The Green Seminary Initiative encourages the staff, faculty, and students at theological schools to adopt green practices within the community and in their own personal lives. Many of the aspects of earth care are reflected in how we live in community. The decisions we make every day in how we use water, how we eat, how we manage material goods and paper all affect the health of the planet. Furthermore, our communal and personal lifestyles have a significant impact on all of earth’s creatures, human and non-human.
Below are resources on building sustainable community.
Webinar on Community Life - Presented by Green Seminary Initiative in partnership with Matthew Riley, Christopher Fici, Rachel Mathews, and Nathan Stuckey.
GSI supports each seminary as it manages its food services so that it provides food sourced and prepared in an environmentally healthy and humane manner.
Best Practices for Campus Sustainability: This guide was put together by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and it is a comprehensive guide for a variety of sustainability projects, including food issues.
Food Covenant: Drew Theological School has a no mammal flesh food policy for community meals. (Copy coming soon)
Webinar with CreatureKind: What if our theologies and practices reflected the coming and present reality of the liberation and the reconciliation of all God’s creatures back to the Creator? How would we, as individuals and institutions, respond? CreatureKind is committed to equipping Christians with a theo-ethical framework from which to discuss animal issues in the church and the place of animals in Christian life. They provide education and support to pastors and other Christian leaders on the importance and validity of including animals and animal issues in Christian life and practice in order to change the way that animals are viewed by Christians.
GSI encourages schools to develop and sustain a culture of respect for creation, the seminary will communicate regularly with its community members about the school’s environmental commitments and will provide opportunities for these people to adopt environmentally sustainable behaviors.
Demonstrating Good Stewardship: This collection of stories from In Trust Magazine offers examples of how a variety of seminaries have added environmentally sustainable behaviors to their communities.
Sustainability Strategic Plan: This example of a strategic plan comes from Penn State and will be particularly helpful to seminaries embedded in a larger University.
Greening the food system of your school offers many opportunities.
Green your cafeteria. Work with the head of the cafeteria to seek ways to purchase organic and/or locally grown food. They are an integral part of your effort to reduce or eliminate the use of Styrofoam and paper products and to increase the availability of meatless meals. See, for example, the innovative work being done at the cafeterias of Yale, Duke, and Drew University.
Green your cups, mugs, plates, and eating utensils. Theological schools and universities use extraordinary amounts of disposable cups, cutlery, and plates. Replace disposable items with non-disposable ones.
Green your institution’s food purchasing policy. Purchase food for your cafeteria, lunches, community dinners, and other catered events from local producers such as local dairies, local farmers, and food co-ops. Only purchase meats, eggs, and dairy which are hormone free, produced humanely and are organic. Consider using Fair Trade products.
Educate those at your school on food and faith issues:The Nation Council of Churches' website offers information on Food, Farming, and Faith.
Connect your school with CreatureKind to have more animal-friendly options at your school (and they can help you re-negotiate your food service contracts.
Hazon's website is an up-to-date and comprehensive resource for finding more information about food, Jewish faith, and how to incorporate green food practices into your community's life. "The Jew and the Carrot," an entertaining and informative blog, is another great place to learn about food issues.
Get others involved. Encourage faculty, staff and students to reduce water consumption to the extent possible.
Promote your work and educate others. Regularly monitor, analyze, and display your school’s water usage. You can raise awareness by making this information available in space frequented by students, staff, and faculty as a means of promoting water conservation.
Upgrade your fixtures. Install low-flow toilets, motion sensor faucets, and other water-saving devises.
Be mindful of the social-justice issues related to water usage at your institution. Water contamination, unequal access to water, water shortages, floods, changing precipitation patterns, and other water-related social and environmental justice issues should be a central concern.
Replace your grass with natural and/or water conserving ground cover. Landscaping, especially the watering of lawns, is one the chief ways in which water is used on most campuses.
