Returning to Nature

Return 30% of church grounds to nature by 2030

Background to this initiative: In March 2023, the Irish Bishops’ Conference agreed that parishes would return 30% of church grounds to nature by 2030. This is a response to the biodiversity crisis our world is facing, the call of Laudato Si’ and the agreements made at the recent UN Conference on Biodiversity (COP15). All are called to arrest the decline of biodiversity for the sake of the next generation.

“Parishes are asked to expand their circles of solidarity, to protect and care for biodiversity and creation on 30% of their grounds, and to care for this as a haven for pollinators and biodiversity, that can be enjoyed by the whole community.” – Irish Bishops’ Conference Spring Statement 2023.

In Laudato Si’ we read that this diversity of species has an “intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself” (LS 140). We are called to care for the earth and its creatures, “to till and to keep the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 2:15). We hope that the resources below will help parishes to respond to the cry of the earth.

Step 1: Gather a group of interested people. Invite your grounds keepers, parishioners, ecology groups, Tidy Towns group, local horticulturists, gardeners, beekeepers etc. Use this introductory presentation to explore how we might return 30% of church grounds to nature. You might like to team up with a neighbouring parish and support one another along the way. This presentation can be used over two sessions or adapted to fit your needs.

Download the content for presentation here:

Step 2: Once you have held your parish meeting, your next step is to map your parish grounds for biodiversity. You could invite a local school group to help you.

Step 3: Once you have mapped your church grounds, please turn to these two resources which we are recommending for this initiative. They are free for download:

  • The Faith Community Pollinator Plan: This multi-denominational guide suggests 24 practical actions that any Faith Community can take to benefit Irish pollinators.
  • Gardening for Biodiversity: The aim of this colourful booklet is to introduce some of the ways you can help biodiversity in your own garden and on parish grounds – no matter how big or small the space – and no matter where you live. 
  • As you begin this journey please sign up your parish on the “Actions for Pollinators mapping system”. This is the online map from the National Biodiversity Data Centre which helps them to track where actions for pollinators are taking place. In the drop-down list under ‘site type’ you can select ‘faith communities’ and see where these have been added and what actions have been taken. Please add your parish to this database.
  • Flower-Insect-Timed counts: This is a simple survey which the National Biodiversity Data Centre are inviting communities to take part in. Watch a patch of flowers for 10 minutes and count the insects that visit. A useful way of tracking the impact of biodiversity work before you begin your project and then on an annual basis. Why not use this as a meditation for parish or school groups and include some Laudato Si’ reflective quotes which you can download here.
  • Did you know that you can also track birds which are in your area. BirdTrack is a very useful tool which maps migration, arrivals and departures, timings and monitors scarce birds. Maybe the parish choir could take this on and record the data on Bird Watch Ireland’s website here

Other relevant links on the biodiversity initiative: