Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Christina C. Sparks

Relational Format



Paper bulletins, weekly customized song sheets, disposable coffee cups—all parts of a regular communal church gathering on Sunday mornings. Where do these products go after the service is over and the pews are empty? Combining the topics of environmental sustainability and organized religion, this thesis explores how local churches view the intersection of environmental sustainability and faith practices in Oxford, Mississippi. Preliminary research has shown that while many global denominations publicly issue statements supporting environmental practices and encouraging sustainable behavior, often these statements are not effective in directly influencing a local church’s behavior as it relates to implementing environmentally sustainable practices. This thesis will explore the philosophy that as stewards of creation and leaders in society, churches have a responsibility to promote environmental conservation and implement sustainability practices such as recycling. This thesis will consist of five sections. Chapter one will explore current trends surrounding the practice of recycling on a national, small town, and religious level. The second chapter will include a review of relevant literature regarding the church’s relationship to influencing behavior, sustainability, and environmentalism in terms of “caring for creation.” The third chapter will examine churches and their local leaders’ views on the responsibility to participate in sustainable practices, specifically recycling. Chapter four reports the corresponding congregations’ current expectations and aims to determine if there exists a desire to implement practices such as recycling in the respective churches. Finally, in chapter five, research results will be analyzed to explore if there exists a gap between what is expected and what is delivered. To gain necessary insight into the attitudes and opinions of four local churches in the Oxford, Mississippi, community, secondary and primary research was conducted. Six separate interviews were conducted on authoritative figures such as priests, preachers, clergy, and other leaders in prominent Oxford churches. The interviewees were asked to describe their denominations’ views on sustainable activity such as recycling and furthermore how they address the topic at an institutional, local level. To augment interviews, a survey was conducted and distributed to members of participating congregations to determine level of awareness on their respective church’s involvement in recycling and to gauge interest on the issue of addressing sustainability in churches. The goal of the survey was to determine the congregation’s expectations of service as far as becoming involved with sustainable practices like recycling. This thesis will contribute to the understanding of how churches can best communicate messages to most effectively influence behavior. It will also make recommendations to churches, if desired, as to how they can address the topic of sustainability in terms of faith.

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