The following resources can help you reduce your water use:
TheWeb of Creation website has a comprehensive set of faith-based resources on conserving water.
Check theEPA’s website for ideas on water conservation and maintaining water quality.
For a quick and easy way to determine how water is being used and where it is being wasted at your institution, download the Water Use Backgrounder.
You can buy EPA approved “WaterSense” labeled products to reduce flow in your bathrooms and plumbing.
GreenFaith offers six tips on how to reduce water usage at your institution, church, or seminary.
Recycling is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce waste , keep from filling landfills or burning trash and using less energy and resources. Develop a campus-wide recycling program for paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and any other products. Mark bins clearly and place in public places. Recycle the old-fashioned way – hold a community wide “swap meet,” to eliminate buying things unnecessarily.
Institutionalize it. Implement and encourage campus-wide recycling.
Educate others. Educate students, faculty, and staff on correct recycling procedures and emphasize the importance of recycling at events such as student orientation.
Analyze and Assess. Conduct waste surveys, competitions, and educational events on a regular basis in order to reduce waste.
Compost. Compost organic food waste and use as a fertilizer on campus or in local gardens.
You can visit the GreenFaith website for more resources to assist you in reducing and managing waste.
- Take stock. Do an inventory of paper purchases and seek to purchase recycled/post-consumer waste paper for office use as well as for bathroom use.
- Analyze the policies and practices that lead to paper waste and work to make improvements (i.e. Are items printed unnecessarily? Can your copy machines print double-sided documents? Are you using paper for internal memos and communications when electronic communication will suffice?).
- Develop a school-wide paper policy that encourages paperless grading and classes and includes using only recycled paper and printing on two sides.
- Purchase green cleaning supplies. Reduce or eliminate toxic products used in the maintenance of buildings (e.g. strong, bleach-based cleaners, phosphate-based detergents, highly astringent floor and bathroom cleaners, etc.). Considering using Green Seal, or other similarly certified green cleaning products and services.
- Remember the social justice components of your actions. Keep the health of the employees who use these products everyday at the forefront of your planning.
For more information on reducing toxics and using green cleaning products,
refer to the following resources:
For more information on green cleaning, safe pest management, and safe disposal of hazardous waste, visit the GreenFaith’s website dedicated to reducing toxics.
More information on alternatives to pesticides can be found on the EPA website.
GreenFaith offers a detailed guide on green grounds practices.
The Web of Creation has created a detailed list of faith-based advice for greening your grounds practices.
Green Seminary Initiative supports seminaries as they integrate earth care across their curricula. This integration happens in the creation of ecological emphases and concentrations in curricula, introductory and elective courses and opportunities for field education, as well as in faculty development and spiritual formation.
These foci are integrated into our certification program as well as into the resources we recommend to schools in our network.
Theology and Ecology
GSI understands the broad area of theology and ecology as the study of how sacred texts, theologies, ethics, religious traditions and practices intersect with human and ecological well-being, along with the concurrent study of actions necessary to understand and meet the crises facing local and global ecosystems.
- Webinar on Eco-Theological Education - Presented by Green Seminary Initiative in partnership with Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Mary Frohlich, Associate Professor of Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and Ted Hiebert - Old Testament Professor and Dean of the Faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary.
- GSI's curated collection of syllabi - Since our founding, GSI has collected hundreds of syllabi for courses at the intersection of religion and ecology; here we share several from our collection.
Faculty Development and Pedagogy
GSI facilitates seminary faculty development in a variety of fields related to eco-theology, particularly as seminaries seeks ways to encourage faculty to integrate such content into coursework and provide opportunities for faculty to develop related skills and competencies.
- Teaching Creation: A Modular Approach - David A. Bosworth provides an approach for teaching Genesis 1-3.
- Environmental Pedagogy - Timothy B. Leduc and Traci Warkentin from York University, Canada, reflect on best practices in their pedagogy in teaching eco-theology.
