Community Life

Overview of Community Life Resources

The Green Seminary Initiative encourages the staff, faculty, and students at theological schools to adopt green practices within the community and in their own personal lives. Many of the aspects of earth care are reflected in how we live in community. The decisions we make every day in how we use water, how we eat, how we manage material goods and paper all affect the health of the planet. Furthermore, our communal and personal lifestyles have a significant impact on all of earth’s creatures, human and non-human. 

Below are resources on building sustainable community. 

Webinar on Community Life - Presented by Green Seminary Initiative in partnership with Matthew Riley, Christopher Fici, Rachel Mathews, and Nathan Stuckey. 

Food Services

GSI supports each seminary as it manages its food services so that it provides food sourced and prepared in an environmentally healthy and humane manner.

Best Practices for Campus Sustainability: This guide was put together by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and it is a comprehensive guide for a variety of sustainability projects, including food issues.

Food Covenant: Drew Theological School has a no mammal flesh food policy for community meals. (Copy coming soon)


Community Ethos 

GSi encourages schools to develop and sustain a culture of respect for creation, the seminary will communicate regularly with its community members about the school’s environmental commitments and will provide opportunities for these people to adopt environmentally sustainable behaviors.

Demonstrating Good Stewardship: This collection of stories from In Trust Magazine offers examples of how a variety of seminaries have added environmentally sustainable behaviors to their communities.

Sustainability Strategic Plan: This example of a strategic plan comes from Penn State and will be particularly helpful to seminaries embedded in a larger University.

Additional Community Life Resources

We offer these additional resources and ideas for building an ecological community life.

  • Prepare a community-wide compact or covenant to live in a manner that puts the least amount of burden on the earth. Develop a Covenant with Creation which would include both communal and personal commitments. Have a special worship service to present this covenant.  Post it publicly. Introduce it at student and faculty orientation.

  • Find ways to be with the natural world. Schedule hikes on/near campus or hold “sidewalk safaris.” Use the grounds for times of spiritual growth and respite. Go outside for class and meetings. Plan trips to a local arboretum, gardens, or lake/river area.

  • Find ways to be engaged with, and see yourselves as part of, the local ecosystem. Identify and understand your local ecosystem and your impact on it. Learn what grows and lives in your “neighborhood.” Get to know your neighbors – human and non-human. Where feasible, procure the services of a naturalist.

  • Understand the impacts of communal and personal actions on the earth’s creatures – human and non-human – in your ecosystem. Know whom your actions affect and who are most apt to bear a disproportionate burden.

  • Establish earth-friendly practices in campus housing. Living in a dorm or campus apartment sometimes separates us from the earth and our impacts upon it. Check out the “Greening Your Apartment” brochure created by Web of Creation.

  • Offer training. Hold brief training sessions for students (at orientation), for faculty (within regular faculty meetings), and for staff (at regular staff meetings) as a means to encourage people to understand and participate in the covenant.

  • Form support/interest groups. Students often form together in small groups around a shared interest or commitment. Support for environmental practices and disciplines can serve as a focus for groups that form. For example, groups that meet around a meal could learn about humane food practices, and adopt disciplines related to eating. Or, groups could form based on interest in alternative transportation. 

  • Group Study. Foster the formation of groups around an educational course on Simple Living or the Ecology of Food. Consider the educational materials for small groups available from the Northwest Earth Institute or offer a study/support group using the bookSimple Living, Compassionate Living (a resource from Earth Ministry).

  • Encourage earth-care at home.  Provide resources or an environmental guide for use in the home/apartment to foster earth care around issues such as energy, food, water use, water run-off, lawn maintenance, recycling, composting, and transportation. Theological schools have also benefited from holding training sessions to learn these practices. Check out the “Greening Your Apartment” brochure created by Web of Creation and the “5 Tips for Greening Your Home and Life” at the GreenFaith website.

  • Provide opportunities for community involvement in local earth-related activities. Participate in restoring habitat, clean up a beach, rally for clean air, protest a polluter, or do write-in campaigns for environmental legislation. Cooperate with national/local environmental agencies.


Overview of Education Resources

Green Seminary Initiative supports seminaries as they integrate earth care across their curricula. This integration happens in the creation of ecological emphases and concentrations in curricula, introductory and elective courses and opportunities for field education, as well as in faculty development and spiritual formation.

These foci are integrated into our certification program as well as into the resources we recommend to schools in our network.



GSI understands the broad area of theology and ecology as the study of how sacred texts, theologies, ethics, religious traditions and practices intersect with human and ecological well-being, along with the concurrent study of actions necessary to understand and meet the crises facing local and global ecosystems.  

  • Webinar on Eco-Theological Education - Presented by Green Seminary Initiative in partnership with Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Mary Frohlich, Associate Professor of Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and Ted Hiebert - Old Testament Professor and Dean of the Faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary.
  • GSI's curated collection of syllabi - Since our founding, GSI has collected hundreds of syllabi for courses at the intersection of religion and ecology; here we share several from our collection.



