St. Anne's Church, Chingford

Environmental Challenges

This is a series of articles by Jenny Miller, first published in the Hatch Herald from May 2003 to April 2004.

Many of the suggestions are as relevant now as they were then.

May 2003

On Friday March 21, Rosalind Tatam, Joyce Sullivan and I attended a "Parish Pump" Environmental Workshop in Chelmsford. David Sheeve of the Conservation Foundation, John Perry Bishop of Chelmsford, and Claire Foster of the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility encouraged us to THINK GLOBALLY while others including Michael Fox, Archdeacon of West Ham, encouraged us to ACT LOCALLY.

Revd Roger Gayler, known to us as an ex-curate of St Anne's, spoke about what he was doing at his City Farm. We also went over to the Essex County Council chamber to hear what the ECC was doing to help the environment and very heartening it was too.

There are three main global environmental problems that challenge us: ozone depletion, climate change and deforestation. In fact, we in the UK need to achieve a 60% reduction in our carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 if we are to avoid significant climate change that will affect, if not us, our children and grandchildren.

Then there are local matters - waste disposal, looking after our green areas and wildlife having places of tranquillity and caring for the elderly and vulnerable.

Sometimes the problems of the environment can all feel too overwhelming in our busy lives and we can put them to the back of our minds. One lady at the workshop spoke of what her church had done to win an environmental award. I must admit that I thought that St. Anne's was in fact doing many of these things already. We are well on the way to creating a pleasant memorial garden - a place of tranquillity. STATIS* is still used by disabled groups and efforts are being made to increase its use. We use recycled paper in the Centre toilets, we are now using Fairtrade coffee and tea, and with the work of Help-on-Call, the Healing Centre and the bereavement group we are trying to care for the community. One thing that this award-winning church did that seemed a good idea was to have a different monthly "challenge". We must believe that what we do an individual as well as a church can help to improve and save our environment and therefore the Earth as we know it.

To think of an environmental challenge each month, I am sure will keep me on my toes each month, and I hope that it will challenge you too.

The Challenges


Make an extra effort to recycle as much of our waste as possible including paper, glass jars and bottles, textiles, aluminium foil, and cans. Waltham Forest have very good recycling facilities so we have no excuse not to. Don't forget the Mini-Market as a way of directly recycling unwanted goods!


The local council has an initiative that says 'don't drive one in five'. With summer approaching and hopefully good weather, why not leave the car at home and walk sometimes? Perhaps to church!

As well as being better for the environment, walking (or cycling) are good for our health and free. Also, if you drive to work, how about car-sharing? If you are interested in doing this, Waltham Forest have a Car Share Database. (This is no longer current)


As a challenge for July I wonder if we could make a special effort to buy "Fairtrade" goods. Some may be more expensive than the equivalent in ''unfair" trade goods - but few of us would think twice about putting a pound or two into a charity box and how much better it would be if charity was not needed!

The supermarkets are now selling quite a number of Fairtrade goods including bananas, tea, coffee and chocolates. The Oxfam shops sell Fairtrade products and there is now a Fairtrade shop and cafe in Leytonstone which is within walking distance of the Central Line tube station or the W16 bus terminus. The shop is called "Diversity" and the address is 19 Church Lane. It sells a range of goods including foodstuffs, clothing, textiles, handi­crafts and jewellery from producers in develop­ing countries and has an organic cafe. Do try and visit it - it needs as much support as possible to make this new venture a success. (Believed to have closed)


The challenge this month is to save water. This is most important for those who garden. Apparently using the hosepipe for one hour uses nearly as much water as seven baths and more water than fifteen showers!

I read in my Gardening magazine that in some parts of Southern and Eastern regions of the U.K. there is less water available per person than in drought-ridden Ethiopia or the Sudan! So, it is important to be aware of the amount of water we use. A few ways in which we can save water are:
• not to leave taps running
• take a shower instead of a bath
• water the garden in the early morning or evening to reduce evaporation
• collect rainwater
• don't water lawns too often - they can survive long periods of drought
• place a "hippo" in the toilet cistern


With Autumn very close now, why not make a compost heap? After all, composting is nature's way of recycling to make rich nutritious soil. If you have only a small space in your garden there are plenty of small compost makers on the market. I have even seen one advertised made out of recycled plastic!

Soft garden cuttings, fallen leaves, waste vegetable matter (not cooked) can all go on the compost heap. In fact, anything that has lived, even cut hair, dog's fur or wool can be composted. It doesn't take long for all this waste to turn in to beautiful compost - good for the garden - and also for the soul!


Take your own bags to the supermarket or buy some of their re-usable ones.

Sainsburys give you back 1p for every bag of your own that you use and there is a charity box on the wall that you can put this money in. I have been told that in Ireland you pay 10p for every carrier bag so if you do use a shop carrier bag why not put 10p into a charity box?

