First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis Winner of ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings

The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis (FUS) won the 2011 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings in the House of Worship category!  The competition has energized the members of FUS and caused the team to think more creatively and enthusiastically about additional steps that can be taken.

When FUS first started bench-marking their energy usage with the ENERGY STAR for Congregations program they scored a meager rating of 28 (0-100 scale) for their building that was built in the 1950s.

Bruce Nelson, a congregational leader at FUS, assembled a team and identified ways to improve their rating. FUS negotiated a contract with the one person firm of  NFS,LLC to  restore control to the heating and ventilation systems in their building  by implementing numerous no- and very low-cost measures.  A relatively inexpensive ($7,200) Internet-accessible control system was added to restore night set-back control to the heating system.  The team also added winter window treatments to single glazed, and very leaky, aluminum-framed windows (installed in 1953) by covering  some with temporary plastic and sealing  others with a food-grade and odorless caulk.

The improvements allowed them to reduce their electrical use from 4.5 to 3.75 kWh per day, gas consumption from 83 to 70 Thm per day, and Energy Use Intensity (EUI) rating improvement from 159 to 131.  The EUI rating reduction of nearly18 percent resulted in their winning the House of Worship category.  Additionally, all of their hard work led to $16,000+ savings in one year!  By the time FUS finished they improved their ENERGY STAR rating to 54.

In May 2011 FUS hosted a Sunday discussion titled “FUS energy savings — $10,000 down: How much further can we go?” to inspire more energy conservation measures and brainstorm additional energy-saving ideas. More recently, the team held a public event to share information about the energy-saving measures put in place at FUS and how the improvements were financed – this event was open to the media and other houses of worship.

Bruce Nelson advises other congregations “First, benchmark your building’s energy performance to determine your potential for energy savings. Then focus first on no-cost and low-cost opportunities. I can guarantee opportunities are there to be found!”

For more information about their improvements check out the Clean Energy Resource Teams’ blog.

FUS became an accredited Green Sanctuary on September 9, 2009.

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.



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; for further information concerning ENERGY STAR, contact Jim Adams (; for further information concerning Green Sanctuary, contact Janet Heller (

RecycleNow and The Unitarian Society of Germantown

“The Unitarian Society of Germantown (USG) is a great example of the faith community’s engagement in sustainability.”  So read one recognition of this congregation by Philadelphia’s RecycleNOW.

For many years, USG worked with a local food cooperative, Weavers Way, by providing the USG parking lot as a recycling collection spot.   Then, starting in 2007, USG became an active supporter of RecycleNOW in furthering recycling efforts in Philadelphia.

Joe Walsh, a USG congregant and one of the co-chairs who began the church’s Green Sanctuary Committee, became interested in the city’s environmental politics.  He re-formed the at-the-time defunct Northwest Philadelphia chapter of RecycleNOW (R-NOW), a grass-roots city-wide volunteer organization, whose purpose was to lobby for improved city-wide recycling practices.  Carolyn Scott, also a USG Green Sanctuary Committee member, became the NW chapter’s scribe and then co-chair in 2008, when Joe stepped down from R-NOW.

Since 2007, USG has graciously hosted, without fee, the Northwest R-NOW’s monthly meetings.   When R-NOW obtained hundreds of big blue recycling bins to distribute in a recycling education/information/dissemination effort, USG became the unloading dock.  The bins literally lurked behind the bushes in USG’s grove for awhile! Through this tri-fold partnership—USG’s Green Sanctuary Committee, the City of Philadelphia, and RecycleNOW— 1,200 blue recycling bins were distributed.

In recognition of its good work, USG’s Green Sanctuary Committee was honored as a “Hometown Hero” in 2008 by the steering committee of RecycleNOW.

USG was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on June 7, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website

Interfaith Power and Light award goes to Northwest UU Congregation in Atlanta, GA

Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) recently sent out a mailing that read:
“On October 10, a powerful thing happened. Thousands of you representing hundreds of Interfaith Power & Light congregations came together for IPL’s 10% Challenge to Save Energy to upgrade the lighting in your facilities, examine heating and cooling systems, plant native trees and landscaping, inspire members to go green, and join work parties on 10/10/10
In order to help you in your ongoing efforts to save energy and make your house of worship a model of stewardship, we have a new and improved resource that we are pleased to announce today: our upgraded congregational carbon footprint calculator. It has the same great features to help you measure your congregation’s carbon footprint, only now it has customized tips based on your results, and you can create an account to store your results and measure your progress over time …
Finally I’m excited to announce our 10% Challenge prize winners … five congregations, drawn randomly from a pool of qualifying participants, will each receive a $1,000 prize. Congratulations!”

One of the 5 congregations was our very own, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Atlanta, Georgia (NWUUC). We are extremely excited to see that NWUUC is being awarded a national prize from IPL.

