January is a time for renewal. It is also the time of year often accompanied by a short-lived burst of motivation to take action and improve your life or the lives of others. Hopefully this year you can hold onto it and use it wisely.

In light of the Canadian government's recent decision to drop the Kyoto Protocol, "greening" our parishes and our lives is more important than ever.

The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which requires countries that ratify it to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions as well as five other greenhouse gases. It also allows them to engage in emissions trading.

The aim of the Kyoto Protocol is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

Generally the greenhouse effect is beneficial. Without naturally occurring greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the Earth's surface would be up to 30°C cooler. However, it is the enhanced greenhouse effect due to the many gases emitted from human activities that is starting to cause problems.

Essentially, energy from the sun comes to Earth in the form of radiation. Roughly 30 percent of this is reflected back, while the other 70 percent is absorbed; this warms and powers the planet. The Earth then radiates this heat back into space, but some of it is re-radiated back to Earth after it reaches the atmosphere.

Industrial and other human activities have lead to increased levels of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, and this is what poses a problem. These excess gases are absorbing and reradiating more heat than needed. This is what the majority of scientists believe is causing global warming.

Our diocesan Green Parish Accreditation Program challenges parishes to take action in areas including energy conservation, recycling, ground transportation, church communication, religious education and worship. It is the first program of its kind in the country.

Many parishes have been involved in some of these activities for years. Most of them now have a recycling program in place, and quite a lot have appointed an Environmental Steward. Free energy audits are also being offered.

"Greening" does not need to be restricted to the church. There are many ways to live "green" in our every day lives. The use of compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent ones saves energy. Changing air filters in cooling and heating systems regulary can reduce your CO2 output by up to two percent each year.

Hot water heaters use a lot of energy and can generate plently of CO2; the use of a hot water heater blanket can reduce your home's emissions by up to four and a half percent. Setting your thermostat two degrees cooler can reduce emissions by up to nine percent over the span of a year.

These are just some of the many ways to live environmentally friendly lives.

Kara Hawkes worships at St. John's, Sardis

For more information about global warming see resources at http://globalchange.nasa.gov/Resources/pointers/glob_warm.html