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TVUUC goes solar!

by Gene Burr, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church(TVUUC)  Green Team member

Rev. Chris Buice and Lay Leader Gene Burr powering up the solar panels

A year ago, we had essentially given up our dream of in-stalling a solar array on our building. Shortly after FLS Energy and Green Earth Solar submitted our application to the Tennessee Solar Institute, we learned that the grant funds allocated to Tennessee ($9M) had been committed to other projects. We were advised that only in the event that other applicants dropped out would our project be funded. But, that’s what happened, and the solar panels have been installed—117 of them! We are still holding our collective breath, trying to accept what is hard to believe— that we would have this opportunity to demonstrate what we believe about using clean energy while investing in a more sustainable future for TVUUC.

The 28.7 kW solar energy system being installed on our roof will generate 37,663 kW-hours annually, and offset 27 tons of CO2 per year. We have used an innovative model to finance the array, one of the first “third party ownership models” in Tennessee.

The total cost of the system is $163, 419, for which FLS Energy is receiving a $57,400 federal “stimulus” grant (from American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009) on our behalf. TVUUC has paid $22,500 as our share of the cost—the balance of the total cost being absorbed by FLS and “third party investors” which receive a 30% fed- eral tax credit that we could not access as a non-profit or- ganization. TVUUC also receives a $1000 grant from TVA for participation in their Generation Partners pro- gram. A bonus that we are to receive from the Knoxville- Knox County Community Action Committee, in return for energy conservation steps we have undertaken over the past five years, is a $15,000 solar grant that will offset our initial investment of $22,500, leaving a net investment of $7,500 by TVUUC.

The future sustainability that TVUUC will benefit from is an offset of approximately 40% of our electric utility costs ($3,500 annually) during years 6-10 of our ten-year part- nership with FLS Energy. At the end of our agreement, we will have the option to renew and continue to receive the solar income from FLS Energy, or we may choose to own the system outright, at a depreciated cost. The solar panels carry a 25-year warranty

UUMFE 2012 Earth Day materials now online

By Cindy Davidson, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) board member

Looking for a way to bring the UUA’s focus on immigration to your Green Sanctuary work?  Or, conversely, a way to bring your Green Sanctuary team’s environmental justice concerns to the table?  Or, perhaps you’re wondering just how these issues are interconnected?  With this in mind, UUMFE has chosen to focus Earth Day materials this year on Environmental Justice and Immigration.

The Earth Day 2012 materials, now available, will help guide you in exploring ways your Green Sanctuary committee/team and your congregation might explore the link between EJ and immigration this Earth Day, April 22nd.  The collection of materials can help in planning worship services and other activities around Earth Day.  We’ve pulled together background information, resources, and suggested actions with a broad focus on links between environmental justice and immigration.  We’ll give you some ideas to consider, from the injustices of health care issues disproportionately affecting migrant populations to the environmental impact of border walls upon all species.  We look at climate change and the connection with forced migration and the disproportionate impact climate change extols on the most vulnerable. We look at environmental injustices hidden in anti-immigration legislation, including access to water. And, we even look at the anti-population growth and “immigrants are bad for our environment” arguments. We hope you find much food for thought!

As in past years, we include practical materials to use for worship services, including Order of Service covers and inserts about UUMFE.  We also encourage congregations to take advantage of Earth Day to honor and celebrate the contributions of an Eco-Hero in your midst; you’ll find a certificate you can use online, too.  Most importantly, we hope you will nominate your Eco-Hero for UUMFE’s Guardian of the Future award.  See full details online.

As you plan your Earth Day activities, please remember to register them on our website to share with others.  Your plans may just be the inspiration others need to take action in congregations near and far!  If this year’s theme is not a “good fit” for your current environmental focus, we encourage you to use the materials for prior Earth Days, especially Earth Day 2010: Food and Environmental Justice or Earth Day 2011: Sacred Waters. In fact, the 2010 and 2011 tables of Earth Day activities from registered congregations contain hundreds of inspirational ideas for you to try.

We look forward to hearing about how UU congregations across the country celebrate Earth Day 2012!

NWUUC partners with WAWA

by Beth Stokes Clinton, member North West Unitarian Universalist Congregation (NWUUC)

On Saturday, Oct. 29, seventeen members of  NWUUC carpooled down to West Atlanta to enjoy a 26-acre “urban forest” outing with other Atlanta environmentalists and neighborhood volunteers at the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) Fall Festival. WAWA is a nonprofit organization promoting environmental and social justice in historically marginalized Atlanta neighborhoods. As part of its mission WAWA oversees a 26-acre nature preserve near the tributaries of the Chattahoochee River, and has an active “green” education program for adults and children. WAWA is one of NWUUC’s Green Sanctuary collaborative partners, sponsored by the Earth Ministry.

