8 Ways Religious Groups Show Their Green Beliefs

5. Bringing Environmentalism to the Dinner Table

Passover dinners are another opportunity to go green. Photo by deb via Flickr.

Going "eco-kosher" is a growing trend for American Jews, who are increasingly using organic and local foods at Sabbath dinners and other meals to "elevate their practice of Judaism" by making ethical eating choices. A controversy over a kosher slaughterhouse has also prompted the creation of a new kosher certification, Magen Tzedek, or shield of righteousness, that protects workers and the environment, and a boost in consumption of kosher grass-fed beef.

In related developments, a Jewish Farm School in Israel and the U.K.-based group Operation Noah are both promoting sustainable, self-sufficient agricultural practices, while Hindu temples are developing their own gardens and British Quakers are "implementing a strict food policy at the Quaker headquarters including total food recycling, a 35 percent increase in organic produce, and 40 percent of food sourced from greater London."

6. Saving Energy in Mosques

Visitors and worshipers at the Yeni Cami (New Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Jennifer Hattam.

The Koran verse calling Allah "the light of the heavens and the earth" is reflected in the extensive use of lighting in mosques -- a beautiful architectural feature that's also a big energy drain. Mosques in Turkey, however, are reducing electricity costs by up to 65 percent by replacing conventional bulbs with energy-saving versions. The country's Religious Affairs Directorate is additionally establishing policies to save energy on heating and cooling, as well as ways to conserve water. Mosques in Manchester, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Mumbai are also employing energy- and water-saving techniques including maximizing natural light, incorporating solar panels, installing low-flow taps, and harvesting rainwater.

7. Building Solar-Powered Temples

An artist's representation of an eco-temple in California. Image via BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindus around the world are being urged to "openly bless environmental causes" and make their temples more environmentally friendly -- a call that some are already heeding. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple and cultural center being developed in Chino Hills, California, will be entirely powered by a 60 kW solar system that returns electricity to the grid. The complex's design also incorporates solar tube lighting and extensive tree planting. Meanwhile, the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India -- perhaps the most-visited pilgrimage location in the world -- now uses solar-cooking technology instead of diesel generators to prepare some 30,000 meals per day.

8. Turning Vice into Virtue

The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple in Thailand. Photos via greenUPGRADER.

In what's likely the most visually stunning example of religious groups going green, Buddhist monks from Thailand's Sisaket province collected a million beer bottles to build the beautiful Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, an intricately patterned mix of green Heineken and brown local Chang beer containers. Even the washrooms and the crematorium are built of bottles. Buddhists from New York to Japan are also talking, in person and online, about how to use their practices to live lower-impact lives in harmony with nature.

More about religion and the environment:
When Religion is Good for the Planet
Let's Help Push Climate Change Up Religion's Agenda
Climate Pilgrims March for Interfaith Environmental Unity
Will 'Green Religion' Save Us or Sink Us?
Environmentalism: Movement, Philosophy, Ethic, or What?
Evangelicals Pray For Climate Bill Deliverance
A Jewish Response to the Energy Challenge?
Is Global Climate Change Happening Or Not? White Evangelical Christians Split on the Issue
The Green Bible. No Really, The Green Bible
Christian Stewardship of God's Creation

Tags: Activism | Green Building | Holidays | Religion

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