GSI facilitates seminary faculty development in a variety of fields related to eco-theology, particularly as seminaries seeks ways to encourage faculty to integrate such content into coursework and provide opportunities for faculty to develop related skills and competencies. 



GSI believes that students, faculty and staff commitment to ecological care needs to be rooted in spirituality. As such, GSI supports the sharing of practices and experiences that foster eco-spiritual formation.  Eco-spiritual formation is understood as encouraging an appreciation of spiritual experience in relation to the natural world, a knowledge of the interconnectedness of the human and beyond-human community, an understanding of and responsiveness to the spiritual, cultural and physical harm done by ecological degradation, particularly to vulnerable communities, and opportunities for cultivation of eco-spiritualities of praise, thanksgiving, awe, wonder, delight, resistance, despair and grief.



Syllabus Project

The Green Seminary Initiative is dedicated to informing educators, administrators, students, clergy, and lay people about current content and methodology of ecologically themed courses in seminaries and divinity schools. We collect syllabi from courses which focus primarily on ecological and theological issues, as well as other more general classes that have a significant ecological component.

Title Instructor Field
Biblical Perspectives on Nature Barbara Rossing and Ted Hiebert Biblical Studies
Creation Themes in the Hebrew Bible Ken Stone Biblical Studies
Ecological Spirituality Fall 2014 Lisa Dahill Christian Theology
Ecotheology in Text and Context Marion Grau Christian Theology 
The Theology and Ecology of Common Ground Laurel Kearns and David Fewell Christian Theology 
Visceral Theology Eliseo Perez-Alvarez Christian Theology 
American Religious History Molly Jensen Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies
Christianity and Ecology in Community Contexts John Hart Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies
Globalization and Food Jennifer Ayres and Deborah Kapp Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies
Grounding the Sacred: Religion and Ecology in the United States Bradford Verter Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies
Humanity, Nature, and Justice in the Modern World Chara Armon Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Religion and Animals Paul Waldau Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies
Religion and Ecology Todd Lewis Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Religion and Nature Writing Gail Hamner Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Religion and the Earth Laurel Kearns Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Religion, Ethics, and Nature Anna Peterson Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Religions and Food: Feasts, Fasts, Famine, and Farming Laurel Kearns Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Seminar on Global Warming Schaefer Environment/Cultural/Religious/Sociological Studies 
Animal Ethics Jane Compson Ethics
Catholic Environmental Ethics: Sources, Norms, and Issues Dawn Nothwehr Ethics 
Christian Ecological Ethics and Political Issues John Hart Ethics 
Earth and Its Distress: Ecological Ethics in Christian Perspective Janet Parker Ethics
Earth Ethics as Justice Ethics Cynthia Moe-Lobeda Ethics 
Ecotheological Ethics: Bios, Anthropos, Theos Michael Hogue Ethics 
Environmental Ethics Sam Mickey Ethics 
Environmental Ethics and Liberation Sofia Betancourt Ethics 
Faith, Ethics, and the Biodiversity Crisis Keith Warner Ethics 
Markets, Justice, and Christian Ethics John Senior Ethics 
Connections in Ecology and Religious Education Tim Van Meter Pastoral Ministry & Practical Theology
Ecology and Liturgy Mary McGann Pastoral Ministry & Practical Theology 
The Church and the Ecological Crisis Greg Hitzhusen and Beth Norcross Pastoral Ministry & Practical Theology 
American Nature Philosophers Stephanie Kaza Philosophy
Environmental Visions and Environmentalism Donald Swearer Philosophy 
Southern Religious Humanism: Wendell Berry's Philosophy of Life Sean Hayden Philosophy 
Varieties of Religious Naturalism Wesley Wildman Philosophy 
American Indians Religions and Ecology John Grim World Religions
Asian Religions and Ecology Robert Mcdermott World Religions 
Hinduism, Jainism, and Ecology Pankaj Jain World Religions 
Indigenous Religions and Ecology John Grim World Religions 
Sacred Places Les Sponsel World Religions 

Contribute a Syllabus 

We are always looking for new syllabi to add to our collection.

We invite you to contribute a syllabus for a class that focuses on some aspect of eco-justice and religion. The class might be fully devoted to this subject or the class may have a component related to this subject. We are seeking syllabi from many disciplines (e.g. theology, sociology, ethics, history, etc.). 

When you send us the document, please include: 

  • Name of course
  • Name of professor and contact information if possible
  • Date taught or to be taught

Additional Education Resources

At GSI, we have the benefit of housing dozens of resources on incorporating earth care into curriculum and education in seminaries. 


Below you'll find some of our favorites, but if you're looking for something else, please email us or explore the rest of our resources.


Environmental Pedagogy

Timothy B. Leduc and Traci Warkentin from York University, Canada, reflect on best practices in their pedagogy in teaching eco-theology.


Ten Ways to Integrate Sustainability into Curriculum

Practical tips for faculty and staff by Clara Changxin Fang, Sustainability and Campus Planning Manager at Towson University.


Sustainability Curriculum in Higher Education

Actions steps from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.