NWUUC members preparing the winter demonstration garden bed - at the top of WAWA's 26-acre forest.

The lively group from NWUUC helped till the ground for WAWA’s winter demonstration garden, lifting shovels, hefting hoes, pushing wheelbarrows, and raking the soil to prepare the garden plot, which is located near Oakland Avenue. They also hiked through the forest to the historic 1863 “Grandfather Beech Tree;”  learned the seven principles of responsible backpacking from a REI representative; and toured the Outdoor Activity Center’s bioponic farming demonstration, which uses fish waste in a closed system to produce vegetables.

Dave Zenner, Earth Ministry Team Leader, reported on the day’s events: “The great turnout from Northwest clearly demonstrated the depth of our commitment to partnering with WAWA in its important mission.  And we benefited from learning more about the ongoing needs of the nature preserve, as well as useful lessons in sustainable lifestyles.  We also began a discussion about the possibility of Northwest volunteers “adopting” a section of trail between the nature center and the Grandfather Beech. It was a fun, interesting and mutually beneficial outing.”

Bill McKibben on “Blowing the Whistle on Congress”

reposted from 350.org by Bill McKibben

Yesterday was one of the truly fun days in this whole wild year of organizing. We had hundreds of referees outside the Capitol, and we blew our whistles like crazy, and we threw penalty flags, and we had a hell of a good time.

My favorite scene, actually, was watching hundreds of people in ref shirts descending the escalators to the subway for the ride to the day’s final stop, the American Petroleum Institute. It was an endless line of black and white, a long human stripe of fair play!

Not only that, it was productive. Two great things happened: one, Senator Bernie Sanders announced at the demonstration that he’s introducing a bill to remove all the subsidies from the fossil fuel industry. And two, Barack Obama, eight hours later in his State of the Union address, joined us to demand that handouts to the world’s richest companies stop. The speech wasn’t perfect — he called for far too much new drilling — but this was an important bright spot.

Ending those handouts is absolutely crucial to our big fight against climate change. A new report from the International Energy Agency shows that ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry will cut half the carbon emissions we need to stop catastrophic climate change. And it’s partly because they take so much monety from the government that Big Oil can afford to spend millions lobbying for projects like Keystone XL.

It felt darned good to be on the offensive for once, not just trying to beat back disasters like Keystone, but taking the battle to Big Oil.

UUMFE launches Environmental Justice curriculum.

By Nancy King Smith, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) Co-President

Looking for a way to deepen your congregation’s commitment to the Seventh Principle?   Wondering how to link sustainability efforts with your congregation’s interest in anti-racism/anti-oppression education?  Want something fun and meaningful that engages teens and adults?  Would you like to help with Green Sanctuary action planning or taking that work to a new level?  Check out UU Ministry for Earth’s  new 5-session environmental justice curriculum: “Our Place in the Web of Life.”

The curriculum was developed in response to the fact that many congregations find the environmental justice activities to be the most challenging part of fulfilling the Green Sanctuary requirements. The curriculum provides both an introduction to EJ concepts, but also an interactive process to identify what the needs are in the community so that a worthwhile project can be developed. The curriculum emphasizes the importance of  relationships, especially in light of racial, ethnic and cultural differences.

The curriculum is available as a free download from the UUMFE website (uuministryforearth.org). We are asking that people register and consider a donation so that we can track usage and develop further modules as appropriate. Those interested in learning more are invited to join a free coaching webinar at 7 pm, Februay 6, led by curriculum designer and Meadville-Lombard faculty Mark Hicks. Register at uuministryfornearth.com.

Keystone XL Pipeline Update/Alert

A worker holds a glob of tar sands from a mine in Alberta, Canada. (photo: Lara Solt/Corbis)

Guy Quinlan, Member of the UU-UNO Climate Task Force


The payroll tax compromise signed on December 22 gives the President only 60 days to decide on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil produced from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast. He should disapprove the project, because it would be an environmental disaster:

  • Extremely high carbon content makes the tar sands possibly the dirtiest energy source on the planet.
  • The process of extracting oil from the tar sands produces two to four times as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as the production of conventional crude oil.
  • Exploitation of the tar sands would sabotage efforts to reduce GHG emissions and stabilize the global climate.
  • The pipeline would threaten to contaminate aquifers which are a key source of drinking water for the region.
  • Part of the pipeline would pass through active seismic areas which have experienced earthquakes as recently as 2002.
  • The project would not advance energy independence, since the greater part of the oil would probably be exported to Asia.
  • Although advocates of the pipeline are touting it as a source of jobs, it would produce many fewer jobs than alternative investments in renewable energy, and groundwater contamination from a pipeline leak could  cripple the economy of the Midwest.

Recommended action:  Contact the White House and leave a message urging the President to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Call 202-456-1111 and ask for the comment operator, or send an email by going to www.whitehouse.gov and click “Submit Questions and Comments.”

For more information, see the UU-UNO Climate Portal pages on the Keystone XL Pipeline

You can also sign a petition at NDRC

Environmental Justice & Sustainable Development Consultant on Keystone XL Pipeline

Guest Post by Pam Sparr
Environmental Justice & Sustainable Development Consultant

“I agree with Reverend Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus who proclaims climate change and the struggle to prevent the Keystone XL Pipeline from being built is our generation’s ‘lunch counter moment’. This is a racial justice issue.  It is an economic justice issue. It is an environmental justice issue.

Pam Sparr getting arrested for civil disobedience at the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day (08/29/11)

As a Unitarian Universalist, I recognize the Earth as a sacred gift. I believe we have a moral obligation to protect all life – human and otherwise, now and into the future. Unitarian Universalists have a great history of standing up for what is right. I wanted to help continue that tradition by being present at the rally.  I am putting my body on the line for the indigenous people who are already hurting because of climate change and those who will be harmed further if this pipeline goes through. I am putting my body on the line for those people living in poverty around the world who are already hurting because of climate change. I am putting my body on the line because of all the unemployed people who could be put to work retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. I am putting my body on the line for my godchildren, my niece, the children in my neighborhood and around the world. They are the ones who will really pay the price of the decisions our elected leaders make today.

This is one very large decision with a potentially very large, negative impact. It is in one person’s hands. It is important to show President Obama that we want him to live up to his campaign promises and to demonstrate the courage of his convictions. We waste too much energy in the U.S.  We live way out of proportion, with too little regard as to the cumulative impact of our country’s actions on the rest of the world. It is high time we move towards clean, renewable energy and creating jobs with a more life-affirming economic strategy.”

California Interfaith Power & Light’s 5th Annual Energy Oscars Recognizes Three UU Congregations

Three Unitarian Universalist congregations were recognized at this year’s California Interfaith Power & Light 5th Annual Energy Oscars.

Representatives of UU San Francisco (David Jones and Margaret Pearce, second and third from left), UU Santa Cruz County (Deborah Pembrook, second from right), UU Fresno - Mary McDonough (far left) and Connie Young (far right) at the Energy Oscars. Photo by Rick Johnson

This article was kindly submitted by Margaret Pearce on behalf of Don Williams.

Green Building Finalist, First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco

California Interfaith Power and Light (CA IPL) listed First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco (FUUSSF) as a Finalist in the Green Building category for the Society’s new 21.5 KW solar system, lighting retrofit, and innovative “Trash Talking” educational campaign on recycling and composting.  In addition FUUSSF’s Green Committee energetically move the congregation into strong advocacy for climate and energy policy, and participation in San Francisco’s Moving Planet Day of Climate and Action.  FUUSSF also is in final documentation process for Green Sanctuary status from the UUA because of the congregation’s hard work in the following areas:

  • worship and celebration
  • Religious Education
  • environmental justice
  • and sustainable living

Advocacy Oscar Finalist, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County

Advocacy Oscar finalists Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County (UUFSCC)  with leadership of UU Legislative Ministry installed solar, energy efficient lighting, used captive and stored rainwater and involved the wider community in the promotion of:

  • Energy and Climate Legislation
  • Desalinization Alternatives
  • Simple Living
  • Ethical Eating
  • Save Our Shores

Education Oscar Winner, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno

The Education classification winner, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno (UUCF), built a LEED-certified building, installed solar panels and hosted an Earth Day Celebration with the Fresno Earth Day Coalition to educate the whole community on environmental and climate stewardship.



Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis

Cross-posted from Beacon Broadside

Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis
BARNETT-BlueRevolutionAmericans see water as abundant and cheap: we turn on the faucet and out it gushes, for less than a penny a gallon. We use more water than any other culture in the world, much to quench what’s now our largest crop-the lawn. Yet most Americans cannot name the river or aquifer that flows to our taps, irrigates our food, and produces our electricity. And most don’t realize these freshwater sources are in deep trouble.