- Ten Ways to Integrate Sustainability into Curriculum - Practical tips for faculty and staff by Clara Changxin Fang, Sustainability and Campus Planning Manager at Towson University.
- Sustainability Curriculum in Higher Education - Actions steps from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
- Learning on the Ground - An article on pedagogy in religious education and sustainability by Jennifer Ayres of Chandler School of Theology at Emory University.
- Teaching and Religion: Keys to an Equitable and Ecological Future - An article on pedagogy around climate change and equity by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
GSI believes that students, faculty and staff commitment to ecological care needs to be rooted in spirituality. As such, GSI supports the sharing of practices and experiences that foster eco-spiritual formation. Eco-spiritual formation is understood as encouraging an appreciation of spiritual experience in relation to the natural world, a knowledge of the interconnectedness of the human and beyond-human community, an understanding of and responsiveness to the spiritual, cultural and physical harm done by ecological degradation, particularly to vulnerable communities, and opportunities for cultivation of eco-spiritualities of praise, thanksgiving, awe, wonder, delight, resistance, despair and grief.
- The Role of Nature in Spiritual Formation - an article by Tim Robinson from Brite Divinity School on how we use Nature as way to respond to God.
- Lectio Divina and Nature - a resource from Restoring Eden for applying the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina to Nature.
- Center for Spirituality - GSI Co-Founder Beth Norcross offers several courses in spirituality and nature, as well as information about broadening one's ecological vocabulary.
The Green Seminary Initiative is dedicated to informing educators, administrators, students, clergy, and lay people about current content and methodology of ecologically themed courses in seminaries and divinity schools. We collect syllabi from courses which focus primarily on ecological and theological issues, as well as other more general classes that have a significant ecological component.
Contribute a Syllabus
We are always looking for new syllabi to add to our collection.
We invite you to contribute a syllabus for a class that focuses on some aspect of eco-justice and religion. The class might be fully devoted to this subject or the class may have a component related to this subject. We are seeking syllabi from many disciplines (e.g. theology, sociology, ethics, history, etc.).
When you send us the document, please include:
- Name of course
- Name of professor and contact information if possible
- Date taught or to be taught
|Biblical Perspectives on Nature||Barbara Rossing and Ted Hiebert||Biblical Studies|
|Creation Themes in the HebrewBible||Ken Stone||Biblical Studies|
|Ecological Spirituality Fall2014||Lisa Dahill||Christian Theology|
|EcologicalTheology||Elaine Nogueira-Godsey||Christian Theology|
|Ecotheology in Text andContext||Marion Grau||ChristianTheology|
|The Theology and Ecology of CommonGround||LaurelKearns and David Fewell||Christian Theology|
|VisceralTheology||Eliseo Perez-Alvarez||Christian Theology|
|American ReligiousHistory||Molly Jensen||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Christianity and Ecology in CommunityContexts||John Hart||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Globalization andFood||Jennifer Ayres and Deborah Kapp||Environment/Cultural/Religious/SociologicalStudies|
|Grounding the Sacred: Religion and Ecology in the UnitedStates||BradfordVerter||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Humanity, Nature, and Justice in the ModernWorld||Chara Armon||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Religion andAnimals||Paul Waldau||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Religion andEcology||ToddLewis||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Religion and NatureWriting||Gail Hamner||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Religion and theEarth||Laurel Kearns||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Religion, Ethics, andNature||Anna Peterson||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Religions and Food: Feasts, Fasts, Famine, andFarming||Laurel Kearns||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Seminar on GlobalWarming||Schaefer||Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies|
|Catholic Environmental Ethics: Sources, Norms, andIssues||Dawn Nothwehr||Ethics|
|Christian Ecological Ethics and PoliticalIssues||John Hart||Ethics|