UU Community Church of Santa Monica receives awards for environmental stewardship

Member, Sandra Trutt, displays awards

The Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica (UUCCSM) won the Excellence Award for Social Responsibility and Stewardship of the Natural Environment.  Here are some (but not all) of the reasons the church was honored by the City of Santa Monica, Sustainable Works and the Chamber of Commerce for these Sustainable Quality Awards:

  • UUCCSM had Southern California Edison, their energy company, perform an energy audit in 2007 and completed Sustainable Works Business Greening Program in 2008.
  • They installed reflective film on the office windows and replaced more than 50 incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.
    Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica
  • Their energy bill decreased form 2,166 KWh per month to 1980 kWh – a 9% decrease.
  • To prevent pollutive runoff into the ocean, they installed 3 cisterns on their patio.
  • Additionally, their landscaping includes low water use plants and a drip irrigation systems.
  • (more…)

UU Congregation of Atlanta Receives 2009 Energy Star Award

Press Release

One of only five facilities to receive the prestigious Energy Star award in 2009 in the category of Houses of Worship,  the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta (UUCA) is also the first UU congregation and the first congregation in Georgia to receive this award.

The Energy Star Award is a national conservation award developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  to recognize excellent energy performance by building type. Energy Star ranks facilities from 0 to 100 based on their energy and water consumption. In order to receive an award, the facility must be in the 75th percentile or higher (i.e. at least 75% of facilities use more energy than we do). Many consider the Energy Star Award more prestigious than LEED NC certification since it is based on actual energy consumption rather than projected energy savings.

The Energy Star Award confirms the sound sustainability decisions UUCA has implemented in the last ten years. The “Building the Vision” campaign in 2002 and the “Finish the Job” campaign in 2005 transformed our energy inefficient building completed in 1965 into a national leader in sustainable design.  Our renovated facility with the 3,000 square-foot office addition uses less than half the gas required to heat the original building and substantially less electricity.

This national award and the efforts behind it are part of a focused sustainability initiative in the congregation which has entailed exploring the nature of sustainable living. This initiative is not just about the environment: it honors all four points of the sustainability compass simultaneously: nature, economy, society, and personal well-being.

It’s about learning and using the language of sustainability,” says Senior Minister Rev. Anthony David, ” and it IS a second language.”

“We’ve got to think bigger and more systemically. We’ve got to look for solutions that honor the environment even as they grow the economy, create a more just world, and strengthen our individual lives.”

To learn more about UUCA’s 2009 Energry Star Award visit their building profile.

Towson UU Church Wins Cool Congregation Prize from Interfaith Power & Light

Interfaith Power and Light Press Release, July 20, 2010

Andrée Duggan (for IPL)                                          Carel Hedlund (for Towson UU Church)
andree at theregenerationproject dot org                cthedlund at msn dot com

“Towson UU Church Wins Cool Congregation
Prize from Interfaith Power and Light

Interfaith Power and Light announced the winner of this year’s Cool Congregation contest. Towson Unitarian Universalist Church (TUUC), in Lutherville, Maryland, accepted the $5,000 cash prize for the most reduction in energy use. Carel Hedlund, Chair of TUUC’s Green Sanctuary Committee, said, “our actions focused on three areas: energy efficiency of our building, educating our members on ways they could make changes in their own lives to reduce their individual footprints, and participating in energy efficiency community projects. We are very excited and grateful to win this prize. Our Board has voted to place the award funds into reserves for further ‘greening’ of the church.”

The Cool Congregation contest challenged participants to calculate a starting carbon footprint, and then compare a year later after making energy saving changes to measure total reductions. The contest was open to approximately 10,000 congregations nationwide. “We wish to congratulate Towson Unitarian Universalist Church for being good stewards of Creation,” said The Reverend Sally Bingham, president of Interfaith Power and Light. “They have demonstrated a real commitment to making their congregation as energy efficient as possible and in the process have provided a wonderful role model for other congregations wishing to address the threat of climate change.”

First Parish in Needham receives EnergyStar Award

(Boston, MA – June 16, 2010) EPA Press Release

“First Parish in Needham Unitarian Universalist is the first house of worship in New England to receive an EPA Energy Star label, an energy efficiency standard that certifies that they are in the top 25 percent of houses of worship in the United States. First Parish in Needham is one of just nine houses of worship in the country to receive the label.

“First Parish in Needham has successfully accepted the challenge of dealing with energy issues and sets a terrific example for the many houses of worship across New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. “We hope more small businesses and congregations across New England states will follow their lead and maximize energy efficiency opportunities in their own operations.”

First Parish was founded in 1711, and is considered Needham’s oldest religious community. Its public meeting house was built in 1836 and is the oldest public building in Needham. In 2007-8, the church replaced its old Parish Hall with an environmentally progressive building that is 25 percent larger than the old hall. Despite the increase in size and addition of air conditioning units, the new building has reduced the parish’s utility costs by more than 50 percent and reduced its carbon footprint up to 43 percent, according to Ed Quinlan, Property Committee Chairman.