International Observance: ‘GreenFaith’ For The Environment

SATURDAY, JUNE 5: In light of the recent oil spill, everyone can do his or her part today by observing World Environment Day. Since the 1970s, the United Nations has deemed June 5 a day to bring awareness to environmental issues and the political actions necessary to bring change. (Get more details at Wikipedia.) This year, biodiversity will be the theme as the world celebrates “Many Species, One Planet.” Rwanda will host the 2010 World Environment Day, as this country has made enormous strides in environmental protection in recent years. It’s estimated that the 2010 Rwandan ceremony will have 30,000 attendees. (Click here to access the UN site.)

Pittsburgh will host the North American program—but that doesn’t mean you can’t get active in your own community today by cleaning up garbage on beaches or in parks, planting trees or raising general awareness of environmental health! In Pittsburgh, the 2010 theme will vary slightly from the international theme, as North America brings focus to water health. (Visit the official Pittsburgh WED site for details.) American Water, the largest investor-owned U.S. water and wastewater utility company, is sending its president and chief executive officer to the Pittsburgh ceremony. A water panel discussion, moderated by a representative of the Washington Post, will highlight the critical need for water and wastewater infrastructure investments in the U.S.

How does faith fit into all of this? World faiths have long focused on the beauty of creation, as well as the need for people to protect the natural environment. Lately, the GreenFaith Program has been making headlines as it aids religious leaders and laypeople in turning houses of worship into “green” centers. GreenFaith also encourages eco-themed worship services, and aids leaders in becoming knowledgeable about the environment. What started in 1992 as a local, volunteer-run organization in New Jersey has expanded into an internationally recognized program. Between 2003 and 2006, GreenFaith partnered with Sun Farm Network to install solar panels in religious houses across New Jersey; 25 institutions made the switch. In 2004, GreenFaith expanded nationally when it launched the GreenFaith Fellowship Program, meant to train religious leaders on the environment, and the GreenFaith Certification Program, a program meant to lead congregations to a “greener” future—and to provide them with resources they might need, along the way. GreenFaith has since been recognized by a plethora of world faith and environmental leaders, including the US Environmental Protection Agency.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make a difference!

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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