|Earth and Its Distress: Ecological Ethics in ChristianPerspective||JanetParker||Ethics|
|Earth Ethics as JusticeEthics||Cynthia Moe-Lobeda||Ethics|
|Ecotheological Ethics: Bios, Anthropos,Theos||Michael Hogue||Ethics|
|Environmental Ethics andLiberation||Sofia Betancourt||Ethics|
|Faith, Ethics, and the BiodiversityCrisis||Keith Warner||Ethics|
|Markets, Justice, and ChristianEthics||John Senior||Ethics|
|Connections in Ecology and ReligiousEducation||Tim Van Meter||PastoralMinistry & Practical Theology|
|Ecology andLiturgy||MaryMcGann||Pastoral Ministry & Practical Theology|
|The Church and the EcologicalCrisis||Greg Hitzhusen and BethNorcross||Pastoral Ministry & Practical Theology|
|American NaturePhilosophers||Stephanie Kaza||Philosophy|
|Environmental Visions andEnvironmentalism||DonaldSwearer||Philosophy|
|Southern Religious Humanism: Wendell Berry's Philosophy ofLife||Sean Hayden||Philosophy|
|Varieties of ReligiousNaturalism||Wesley Wildman||Philosophy|
|American Indians Religions andEcology||John Grim||World Religions|
|Asian Religions andEcology||Robert Mcdermott||World Religions|
|Hinduism, Jainism, andEcology||Pankaj Jain||World Religions|
|Indigenous Religions andEcology||John Grim||World Religions|
At GSI, we have the benefit of housing dozens of resources on incorporating earth care into curriculum and education in seminaries.
Below you'll find some of our favorites, but if you're looking for something else, please email us or explore the rest of our resources.
Timothy B. Leduc and Traci Warkentin from York University, Canada, reflect on best practices in their pedagogy in teaching eco-theology.
Practical tips for faculty and staff by Clara Changxin Fang, Sustainability and Campus Planning Manager at Towson University.
Actions steps from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
An article on pedagogy in religious education and sustainability by Jennifer Ayres of Chandler School of Theology at Emory University.
On interpersonal and communal ways to bring leadership training into seminary education, from Eco-Faith Recovery.
A collection, curated by the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, of a wide variety of books and articles related to care for creation from a Christian perspective.
More syllabi as resources for course planning.
The Green Seminary Initiative seeks to change the systems that foster the degradation of the earth and to rectify the injustices that result from it. We encourage our members to engage in civic activities that foster ecological health and to participate in the development of public policies that affect the creation and its human and non-human members, particularly the most vulnerable.
At GSI, we believe that the leadership of the seminary plays a crucial role in integrating ecology into religious education, as well as connecting eco- justice with social justice
Environmental Mission Statement
To embrace publicly its commitment to creation and to meeting ecological challenges, the seminary will integrate its commitment into a widely used statement.
Environmental Policies and Board/Governance Leadership
To ensure that the school’s ecological commitment is fully integrated into its culture, the seminary will include environmental topics into orientation for new board, faculty and staff members, report to its board or high-level leadership team regularly about progress towards Certification, and adopt policies that reflect its commitment.
To model public engagement as an expression of religious belief and practice, the seminary will support students and other members of the seminary community in addressing environmental concerns publicly.
Whose Earth Is It Anyway? James Cone's seminal text on how working for ecological justice and racial justice must go hand in hand.
- Seek to expose students to the current national, state and local policy issues that will affect ecological degradation. Include speakers, workshops, attendance at public hearings and events.
- Encourage those teaching courses in areas such as Ethics and in Church and Society to include ecological concerns in their classes.
- Promote active involvement in political issues addressing systemic problems of ecological injustice.
We suggest the following ways to engage seminarians:
Action alerts: Provide a mechanism whereby students can receive e-mail action alerts regarding important ecological justice issues. These can also be promoted through the internal newsletter.
Petitions: Where appropriate, circulate petitions that support legislative actions and policies friendly to the earth and that promote ecological justice.