According to a leaflet given out by Waitrose, each year food retailers give away enough carriers to cover the City of London with over 600 layers of bags. Waitrose themselves gave away 150 million carrier bags last year -enough bags to stretch round the world 2.5 times! Production of these bags uses the same amount of oil as 57,000 cars driving from London to Glasgow. Nearly all free carriers end up in the landfill tips. This is a sobering thought.


"Sharing and giving are the ways of God" (a native American proverb) With Christmas fast approaching, we are particularly aware of this and hopefully it is something we enjoy doing. However, in our sharing and giving we need not forget to care for God's world. After all, He has given it to us to share.

One way in which we could share with the wider community is in our giving of Christmas cards. We could help our environment by buying cards that raise money for charities, and, even better, if possible, to buy ones that are made from recycled paper.


A Gift

A different Challenge for December and January

In last month's Hatch Herald there was printed a saying that I had come across myself a couple of months earlier and which has been on my mind and a help to me recently. The saying was: 'Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but this moment is a gift, that is why it is called the present.'

This is the time of the year when we trunk particularly about gifts. Most gifts are welcome, but sometimes we get gifts that we would rather give back. I cannot think of Graham's illness as a gift and if it was I would certainly like to give it back. However, it has come and has to be accepted and at the time of writing this, I hope that the final parting can be delayed as long as possible. The future is a mystery and the past can sometimes be painful to think about - but this moment can be lived through and in a strange way can sometimes feel very rich and very special.

Both Graham and myself have been very aware of all your prayers and good wishes and these are very special gifts that we are receiving. We thank you very much for them. It has made and is making such a difference to the way we are able to handle this present situation, with a certain confidence we would not have had otherwise.

The National Health Service has been another gift. We have received more care and attention than we could have wished for. How lucky we are to live in England.

There is another gift that I have been grateful for, and that is Epping Forest. Every morning before going to the hospital. I have walked Barley, our dog, through the forest at Highams Park and round part of Highams Park Lake. The trees have been so beautiful this year and watching the gradual turning of autumn into winter has reflected my mood. I have found this both inspiring and comforting. This earth is all about death and re-growth; there is Spring to look forward to. The importance of caring for this beautiful world God has made has instilled itself deeper in me than ever - may we never be so stupid as to destroy it.

Lastly, but not least, we have been aware of the gift of Christ. At this time of the year we trunk of his birth and along with that is the gift of his life, his teaching and his death and promise of a new life.

The material gifts that we exchange at Christ­mas are fun and exciting, but this is usually short lived. The gifts of Christ, of friendship, of prayers and of this beautiful world, are gifts that are lasting - may we always be aware of them and cherish them.


At this time of the year we like to keep ourselves warm and cosy, and of course, this can involve using a lot of energy.

However, there is no reason why we should waste it.

A few ways to conserve energy are:
• Turn off any radiators you have in rooms not being used and shut the door.
• Put on an extra layer of clothing, so that the heating can be turned a little lower.
• Turn off any lights not being used and, where possible, use energy saving light bulbs.
• Don't leave the television on when you are not watching it. Even leaving it on stand­by uses electricity.
• Don't have the water temperature in the boiler too high, apart from wasting energy you risk scalding yourself
• Make sure there are no draughts in the house.


Last Spring, Graham and I went to a Garden Centre in Enfield to buy plants. While waiting at the check-out we noticed that three bags of potting compost were being sold at a very reasonable price; so we quickly added these to our other purchases. It wasn't until we were ready to use the compost that we realised it contained peat. We were determined that we would be more careful next time.

So the challenge to myself and to you this month is: when buying compost, look carefully at the bag and make sure it is PEAT FREE.


As this month completes the year of environmental challenges, I will give two challenges for good measure.

The first is to buy environmentally friendly products such as Ecover. The second is to support a charity that keeps a check on or helps preserve our environment, e.g. Friends of the Earth, RSPB, Greenpeace, The National Trust or FIELD (Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development).

It is very easy to feel disheartened when we see how much waste there is in the world and hear how our way of living is poisoning our earth. I believe we can make a difference, so long as we constantly keep in mind that what we buy and the way we live affects our earth. If we remember that the butterfly that flaps its wings in Malaysia can cause a storm, the other side of the world, we can take heart that our small contributions towards caring for our environment can have far-reaching consequences.

Jesus taught us to 'love our neighbour'. I am sure he did not only mean our neighbour of today but also our neighbour of the future. He also told us to build our house on the rock, perhaps as a church we have to some extent not taken this on.

As a postscript, I recently visited the exhibition of pictures of the earth taken from the air that is being shown outside the Natural History Museum. These pictures show the wonderful and diverse beauty of our planet, but the photographer also points out how fragile it is and how the way we live is cut how the way we live is causing damage and hardship. It is worth a visit.

STATIS was a horticultural training project for the unemployed which was run in what is now the church garden.