Blue Revolution exposes the truth about the water crisis-driven not as much by lawn sprinklers as by a tradition that has encouraged everyone, from homeowners to farmers to utilities, to tap more and more. But the book also offers much reason for hope. Award-winning journalist Cynthia Barnett argues that the best solution is also the simplest and least expensive: a water ethic for America. Just as the green movement helped build awareness about energy and sustainability, so a blue movement will reconnect Americans to their water, helping us value and conserve our most life-giving resource. Avoiding past mistakes, living within our water means, and turning to “local water” as we do local foods are all part of this new, blue revolution.

Reporting from across the country and around the globe, Barnett shows how people, businesses, and governments have come together to dramatically reduce water use and reverse the water crisis. Entire metro areas, such as San Antonio, Texas, have halved per capita water use. Singapore’s “closed water loop” recycles every drop. New technologies can slash agricultural irrigation in half: businesses can save a lot of water-and a lot of money-with designs as simple as recycling air-conditioning condensate.

The first book to call for a national water ethic, Blue Revolution is also a powerful meditation on water and community in America.

Listen to Cynthia Barnett on the Joy Cardin Show.

Read an excerpt of Blue Revolution on Scribd.

Purchase a copy of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis

Unitarian Universalist Society: East Meetinghouse Earns EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Certification for Superior Energy Efficiency

Press Release, Pam Fine, UUS:E Communications Committee

(Sept 29, 2011, Manchester, CT)

The Unitarian Universalist Society: East (UUS:E) Meetinghouse of Manchester, Connecticut has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR certification, which signifies that the building performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA.  UUS:E is the first house of worship to receive ENERGY STAR certification in the state of Connecticut.

Earning the ENERGY STAR is part of a long process and commitment that UUS:E has made to environmental stewardship. In 2006 UUS:E was accredited as the first Green Sanctuary Congregation in Connecticut through a program now administered by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). When it came time to expand, UUS:E was determined to do so in as green a way as possible. UUS:E earned two grants for energy efficiency and geothermal heating and cooling by following top standards in the renovation and building project. The building was dedicated on September 19, 2010. UUS:E is now in candidacy for Green Sanctuary Re-accreditation through the UUA by following an Action Plan to further its Earth ministry.

“UUS:E is pleased to accept EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification in recognition of our energy efficiency efforts,” said UUS:E president Jo Anne Gillespie. “Through this achievement, we have not only significantly lowered our energy costs, but also demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship, in keeping with the Unitarian Universalist principle of respecting the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part.”

Buildings that earn EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification use an average of 35 percent less energy than typical buildings and also release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  UUS:E improved its energy performance by carefully managing its energy use and by making major energy efficiency improvements to the Meetinghouse during a major renovation in 2010.

“Improving the energy efficiency of our nation’s buildings is critical to protecting our environment,” said Jean Lupinacci, Chief of the ENERGY STAR Commercial & Industrial Branch. “From the boiler room to the board room, organizations are leading the way by making their buildings more efficient and earning EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification.”

To earn the ENERGY STAR, UUS:E took the following actions during its recent renovation:

  • Designed the building to incorporate multi-use space whereby rooms, including the sanctuary, were designed for multiple uses to minimize the increase in size of the building.
  • Installed a geothermal heating, cooling, and hot water system, reducing energy use by 30-40% versus the best conventional systems
  • Included extensive insulation in new building walls and utilized high efficiency windows.
  • Installed energy efficient lighting and light controls in all rooms
  • Use of ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Installation of paddle fans in the sanctuary
  • Training for key employees in the use and management of the new geothermal heating/cooling system

EPA’s ENERGY STAR energy performance scale helps organizations assess how efficiently their buildings use energy relative to similar buildings nationwide. A building that scores a 75 or higher on EPA’s 1-100 scale may be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Today, the ENERGY STAR label can be found on more than 60 different kinds of products as well as new homes and commercial and industrial buildings that meet strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the EPA. Last year alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved $18 billion on their energy bills while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 34 million vehicles.

For more information about UUS:E, see http://www.uuse.org; for further information concerning ENERGY STAR, contact Jim Adams (ounpuu.adams@comcast.net); for further information concerning Green Sanctuary, contact Janet Heller (janet.heller@snet.net).