If Newsweek magazine can provide a ranking for the greenest big companies in America, can EthicsDaily.com provide a ranking for the greenest Christian denominations in America?
People of faith should be able to know if their corporate offices, church leaders and official positions are faithful to the biblical witness that instructs Christians to be good stewards of the earth, Parham writes.
Newsweek's Sept. 28 cover story is titled "The Greenest Big Companies in America: An Exclusive Ranking." The magazine ranks 500 corporations, using a mostly undisclosed system for the evaluation based on an average of three major components: 45 percent for the environmental impact, 45 percent for green policies and 10 percent for reputation.
What do these components measure? That is not at all transparent. The magazine reports that environmental impact includes use of water and acid-rain emissions, only two of the 700 metrics used.
Newsweek notes that the process took a year and involved three leading environmental research organizations. That's an impressive commitment to time and research.
The greenest of big companies is Hewlett-Packard, which has a recycling program that "pays consumers to ship back obsolete machines." HP has reduced packaging and its greenhouse-gas emissions.
Dell is No. 2. McDonald's is No. 22, in part because of its commitment not to buy beef from suppliers that cut down the rainforests. Coca-Cola sits at No. 58, as a major aluminum recycler.
If corporate America can be ranked on a green scale, should denominations be ranked on a green scale?
Christian denominations should be ranked. Since the Bible is a green book, Christians ought to be green. People of faith should be able to know if their corporate offices, church leaders and official positions are faithful to the biblical witness that instructs Christians to be good stewards of the earth.
Of course, "should be" is different from "can be."
EthicsDaily.com simply doesn't have the resources—staff and funding—to methodically and systematically evaluate the nation's leading denominations. Would that was not the case.
However, EthicsDaily.com can suggest a list of measurements for evaluating how green denominations really are.
Here's a crack at what ought to be on the list to determine whether your denominational body is real green, faux green or anti-green.
- Recycling. Denominations push paper—magazines, mailings, memos and meeting notes and print curricula. Good communication is a key value to good organizations. Recycling sends a key message about an organization's core values.
- Energy Conservation. Do denominational offices have as a standard practice the powering off of computers, monitors and printers not in use for several hours? What about powering off the power strip/surge protector when equipment is not in use? Reducing energy consumption and the heat produced by office equipment are positive goals.
What about reducing the number of days employees must drive to work either through longer and fewer work days or letting some employees have a virtual office?
- Education. Does your denomination provide educational resources to congregations about environmental issues? Bible studies, sermons, liturgies?
- Annual Meetings. A lot of denominational meetings are about plastic and paper distribution. Venders give away pens, key chains, magnets, anything to get attendees to remember their organization or program. Display vendors are also notorious for cramming pamphlets and other paper products into small plastic bags that are given to attendees, who, in turn, most often discard them.
Does your annual meeting encourage or discourage paper and plastic distribution?
More than that, does your annual meeting offer workshops for greening churches and homes, training ministers to preach green sermons and equipping Sunday school teachers to recover the green Bible?
- Carbon Footprint. Many Protestant denominations have an aquatic definition of missions—missions only take place if one flies over water. Yet mission trips increase a denomination's carbon footprint and contribute to global warming.
What does your denomination do to lower its carbon footprint?
Recognizing their environmental responsibility, BMS World Mission, the oldest Baptist mission organization headquartered in Great Britain, decided to strive toward becoming carbon-neutral. It allocates resources to green programs like tree planting in Africa to offset its travel that increases carbon emissions.
- Climate Change Legislation. Is your denomination pro-actively supporting climate change legislation in Congress? Is it sitting on the sidelines? Or even worse, is it taking an anti-climate change legislation approach?
A group of Baptist denominational leaders, pastors and academicians signed a letter earlier this year calling on the House of Representatives to pass the "American Clean Energy and Security Act."
In addition to supporting legislative remedies to address climate change, has your denomination issued pro-environmental statements? Do your denominational leaders speak out publicly about protecting the environment? Or are your denominational leaders global-warming deniers?
- Honoring Green Congregations. Denominations report on and honor all kinds of success—most baptisms, most Sunday school attendance, most growth in membership and most offerings given to the denominational headquarters.
Does your denomination recognize congregations that model pro-environmental initiatives?
If not, why not? What denominations honor says a lot about their core values. If your denomination doesn't recognize congregations that are faithful to the biblical witness to care for creation, maybe your denomination isn't really green.
How do you think your denominational body would rank on a green Bible scale?
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.