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Catholic parish in south India achieves net zero emissions

St. Joseph Church, Ponkandam. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic church in the Palakkad diocese in the southern Indian state of Kerala has reached net zero emissions.

This achievement is a real-world example of Pope Francis's much-talked-about encyclical on Care for Our Common Home, or "Laudato Si” (Praise Be, 2015).

The people behind this project say it is the first of its kind in India. It is meant to be both a practical way to carry out the Pope's mission and an environmental education lesson.

On November 22, Father Saji Joseph Vattukalathil of St. Joseph's Parish, Ponkandam, which was officially named a net-zero parish, said that the parish's carbon-neutral project was presented in full at a national conference on ecology in Bengaluru, Karnataka State, from November 21 to 23.

The Syrian Catholic congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate founded Dharamaram Vidya Kshetram, an ecclesiastical institution of higher learning for Catholic education in Bengaluru, and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India collaborated to organize the conference.

As part of the project, green audits were done on all the homes in the town, and everyone was taught how to consciously manage different parts of their lives to reduce pollution.

Father Saji said that the first data showed that the parish of St. Joseph had less than the national average of 887.69 kg/CO2e in per capita emissions.

The amount of carbon that can be stored in each home will be figured out.

Saji said that the village where the church is located is green and has a variety of crops that can store a lot of carbon.

He said that it is all about protecting the environment, people, society, and all times of life.

According to him, "net zero" means having a balanced life with human action and a sustainable economy without wasting natural resources.

Everyone has the responsibility to preserve and protect the environment, as the ecosystem is at risk due to irresponsible human actions that cause irreparable environmental degradation.

The voluntary organization SIN and the start-up Equator Geo will help with the green auditing. Equator Geo helps people, especially farms, trade carbon.

With the help of a satellite-based geographic information system (GIS) and an app made by Equator Geo for calculating carbon, green audits will be done soon.

The Ponkandam parish will have reached a milestone at the same time as it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2024. St. Joseph's Parish was established in 1974. The parish has 140 Catholic families.

It is hoped that St. Joseph's parish will serve as a model for other parishes in Kerala and across India and beyond.

The Palakkad diocese will slowly use the experiment's success to put similar measures in place in other parishes and even get parishes to trade carbon credits.

The diocese of Palakkad is a diocese of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church in Palakkad, in the state of Kerala, in south India.


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