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How Green Are Quakers?

Quaker Earthcare Survey Results

Last summer at Friends General Conference Gathering in Iowa, we at Quaker Earthcare Witness had our first opportunity to poll U.S. Quakers from 159 monthly meetings and more than 20 yearly meetings. We set up numerous sidewalk signs, like “How Green Is a Quaker?,” to convince Friends to take the survey as they crisscrossed the Grinnell campus on their way to workshops and lunch. This was the first time in its 25 year history that Quaker Earthcare Witness conducted a poll to find out how environmentally friendly Quakers really are. In total, 345 Friends (one-third of the total attendees) paused to fill out the Green Survey.

What did we find? Quakers really are green.

The first part of the Green Survey looked at the personal habits that allow an individual to live in unity with Earth’s beauty and bounty. The results were astounding. The survey revealed that more than 84 percent of the responders practice the first five green habits listed in Table I. Close behind, habits six through eleven were practiced by more than 50 percent of Friends. A whopping 57 percent revealed they had vegetable gardens, and 71 percent reported having compost piles. In an effort to save fossil fuels, 50 percent of FGC Gathering attenders said they hang clothes outside to dry.

Our survey also quizzed people about green features in their meetings. Information provided by Friends attending 159 meetings scattered from coast to coast gives a nice fingerprint of efforts that meetings are making for greater sustainability. (This data is compiled in Table II.) The highest percentages were reported for the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and programmable thermostats. An impressive 65 percent of the meetings either sponsored or participated in recycling centers. Although the questions pertaining to meeting practices covered only a few representative areas, the data show a strong effort by Friends to make their meetings “green.”

We were happy to give Friends the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns as they passed through the lunch line and took the survey. And it was a great pleasure for members of Quaker Earthcare Witness to collect and tabulate information that indicates Quakers are committed to living environmentally thoughtful lives. We know that the survey didn’t allow for a conclusive environmental assessment of Quakers’ lives, nor did it include every worthwhile question. Yet it was a start.

Quakers have deeply personal commitments to nature. In some respects, data reported in these charts is less revealing than the excitement in the voices of Quakers as they told us face-to-face about their environmental efforts. Only through such personal conversations is it possible to appreciate what people gain from simple daily activities—gardening, hanging clothes, recycling—as they worry and work to resolve the more complex environmental issues like global climate change and biodiversity loss.

Most Friends recognize that an individual’s green habits are only the first step towards making our society more sustainable. Beyond this first step lies the need for groups of people to initiate effective environmental action at the community, national, and international levels. A noteworthy example at present is the Quaker-led movement in the Philadelphia area, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), which works to persuade PNC Bank to stop financing the environmentally disastrous practice of mountaintop removal that is used in coal mining. Perhaps this movement and other environmental activity led by Quakers will light the way to a broader spectrum of spiritually driven environmental actions.

I congratulate Friends on the super-high marks they scored on our Green Survey and hope they will take pleasure in what they are accomplishing in their daily lives. May these simple successes give us the momentum we need to work on the even bigger issues concerning our environment.

 

John Fletcher is a member of Norman (Okla.) Meeting and serves on the steering committee of Quaker Earthcare Witness.


Posted in: August 2012: Sustainable Travel, Departments

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One Response to How Green Are Quakers?

  1. Anthony Maturin October 1, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    John,

    An encouraging article. Thank you. First, what is a thermal pane window? Is it the same as a double glazed window?

    Secondly, I would be interested to know how people would have replied to questions on diet and travel. On the differences between meat and non-meat meals. And of course the big one, air travel and other fossil-fuel hungry methods.

    I part edit the NZ Climate Change Newsletter, may I use your article in it please, as news of Friends overseas?

    Go Well,
    Anthony Maturin ,
    Wellington MM,
    NZ.

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