Hamilton Faith Commuter Challenge : Bike Tour To Eco-Loving Places of Worship.

Photo 1 (Bike and Westdale United Sign)

Photo 1

On Saturday June 3rd, 2017, as part of the Faith Commuter Challenge, Environment Hamilton hosted a bike tour of places of worship that do great environmental work.

The tour included two churches and ended with a planting of a pollinator patch at a nearby mosque.

The first stop was Westdale United Church with longtime congregation member, Loueen, as our host. Loueen is an active member of a group of churches called Eco Churches of West Hamilton (EcoWHAM) and a dedicated Environment Hamilton volunteer.

Photo 2 (Loueen, Saige and Dawn).

Photo 2 (Loueen, Saige and Dawn).

Loueen outlined a number of environmental initiatives that her church has been a part of over the years. One of the impressive movements of the day was to hear about the church’s progressive environmental stances on a number of issues that included:

  • Moving away from Styrofoam to re-usables in the 1990’s
  • installing solar panels on the roof
  • with the guidance of members like Loueen, the church’s stopped using pesticides on their property
  • Seeking out fair trade and environmentally friendly products for the church and as well, becoming a hub to sell these products to others, which back then were harder to find.

We toured their grounds that included their garden beds that for over two decades were used to grow food for those who needed it. This year, the beds will become a pollinator patch with native flowers and plants.

Like other faith communities, their numbers are decreasing but Westdale United has worked hard over the years to become part of the Hamilton community, offering to host a number of events, films and workshops over the years. As well, become a meeting spot for a number of social service agencies, guides, even a fencing group.

We were very impressed by the well rounded approach that the church has taken on to support its own congregation members and the general public.

Photo 3 (Pastor Loretta in the mediation garden)

Photo 3 (Pastor Loretta in the mediation garden)

Our second stop was at Grace Lutheran Church and Pastor Loretta managed to squeeze us into her very busy Saturday schedule that included three weddings that day!

As soon as we arrived and got off our bikes, the first thing we noticed was how luscious the grounds were and how calm we became because of the garden. It turns out that we were standing in their mediation garden. Pastor Loretta and her team have been working on their grounds for 12 years and we could see the hard work. Plants looked happy and content and the design was thoughtful and inspiring. As an environmentalist and using their resourcefulness, she pointed out a number of design elements made from re-purposed materials, including the entrance way that was an old headboard from a bed.

Photo 4 (garden entrance and re-purposed headboard)

Photo 4 (garden entrance and re-purposed headboard)

We toured their beautiful permaculture garden that included using old wood pallets to create trellis’ for their squash plants and re-using plastic utensils as markers for seeds and small plants. The church is very mindful of their gardens – with a compost system, using a bio-degradable plastic as a weed suppressor and using compost tea and Diatomaceous Earth to keep their garden organic.

Photo 5 (woven bush as a natural barrier

Photo 5 (woven bush as a natural barrier).

With 15,000 vehicles whizzing by the church every day, Pastor Loretta and her team have been mindful to create natural barriers, such as this woven bush that helps with the noise pollution and traffic that rush by their space.

On the grounds of Grace Lutheran is a Hamilton Victory Gardens site. With eight large vegetable beds and a number of fruit trees, this site is impressive.

A team of volunteers keep these gardens producing fresh produce for those who need it. Kathy, a HVG volunteer for the past three years highlighted their work for us. With 15 sites across the City, they were able to grow 47,000 lbs of fresh produce for food banks in 2016. And they do it with mostly volunteer labour.

Photo 6 (HVG garden photo)

Photo 6 (HVG garden photo)

One of the things we noticed was the number of rain barrels located around the church. And rainwater is what the plants want. Kathy stated that last year, in the drought, the beds were being watered with tap water and the veggies were slow to grow. As soon as the rains came in August, the garden grew and grew. It was inspiring to walk around the grounds of Grace Lutheran Church

Downtown Mosque

Photo 7 (Downtown Mosque planting)

Photo 7 (Downtown Mosque planting)

Last year, the Downtown Mosque partnered with the Pollinators Paradise Project and planted two native garden beds on their property to help our local pollinators. On Saturday, we stopped by to plant more native flowers to two existing beds.

Plants included: wild strawberry, cup plants, asters and tall grasses. It was the perfect planting day – the sun was shining, the soil was easy to plant in and it rained the next day.

Thanks to our gracious hosts: Loueen, Pastor Loretta and Kathy. Thanks to Mayada at the Downtown Mosque for arranging the permission to plant. Thanks to everyone who helped us with this event.