Eco Church Gold Award - A Rocha

The Friary is the first community in the UK to be given an Eco Church Gold Award in recognition of the integrated ecology we are seeking to put into practice at Hilfield. This includes our prayer and worship, the growing and sourcing of our food, the energy we use (predominantly biomass and solar), the use of transport (electric car, bicycles and public transport), the care and conservation of habitat and species of wildlife, our concern for social justice and our education programme.

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eco-church-july2015-2-colourEco Church is an A Rocha UK project to encourage churches and other Christian groups to ‘go green’ and demonstrate that they care for God’s earth. We hope that our Gold Award will spur others on!

Eco Church


Sustainable Heat and Energy

 At Hilfield we are seeking to live in a way which recognizes the fundamental economy of gift upon which all life depends and which acknowledges our interdependence with every other creature in the world around us.  Our aim is to live a sustainable ecology which integrates our social life in community with a care for the created world and with the worship of God – the Creator and Sustainer of all life. Our land and domestic animals provide a considerable amount of our food, and the energy we use is largely from biomass and solar sources. We are insulating our houses to conserve energy and we have recently begin leasing an electric car for journeys to the local towns. There is a real joy in preparing and sharing the food we eat and in the sharing of resources which living in community enables. The daily rhythm of prayer keeps us aware of our dependence upon each other and on God.

Since the beginning of December 2014 the Friary has been relying on the burning of biomass (woodchips) for its heating and hot water supply. Because trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere during their growing life, this provides a virtually carbon neutral form of energy and forms a significant step along our path towards a more sustainable way of living.

We were warned by sceptics of the project that there were likely to be significant problems with woodchip burning, but some months on we can report that the system has been working almost faultlessly. The fuel is fed automatically to the boiler which heats water in a 10,000 litre tank, and which is then pumped to the different houses of the Friary. The whole operation is programmed to achieve maximum efficiency and can be controlled by laptop from anywhere in the Friary. The system is also monitored by both Bioheat in Gillingham and Eta in Austria, who can advise in the event of any fault.

The design of the system and the supply of the Eta 200kW boiler has been undertaken by Bioheat, a specialist renewable heating firm based in Gillingham (Dorset), and this firm will continue to oversee its operation. The actual installation was by Amber Heating of Shaftesbury, and we were hugely assisted at every stage by its highly qualified engineer, Bob Roddy. In particular he and his assistants supervised our digging 100 metres of deep trenches between the boiler and the houses and the laying of insulated piping – quite a task when the autumn rains set in and the place began to look something like the Western Front!

AND WE ARE WARM. As one recent guest to the Friary wrote following her visit, ‘For the first time I didn’t need my hot-water bottle!’ Not only are we warm, but we are saving money on fuel bills and will soon be receiving a regular payment from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive. The capital outlay on the installation has been substantial (available thanks to legacies received by the Society of St Francis), but it should be repaid within seven years of operation.

At present we are receiving awoodchip delivery every month or so from a Dorset supplier, but from 2016 we’ll be drawing from our own woodland and from the Dorset County Council woodland on the edge of the Downs just above the Friary, both sites being managed sustainably. We already have a year’s supply of logs on an extension of the car park, ready for chipping on site towards the end of next year.

Other alternative energy and energy saving initiatives have been undertaken by the Friary over the past seven years. The chapel roof holds 44 photo-voltaic panels which supply part of our electricity needs and feed into the National Grid. We have also been doing a huge amount of insulation – most recently the cladding of Douglas House, a 1960’s brick building, with celutex and wooden pine boards; in effect a duvet wrapped around the whole of the outside.

All this is not just about saving money and keeping warm, but arises from our particular Christian and Franciscan insight of creation as a precious gift from God, and of nature as a community of creatures, animate and inanimate, of which we are a part. A world in which we live at peace, harmony and reverence with all around us is one which gives glory and praise to the Creator and Redeemer.


Electric car and Hybrid

The Friary is a wonderful place to live, but it is remote and public transport is not exactly brilliant – there are six buses each day to take us to Sherborne, Yeovil and Dorchester, our nearest towns, and it is a 45 minute walk to the bus stop! We try to combine journeys whenever possible but are heavily dependent on cars for shopping, medical and other appointments, and for meeting guests off trains or long distance coaches. Most of our journeys are within an eleven mile radius of the Friary, but together they make for a considerable carbon footprint.

 

To reduce this we have recently begun to lease an electric car – a Nissan Leaf – which, with a range of 100 miles, fulfills our need for short haul transport. We’ve installed a charge point for the batteries which is supplied at least partly by the solar panels on the chapel roof. Our mains electricity is from renewable sources too. The Leaf is a big car, a comfortable five seater with a large boot. It’s lovely to handle and quite zippy, though it takes a while to get used to the silence of the drive!

 

We have taken this on for our own benefit, but we hope that it will encourage others to explore this possibility – the charge point is available for visitors’ cars too. The cost of the leasing is £240 per month, which is offset to some extent by the fuel at 2 – 5 pence per mile and, of course, by not bearing the usual depreciation in value when owning a car. However, there will still be a cost burden on the Friary. We are inviting guests whom we meet at the station to make a contribution to this green transport and would be glad to be sponsored by any who believe in cutting carbon emissions.

We have also recently leased a Mitsibushi Outlander phev, this is a hybrid vehicle with a shorter battery range but allows us a longer range with a petrol engine as well and achives over 80mpg, a great vehicle for the country roads in dorset and beyond.

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Food Policy

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Hilfield Food


 

Food plays a very significant part of our life at Hilfield – it sustains us, makes us aware of our interdependence, brings us together, and gives us joy and delight. It’s a gift of God. The way we grow it, source it, harvest it, prepare it and share it is important; it’s an expression of our Franciscan calling and of our Christian life. We may not be gourmet cooks at the Friary, but we aspire to having a diet that is simple and wholesome and which honours the gift we’ve received.

 

We also recognize that if the world population is to be fed adequately in the future there need to be radical changes in the way our food is grown and in the way we plan our diet. Colin Tudge, in his book Good Food for Everyone Forever (Pari Publishing, 2011), argues that the basis of both good husbandry and a healthy diet is ‘Plenty of plants, not much meat and maximum variety’.

 

In putting this concern for food into effect at Hilfield we try to follow the LOAF principles where possible:

 

  • Locally sourced – from our own land or from local farms and businesses, usually avoiding unseasonal products or food which has been brought in from far without good reason.
  • Organic – or at least food which has been produced using as few industrial and invasive techniques as possible.
  • Animal friendly – free range livestock
  • Fairly traded – caring about a just price for small farmers and producers and not simply going for the cheapest offers.

 

And in following these principles we aim:

 

  • To have not more than two new meat meals a week (not including left-over meals); to use less meat in preparing meat dishes and to use less popular cuts of meat.
  • To have many vegetarian meals.
  • To develop a wide variety of recipes and menus.
  • To incorporate fruit and vegetables from the garden whenever they are available, and to look for fruit and herbs from the hedgerows.
  • To provide salads and vegetables at meals whenever possible.
  • To use what is already in the fridge either as part of what we are cooking or as a supplement to the menu.
  • To train all those helping in the kitchen to cook and especially to bake bread.
  • To write on a board in the refectory the menu for the next meal and the provenance of the food we are eating at that meal.

 

We also need to keep within the food budget for the year and we therefore have to take the cost of the food we buy into careful consideration. However, we don’t always choose the cheapest option, but sometimes prefer to buy and use a smaller quantity of good quality food rather than a large amount of a cheaper product, i.e. quality over quantity. We are grateful for gifts of food from various sources, especially from the Pilsdon Community and local gardens.

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