The Martha’s Vineyard Interfaith Climate Action Team is formed of volunteers from several different faith communities. If yours is not represented, please join us — our contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve been meeting regularly to share ideas and techniques for improving our relationship with the environment, and dealing with the effects of climate change. Some of our efforts are large and some small and incremental, but all of them require our communities to get behind them to be really effective. They represent a commitment to the greater good that we aspire to as ethical groups and individuals. This kind of commitment to life is not limited to members of faith groups, so we thought we’d share some of our projects here, in case they may inspire you.
Two approaches are helpful here. One is to produce energy, and several of our member groups have or are in the process of getting solar panels. Others opt for green energy as part of their electrical service, guaranteed to be produced in the most ecofriendly ways currently available. The second useful approach is to conserve energy. Some congregations have hosted a speaker from Cape Light Compact to talk about ways to save energy, and to set up energy audits for their members.
As an example of energy conservation, one project that the Green Team of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury completed in February 2023 was weatherization of the attic above the sanctuary. This work was performed as a result of an energy audit by Cape Light Compact in partnership with Rise Engineering. The audit was free. The weatherization was installed at a 50 percent reduction in cost due to the incentives offered by Cape Light Compact for small businesses, including houses of worship.
We are always looking for ways to reduce waste and put less in the trash. Inspired in part by the schoolchildren who started Plastic Free MV, we have transitioned away from disposable Styrofoam and plastic, and some have ended the use of disposable dishware altogether in favor of washable ones.
Several groups promote composting, not only composting their own biodegradable waste from coffee hours and soup suppers and so on, but acting as a hub for members who can bring their household compost for pickup.
For example, Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven has instituted a parish-wide composting project. They distributed countertop compost bins to parishioners, and obtained a compost-specific tote from Bruno’s. That tote is now located in the enclosure with trash and recycling outside the parish kitchen. All parishioners are invited to empty their own compost into the tote at the church. Bruno’s collects it every other week, at a cost of $14 per pickup, and takes the food waste to Island Grown Initiative to add to its large composting processor, the output of which then nourishes IGI farm fields. So, instead of sending food scraps to an incinerator on the mainland, they are replenishing the soil here on the Island.
Some of the Island’s faith groups are stewards of land, enhancing the gardens on their grounds, partly for pollinators, partly for food and flowers, and also for the stress-reducing and energizing effects of working with soil. Gardening is a good activity for youth, and can be shared with all ages and abilities, with a bit of planning. During difficult times, the proven mental health benefits of gardening can be a real asset to any community, giving its members access to healthy outdoor activity and essential nature connection.
As an example, the Unitarian Universalist Society’s Stephen’s Chapel in Vineyard Haven has been exploring installing an accessible raised bed gardening area, and has also been discussing various types of memorial plantings. It got a very helpful consultation from the Natural Neighbors Program (contact Richard Couse, email@example.com, 508-338-2939). This consultation identified invasive plants, discussed the best ways to remove them, and recommended appropriate native replacements. It also made suggestions for practical improvements which favor wildlife, such as songbirds, while meeting the society’s goals for beauty and usefulness for humans as well. The report has lots of links for more information, and sources for plants, materials, and services.
Another action we can take to help pollinators is to celebrate No Mow May. Beekeepers say this really makes a difference. May is a particularly difficult time for the pollinators such as bees and butterflies. They need food after the long winter, but many plants are not flowering yet. Important native species of pollinators in particular may come up short — some of the nonnative and hybrid ornamental flowers we grow are not suitable for them. If you don’t mow your lawn during the month of May, it allows the flowering grasses, dandelions, clovers, and so on to bloom and feed our essential insect workers. In addition, a spring mowing moratorium strengthens the grass roots, so that when you mow the lawn again in June, it will be healthier and more resilient, and require less water all summer long. So please forgive a little scruffiness in the month of May — it has a loving purpose!
We all suffer from the effects of climate change, and we all benefit by sharing information about what works for us and what doesn’t. Many of us regularly discuss these issues, and publish climate action tips in our bulletins and newsletters. We have worked with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and others to strengthen our commitment in the community. In this spirit, the M.V. Interfaith Climate Action Team will be attending the Climate Action Day celebration at the Agricultural Hall fairgrounds in West Tisbury on May 7 from 12 to 4 pm. We’ll be holding an interfaith service called “Prayers for the Earth,” and there will also be workshops, consultants, a repair café, and interesting and fun activities for all ages. We hope to see you there!