Learning on the Ground

An article on pedagogy in religious education and sustainability by Jennifer Ayres of Chandler School of Theology at Emory University.


Practices for Awakening Leadership

On interpersonal and communal ways to bring leadership training into seminary education, from Eco-Faith Recovery.


Public Leadership

The Green Seminary Initiative seeks to change the systems that foster the degradation of the earth and to rectify the injustices that result from it. We encourage our members to engage in civic activities that foster ecological health and to participate in the development of public policies that affect the creation and its human and non-human members, particularly the most vulnerable. 


At GSI, we believe that the leadership of the seminary plays a crucial role in integrating ecology into religious education.



To embrace publicly its commitment to creation and to meeting ecological challenges, the seminary will integrate its commitment into a widely used statement.



To ensure that the school’s ecological commitment is fully integrated into its culture, the seminary will include environmental topics into orientation for new board, faculty and staff members, report to its board or high-level leadership team regularly about progress towards Certification, and adopt policies that reflect its commitment.



To model public engagement as an expression of religious belief and practice, the seminary will support students and other members of the seminary community in addressing environmental concerns publicly.


Additional Leadership Resources

The Green Seminary Initiative seeks to change the systems that foster the degradation of the earth and to rectify the injustices that result from it. We encourage our members to engage in civic activities that foster ecological health and to participate in the development of public policies that affect the creation and its human and non-human members, particularly the most vulnerable. 


Here are additional resources for those practices:





Ritual, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation

The Green Seminary Initiative encourages theological schools to educate students on how to incorporate care for the earth into worship services and spiritual life. Seminarians need to learn how to use worship to express gratitude and praise to the Creator, lament the suffering of the earth and its creatures, experience spirituality through the natural world, and offer confession for harm done to the earth. Liturgy, ritual, songs, sermons, prayers and the entire range of worship practices can all be employed as the community gathers to celebrate the creation and commits to reflect God’s purposes for the creation.


The Green Seminary Initiative supports theological schools so that the seminary chapel or liturgy/worship program will regularly include content oriented toward care of creation, ecological degradation, environmental justice, and eco-spirituality, and will help students develop skills and experience in developing and leading such liturgies, rituals, laments, and prayers.  


Waters of Creation- Resources and suggestions for an ecumenical service of worship that can be used in whole or in part.


Worship, Ecology, and Social Change- Syllabus from Dr. Robin Knowles Wallace at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio on worship resources and approaches to worship and pastoral rites (weddings, funerals, times of healing, and public rituals), from the lens of ecology and social change.

Muslim Worship Resource- Tips and resources for green Muslim worship and rituals.


General Earth-Related Worship Resources

  1. Web of Creation

  2. Earth Ministry

  3. Green Faith

  4. Season of Creation 

  5. Eco-Justice Ministries

  6. National Council of Churches Eco-justice Program

  7. Lutherans Restoring Creation

  8. Green tips for preachers

  9. Books on ecologically themed worship

  10. Resources for green Jewish holidays from COEJL

  11. A reflection on Worship by David Rhoads

  12. An article on green worship by Beth BakerPublications on green worship

  13. A Jewish Statement on Worship, Holidays, and the Environment

  14. Faith In Place

  15. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations website (go to the “search” portion of their website and search for terms such as “environment,” “green preaching,” etc.)

  16. Season of Creation

  17. Paul Santmire’s bookRitualizing Nature: Renewing Christian Liturgy in a Time of Crisis


Additional Ritual, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation Resources

Buildings and Grounds

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Overview of Buildings and Grounds

The Green Seminary Initiative encourages theological schools to green their buildings and grounds in a comprehensive fashion. In addition to teaching students about ecological practices, divinity schools should also put green practices into action. By learning to eliminate waste, reduce energy consumption, and minimize the ecological footprint of existing and future buildings, 

Before you can begin to green your buildings and grounds, take the appropriate steps to assess your current practices, to create an action plan, to include others and to communicate your vision effectively. 

You can also watch our webinar on Eco-Building and Grounds here


Here are a few key starting points and suggestions:

  • Consult and Communicate. Find ways to become an integral part of the maintenance and remodeling projects of the institution. Remember that those in charge of buildings, maintenance, and grounds are working under tight budgetary and time constraints. Be respectful of their work and their time. Also, be sure to include members of the buildings, maintenance, and grounds staff in the planning process.

  • Conduct a comprehensive environmental inventory. You can find excellent tips on conducting an inventory at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). After completing your survey, determine in what areas it is feasible to work and take the appropriate actions.

You can find general tips, suggestions, and resources through the following links:

  • For more in-depth analysis and practical “how to” advice, refer to these guides: Building a Firm Foundation: “Green” Building Toolkit, and Earthkeeping Ministries: A New Vision for Congregations. Both are available for download here.

  • The Web of Creation website has created a training guide on how to green your religious institution.

  • Others have found this checklist to be indispensable when greening their buildings and grounds.

  • Seek out resources and organizations such as AASHE to assist you in your progress.

  • Visit the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences for information on eco friendly Mosques.

Additional Buildings and Grounds Resources

coming soon!