Many churches are finding ways to be eco-conscious to save money and reduce their carbon footprint. Greening the church can go beyond financial means as a way of welcoming regular congregants and visitors to the church. Although this article uses the term church out of convenience, the term can apply to any religious house of worship or where people gather in general. Going green can be a great way to commit to hospitality towards others who come to worship with you.
Stop Using Disposable Dishes
If you grew up in the church before dishwashers and disposal plates were a thing, you might remember working together with your friends to wash and dry dishes after a potluck dinner. Cleaning up was one more way that people talked together to share their lives and to learn more about each other. You may consider paper plates and disposable coffee cups more convenient than using real dishes, but consider serving coffee or food on real plates and in real cups. Unique coffee mugs can be a great way to connect with and honor visitors. Aren’t the people of your church worth real dishes? Invest in real dishes that need to be washed after dinner to save money on plastic components that get tossed into the trash.
Use Linen Tablecloths and Napkins
Again, using plastic tablecloths and paper napkins is a convenience, but those items go into the landfill at the end of the day. Isn’t it a nice touch to have cloth tablecloths during a potluck dinner? Cloth tablecloths and napkins are a much better investment, even if you may have to solve the question of how to get them washed and dried each time. Having a washer and dryer on-site may seem more expensive up front, but you may find that you have more clothing and towels that can be washed each week. Making the switch to cloth towels for cleaning or for general use in the church may also reduce your carbon footprint and what you throw away.
Use What You Have When Bringing Food To Serve
Instead of going out to the donut shop on Sunday morning, make something with what you have in your pantry. It’s okay to think outside the box and bring non-conventional items. Cheese and crackers are always a nice thing to serve at a coffee hour. Veggies and dip are healthier than donuts or cake. People who can’t eat sweets may feel more welcome. If you do want to make something special, plan ahead to avoid a midnight shopping run to the store.
Don’t Waste Food
Have a plan to deal with leftovers after someone brings an extra dozen bagels or for food left after potlucks. Keep saran or containers to send home food with congregants who could use it or take it to someone else. Put leftover cakes in the freezer. Check what’s in the church pantry before buying more. Look for ways to use up leftovers in new ways. Leftover fruit from the pancake supper can be made into a compote to go on a cheesecake at the next potluck.
Look For Fair Trade Items
Choosing fair trade items that are ethically sourced may cost your church a little more, but it’s just one more way you can think green. Businesses that employ fair trade practices take care of their workers and their products. Many fair trade businesses grow organically, reducing their use of pesticides and herbicides. Fair trade coffee and chocolate usually taste much better than the cheapest product on the grocery shelf, so it will be more welcome during meetings or after services.
Change how your church approaches hospitality to be a greener church.