient ? Have they considered hybrid engine cars like the Toyota Prius which work on both electricity and petrol/gasoline?

Suggest that everyone who can do so should walk rather than drive to your place of worship. Or that at least they should car share. Modern cars have catalytic converters to destroy most pollutants, but they only work well when the car engine is hot, and this can take longer than the duration of a local trip.

Faiths can use their influence among their congregations to promote the use of public transport and of bicycles. Display local public transport information on a notice board.

Promote car share by organising car-pools.

Fit a fuel saver device into the fuel line of your communal car engine. It will reduce emission of gases by 40 per cent, and it will also save 10 per cent on your fuel costs.

Keep your tyres in good condition by pumping them regularly. Under-inflated tyres means more work for the engine and more consumption of fuel.

Religious lobby groups have convinced Ford to pledge to build sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that will emit less pollution. Can your congregation start or join an environmental lobby group?

Try and cut down on air travel, or consider making a voluntary payment to compensate for the amount of CO2 that your journey has cost.

An energy saving programme is more than a scheme to save money. It is a declaration of respect towards our biosphere, the creation and, above all, it underlines that we recognise that Nature has a right to exist.

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Introduce an environmentally-friendly purchasing policy

Buy non-aerosol cleaning materials that are phosphate free

Buy low energy usage electrical appliances and vehicles

Buy locally – you both support your community and cut down on fuel emissions from trucks needed to transport good across the country. Support your small local stores and ask your supermarkets about their buy local policies.

Consider buying organic food. If more people support this industry it encourages farmers to stop using pesticides and herbicides.

If you are in a Christian congregation that holds communion services, find out whether the wafers or communion bread are organic and local. If not then it would be good for the congregation to consider this, to cut down on the environmental cost of your worship.

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In 1990, 33% of human-caused methane emissions in the UK came from landfills. By 1998 it was 40%.

Make sure the official stationery (and all other paper) is made from unbleached chlorine-free paper. Recycle ink cartridges.

Organise Clean-up-Days to clear litter in a local park, beach, road, river or other community area.

Make a list of everything that is bought, and assess each one for waste. Locate your local recycling bins – and if there aren’t any then join other members of your congregation to lobby for them. Provide separate bins or boxes for glass, tins and paper – perhaps the place of worship can be a collecting centre. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100W fluorescent light for a 40-hour week. Recycling 10 aluminium cans saves enough energy to power your TV for a week.

Compile a list of companies that will collect your recycled materials for free (try town halls, yellow pages, business directories and business contacts in the community).

About 20 per cent of methane-producing landfill is made of vegetable matter. Organise a composting bin for tea-bags, fruit peelings etc: and use the compost on local gardens.

Recommend cardboard coffins.

Clothes can be collected and sent to charities or passed to other people in the community. Furniture in landfills could often have been used by other people – consider using rooms in the parish hall or equivalent for collecting and giving away furniture. If your community is wealthy try and find a local community where people could benefit from second-hand furniture. In London for example, the Shaftesbury society collects furniture and sells it very cheaply to people on the minimum wage.

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