Energy ‘Switch Days’ - Saving Money, Saving the Planet
Chris Mitchell, part of a volunteer team at St. John’s church in Hoxton shares his experience of helping church and community save money on energy bills as well as reducing their carbon footprint, through innovative “Switch Days” run after Sunday services.
Saving £9000 and 80 tonnes of CO2: our church’s fight for climate justice
“We must choose community and care of the earth over chaos and greed. Not only must we push to protect the Earth’s delicate climate balance, but we must also challenge the social climate in which the poor live.”
Preacher and tireless social activist Rev William Barber spoke these words in Washington DC five years ago, urging the church to act against social and environmental injustices, which are often interrelated.
These words sum up the motivation of my friends and I at St John’s Hoxton who are volunteering as part of the Citizens UK “Fair Energy” Campaign.
By helping people switch to fair, cheap and green energy suppliers we are fighting against the climate crisis AND against unfair energy prices which have caused many of our friends at church to overpay for their energy by hundreds of pounds.
These two issues are much more urgent than we often think.
The lockdown has led most of us to use more energy than normal while we stay at home and this will only become more true if we have to endure a second wave as the days get shorter and colder, as many doctors predict. For those overpaying for energy, a winter lockdown will be a huge financial strain.
Time is similarly limited to act against climate destruction, a fact demonstrated by the insufferable heat in India (47℃) and unprecedented temperatures in the Arctic (38℃) seen in the last few weeks.
Beyond their urgency, fuel poverty and the climate crisis share two more things in common: they both disproportionately affect the most poor and marginalised people amongst us, and they are both related to our domestic energy usage.
None of us in the St John’s Fair Energy team is an expert in the energy industry, but we have seen a significant, positive change in our congregation’s energy procurement by running a few simple “Switch Days” after our main services.
The Fair Energy campaign team and members of St John’s Hoxton on recent Switch Day
We have helped 26 households switch to better deals by simply discussing their options with them, explaining unfair pricing policies and guiding them through the (surprisingly painless) switching process if they need help.
Everyone who we have seen switch that has been with a major supplier for over 12 months has been quoted to save hundreds of pounds a year by their new ethical supplier. Some families are expecting their annual bills to plummet by over £600.
As importantly, we are cutting our congregation’s carbon footprint by 40 tonnes of CO2 a year by switching to renewable suppliers.
“Fuel poverty and the climate crisis… both disproportionately affect the most poor and marginalised people amongst us.”
This simple, inclusive and powerful action has been aided by our vicar’s choice to push for us to become a Fair Energy Hub.
We switched our church building to a green supplier, which has saved the church £7,000 in bills and prevented another 40 tonnes of CO2 emissions since the start of last year.
Importantly, this switch has allowed us to use a referral scheme that gives anyone switching on the church’s recommendation £50 in credit for themselves plus £50 credit for St John’s (totaling nearly £1,000 for the church and £1,000 for switching households).
This means that our actions as a Fair Energy Hub have saved over £9,000 and 80 tonnes of CO2 a year.
The referral bonus has been seen by many congregants as a way to contribute financially to the church, but has also been a draw for people in our wider community to get involved as well.
This opportunity for outreach is one of the things that excites us the most.
Through this “Switch Day” service we want to demonstrate to our neighbours that the love of the gospel has a powerful answer to the most pressing injustices of our age, whether local or global.
We want to act according to Rev Barber’s words in that same speech in Washington:
“we cannot love our earthly neighbours and yet sit quietly while the earth itself is made unfit for human habitation.”
Chris and the volunteer team at St. John’s Hoxton are very keen to work with any clergy or volunteers who want to become Fair Energy Hubs or run Switch Days in their own churches.
If you are interested in joining or want to find out more please email: firstname.lastname@example.org