Three ways in which Trinity students are connecting with and caring for the world around them.
1. Growing veg
At the start of the last academic year, seven students and Trinity Site Manager Dave Snell began work to reclaim an unused patch of land behind Henry Martyn House at Trinity.
They created sixteen allotments that could be used by students, who perhaps didn’t have space to garden near their flats or homes, or who had never grown anything before and wanted to give it a try.
‘Part of the joy of this has been seeing it begin from scratch—standing there last October and looking at brambles that were almost taller than me,’ says ordinand Ruth Phillips (pictured below, right). With Dave’s tools and help, the group dug up the ground and created beds.
‘We just dabbled, really,’ says ordinand Jon Ball, who led the initiative through his participation in the Student Exec’s Green Team. Students have tried growing runner beans, courgettes, tomato, corn, carrots, and potatoes so far. ‘Most of us went for the approach of just putting things into the ground and seeing what happened.’
Jon hoped through this initiative that students could garden together as a form of spiritual discipline, experiencing something of what it means to be reliant on the earth and its seasons. ‘In the last month or so we are getting results,’ he says. ‘It was a year’s worth of work for a courgette. It’s really rewarding, but an eye-opener to how long it actually takes things to develop. It’s a challenge to our consumer mindset.’
In addition to the new allotments, the Green Team worked last year to ensure that everyone at college brought only reusable cups for coffee breaks, and collected students’ views about the college’s food and site use to share as Trinity’s leadership works to make systemic eco-friendly changes.
‘It was a year’s worth of work for a courgette. It’s really rewarding, but an eye-opener to how long it actually takes things to develop. It’s a challenge to our consumer mindset.’
This academic year, new students have joined in caring for the allotments, and a new plot will be given to Trinity’s Muddy Boots Day Nursery for the children to spend time gardening as well. ‘A community has sprung up around the garden,’ says Ruth. ‘We water and help watch and weed each others’ plants.’
As she worked in the allotments throughout the year—helping to clear brambles, plant seeds, weed, prune, and finally see fruit—Ruth felt God speaking to her about her own life. ‘I could feel God talking to me about what needed healing and pruning in my life. And as I saw stuff growing, God was talking about new growth in my life. We’re so disconnected from the land, but it’s part of who we are, as creation, to be connected to the earth. Gardening became part of the rhythm of my life at college, the place I would go to meet with God.’
When first-year ordinand Rob McDonald and his wife, Sam, made the two-and-a-half hour drive from London to move to Bristol this autumn, they were joined for the ride by the humming buzz of Rob’s 40,000 bees in the back seat.
‘You can move bees either less than three feet or more than three miles,’ says Rob (pictured above), who prior to his ordination training worked as a management consultant. He got hooked on beekeeping two years ago, when he visited Thatchers Orchard in Somerset, where the company keeps its own hives, because without bees the apples couldn’t grow. Rob spent a day there, working in the hives, and soon after joined a beekeeping course. He is now just short of his final certification.
‘It’s therapeutic and meditative, working with bees,’ Rob says. ‘There has long been a strong connection between bees and spirituality.’ The modern bee comes from Buckfast Abbey, when in 1919 they began cross-breeding to develop a disease-resistant and hardy bee that was also a good honey producer, after losing much of their bee population to disease. An American clergyman created the modern day beehive. ‘Hives were a major part of monastic life, going back to medieval times,’ Rob explains. ‘They were experts in beekeeping. There is a way in which having bees completes a community. And they model community—they are like us, individuals who form a hive together, who work together.’
‘In England, honey bees are now mostly all domesticated. Without beekeepers to give them care, medicines, to inspect them, the honey bee population would collapse.’
Rob hopes to boost his small hive of 40,000 to 70,000 bees next summer, and to develop a second hive. Trinity, in recent years providing a home for hives kept by Bristol Baptist College tutor Rev Dr Peter Hatton, has offered the hive space to Rob during his three years at Trinity, as Peter retires and moves his bees elsewhere.
