17 February 2024

Logging in to the Environmental Champions Network

Stevie Hope

Three speech bubbles, each with icons in them. One has praying hands, one the recycling sign and the other a leaf.

Stevie Hope finds out what the Environmental Champions Network is and how it’s helping people care for creation.

You’ve likely heard that The Salvation Army cares for creation. Between declaring a climate emergency and setting an ambitious net-zero carbon emissions target, there’s lots happening on an organisational level to make this territorial mission priority a reality. And this push is equally as strong on the ground.

When I last caught up with Major Heather Poxon, the territory’s environmental officer, she said ‘the core of the eco corps push is the Environmental Champions Network’ (Salvationist 3 June 2023).

It’s therefore encouraging to hear that, over the past year alone, the network has grown by more than 400 per cent – from 34 members in 2022 to 176 members today – with every UK and Ireland division represented.

To cut carbon emissions, the network doesn’t gather in person, but communicates via WhatsApp and email. Quarterly online catch-ups help champions inspire and encourage each other in local projects, while helping Heather gauge how best to move forward for the territory.

‘Each champion has their own passions and opportunities,’ Heather enthuses. ‘I see the network as the environmental team on the ground.'

Two environmental champions share their experiences with the network.

A photo of Margaret Mortlock.

Margaret Mortlock

Corps Secretary, Reading Lower Earley

We’ve gained so much from the Environmental Champions Network. A massive shout-out to Heather and the team.

We joined for support, ideas and a common purpose. People have been tremendously supportive, especially in the early days of our involvement in A Rocha UK’s Eco Church initiative. We realised that issues we faced had been faced by others and, often, they had already found solutions!

As an example, through the network, we learnt that we needed to change our bins and labels. Before, we had rubbish and recycling bins with no further information. Now, a sticker with pictures confirms what goes where. We got the signs and bins from our local council, and they have helped people to start recycling more. You quickly move from an idea to completion because others have already been there and done it.

We were thrilled to achieve Silver in the Eco Church survey, and sharing with like-minded people has motivated us to keep going. Solutions we’ve shared include approaching the Royal Horticultural Society for wildflower seeds, asking local refuse centres for recycled compost, and building bug hotels from leftover wood. It’s really encouraging to receive positive feedback and thanks when we share.

Caring for creation is a territorial priority, but what does that really mean in corps life? Yes, we could have a sermon about it. We could recycle. However, it’s not until I joined the network that I appreciated just how vast the topic is.

A photo of Matt Elsey.

Major Matt Elsey

Corps Officer, Newark

I joined the network because tackling climate change is a significant issue we face and I believe that caring for God’s creation effectively is not something we can, or should, do in isolation. It’s such a big challenge and can only be solved by sharing responsibility, praying together and holding each other to account.

Being part of the network has encouraged me to do more towards caring for creation and has provided many ideas and stories of good practice. Since joining, we’ve introduced reusable giving envelopes, provided bins to recycle items that aren’t recycled by the council, and hosted a Wild Neighbours exhibition to highlight the wildlife in our area.

It has also reassured me that there are others who are also trying their best to make changes but don’t know how. While the network doesn’t tell you what to do, the members encourage you to keep going and give your ideas a go.

Meeting on Teams means there’s a diverse group with varying experiences and expertise to glean from, without the need to travel. There’s also an openness to share ideas, thoughts and prayers to help others do their best in their setting. It doesn’t take up lots of time and you always come away feeling encouraged and with a few things you can try out.

Written by

A photo of Stevie Hope.

Stevie Hope

Editorial Assistant

Get involved

Link up with the Environmental Champions Network today!

email environment@salvationarmy.org.uk

Discover more

Supporting the territory to care for creation and tread softly on our common home.

Cadet Amy Bayliss-Fox shares why she’s taking part in the No Faith in Fossil Fuels Vigil for Climate Justice.

Resources to help you care for creation.

University student Yelena Grase Jurkenas shares seven eco-friendly habits and reflects on God’s invitation to care for creation.