Local actions: There may be local issues where community organizers are organizing to encourage or resist an action by the government or a corporation that degrades the natural world and poses a threat to environmental health and well-being. These are excellent opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in community organizing, activism, and outreach.
Displays: The Green Team can sponsor a display of photographs or art depicting the impacts of climate change on the poor and the marginalized. Bulletin boards are also excellent ways to share your success, to educate, or to advertise future actions.
Urge the development office to invest your endowment and other funds in socially just funds that include ecologically sound corporations and companies. Many funds and agencies now specialize in ecologically oriented investments.
Liturgy, Ritual, and Worship
The Green Seminary Initiative encourages theological schools to educate students on how to incorporate care for the earth into worship services and spiritual life. Seminarians need to learn how to use worship to express gratitude and praise to the Creator, lament the suffering of the earth and its creatures, experience spirituality through the natural world, and offer confession for harm done to the earth. Liturgy, ritual, songs, sermons, prayers and the entire range of worship practices can all be employed as the community gathers to celebrate the creation and commits to reflect God’s purposes for the creation.
The Green Seminary Initiative supports theological schools so that the seminary chapel or liturgy/worship program will regularly include content oriented toward care of creation, ecological degradation, environmental justice, and eco-spirituality, and will help students develop skills and experience in developing and leading such liturgies, rituals, laments, and prayers.
Liturgies and Rituals
Waters of Creation - Resources and suggestions for an ecumenical service of worship that can be used in whole or in part.
Creation Care Reading Room - Designed to provide Creation Care Resources to those without easy access to a theological library.
Worship, Ecology, and Social Change- Syllabus from Dr. Robin Knowles Wallace at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio on worship resources and approaches to worship and pastoral rites (weddings, funerals, times of healing, and public rituals), from the lens of ecology and social change.
Greening the Shavuot Celebration-Rabbi Debra Smith explains the history and liturgy of the Shavuot celebration and explores how to make this Jewish religious holiday more environmentally friendly.
Muslim Worship Resource- Tips and resources for green Muslim worship and rituals.
General Earth-Related Worship Resources
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations website (go to the “search” portion of their website and search for terms such as “environment,” “green preaching,” etc.)
Paul Santmire’s book “Ritualizing Nature: Renewing Christian Liturgy in a Time of Crisis ”
Buildings and Grounds
Overview of Buildings and Grounds
The Green Seminary Initiative encourages theological schools to green their buildings and grounds in a comprehensive fashion. In addition to teaching students about ecological practices, divinity schools should also put green practices into action. By learning to eliminate waste, reduce energy consumption, and minimize the ecological footprint of existing and future buildings,
Before you can begin to green your buildings and grounds, take the appropriate steps to assess your current practices, to create an action plan, to include others and to communicate your vision effectively.
You can also watch our webinar on Eco-Building and Grounds here.
We also have a webinar on Energy Conservation for seminaries here.
Here are a few key starting points and suggestions:
Consult and Communicate. Find ways to become an integral part of the maintenance and remodeling projects of the institution. Remember that those in charge of buildings, maintenance, and grounds are working under tight budgetary and time constraints. Be respectful of their work and their time. Also, be sure to include members of the buildings, maintenance, and grounds staff in the planning process.
Conduct a comprehensive environmental inventory. You can find excellent tips on conducting an inventory at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). After completing your survey, determine in what areas it is feasible to work and take the appropriate actions.
You can find general tips, suggestions, and resources through the
For more in-depth analysis and practical “how to” advice, refer to these guides: Building a Firm Foundation: “Green” Building Toolkit, and Earthkeeping Ministries: A New Vision for Congregations. Both are available for download here.
The Web of Creation website has created a training guide on how to green your religious institution.
Others have found this checklist to be indispensable when greening their buildings and grounds.
Seek out resources and organizations such as AASHE to assist you in your progress.
The COEJL website offers a number of resources for greening your synagogue.
Visit the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences for information on eco friendly Mosques.