‘Honey bees can’t live in the wild anymore,’ says Rob. ‘In England, honey bees are now mostly all domesticated. Without beekeepers to give them care, medicines, to inspect them, the honey bee population would collapse.’
3. Ethically sourced vestments
‘We have an obsession with buying new all the time,’ says recent leaver Janey Hiller, as she talks about needing to source clergy robes and vestments before leaving Trinity for curacy last summer. ‘And the options we get are not necessarily made with a view to the back-story. Who or what of God’s creation was used in the process of this thing that’s come to me today?’
‘I can’t see the point in continuing to consume all this stuff. Why, in pursuit of my calling, would I want to be wasteful of the money I’m given?’
Janey was determined that she would seek to source her clothing in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way she could. She found 100 percent plant-based and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified fabrics and hired an independent dressmaker in Bristol to design and sew her robes—cassock, surplice, and alb. She bought vegan fabric dyes and experimented with creating her ordination stole design using fabric offcuts from her alb and a piece of 100-year-old linen given to her by a member of her placement church, while also refurbishing seasonal coloured stoles bought second-hand from a retired Catholic priest. By purchasing several collarettes, Janey easily adapted some of her current clothing into clergy wear. ‘I made the most of what I found,’ she says.
Her fellow leaver Sonya Newton (pictured above at her ordination last summer with her children) had similar concerns in sourcing her vestments and robes, and pursued a similarly creative path toward more ethically sourced clothing. ‘I’d gone to a charity shop, bought shirts and blouses and converted them into clergy wear,’ she says. ‘I can’t see the point in continuing to consume all this stuff. Why, in pursuing my calling, would I want to be wasteful of the money I’m given?’ Sonya had a friend teach her how to sew collars into shirts, which took a few hours to master, and then enabled her to create her own clergy tops. She also found a small independent business in Worchester that makes clergy wear from fabric that is both recycled and plastic-free.
‘What we wear as vicars speaks of the church, and of who we are, to others,’ Janey says. ‘I wanted to eliminate the exploitation of others, of the planet, as much as possible in what I’d wear.’
Practical changes Trinity is implementing:
- Better recycling: We’ve drastically improved our waste management in recent years, making recycling bins more user-friendly both indoors and outside, with better labelling and organisation, including all categories that can be recycled in Bristol, and improving recycling storage. Every common room has colour-coded bins for recycling.
- Reducing food waste and decreasing meat consumption: Trinity now provides its lunchtime meal in a buffet style, which kitchen staff have found decreases overall food waste and encourages students to fill their plate with larger proportions of vegetable options rather than primarily meat. Mondays are meat-free.
- Food sourcing: Our new kitchen team will begin reviewing all the companies that source Trinity’s food this year. The college currently consumes free range meat from a local butcher. Some on our staff recently visited Stream Farm to begin to explore ideas for more ethical catering.
- Energy use: Trinity’s main site electricity supply is provided by 100 percent renewable sources. Trinity is currently working to replace all lights with more energy-efficient lighting. This has already been actioned in many areas of the college, including study rooms, library, common areas, and lecture rooms.
- Reducing single-use plastics: Trinity has been working to reduce its single-use plastics in both cleaning products and kitchen food and beverage supplies, buying more in bulk and filling reusable containers.
- Cleaning products: This past year Trinity has changed its cleaning products, simplifying its chemical use to become safer and more environmentally kind. The kitchen and domestic teams underwent training in new cleaning methods.
- Paper: All the paper used on site at Trinity comes from recycled sources.
- The company that prints Trinity’s newsletters and prospectuses (Whitehall Printing in Bristol) stocks its paper from well-managed FSC® forests with a fully traceable supply chain. Among other initiatives, they use renewable, mineral-free inks in all their lithographic printing, waste is safely disposed by an environmental waste specialist, and they’ve developed a low-energy facility to meet ISO efficiency targets. Their Heidelberg presses use CIP3 technology which help reduce ‘make ready’ waste by 85 percent.
Posted November 2019, from our autumn Trinity News.