Climate Hero Rev. Canon Sally Bingham


Photo courtesy of The Regeneration Project.

For years, Sally Bingham wondered why her church wasn’t providing moral guidance on climate change. One of the first directives in the Bible, Bingham says, is to care for creation. When God gave Adam dominion over the Earth, that meant responsibility to “till it and keep it.” Bingham decided she had to bring this message to the pulpit. She left behind her life as a homemaker, enrolled in seminary, and became an Episcopal priest. In 1993, she founded the Regeneration Project, which has helped more than 10,000 congregations around the country become greener and more energy-efficient, and spurred a faith-based movement in support of climate policy. 

How has climate change become an issue that religious communities are organizing around?

Until 10 years ago, clergy got no instruction in environmental ethics in seminary, but it has become evident that there aren’t going to be any souls to save unless we save the land, air, and water. Now when you talk to religious people, it’s like the light bulb goes on—if you love God, you better love Creation. Once you open that possibility, people get it.

How do you get congregations to turn that understanding into action?

The first thing for somebody in a congregation to understand is that every one of their behaviors affects another person: the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the coffee they drink, the energy they use. Once you’ve got that awareness, you’ll put in energy-efficient appliances, you’ll walk instead of driving, and you won’t create so much waste.

Greening the individual church, synagogue, or mosque is our first goal. When a clergyperson walks down the aisle and says, “This church is saving $12,000 a year on energy bills,” people go, “Whoa, I bet I could do that at home.” The congregation serves as an example to the people in the pews.

What’s the role of the faith community in addressing the climate crisis?

The faith community didn’t start out in a leadership role on this issue, but I think we’re going to end up there. Now that the moral voice of religion is involved in this dialogue, things are ­going to happen. We saw that with the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, and the civil rights movement. We’re going to be the voice that tips the iceberg enough to make change happen.

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