April Fuels Day Event at First UU Austin

Guest Authors -Beki and Richard Halpin, co-chairs, Green Sanctuary Committee, The First Unitarian Universalist Church (Austin)

Alternative Vehicle Fair Revs Up

Saving the green in a smarter, cooler machine is another gear shift in saving the planet.

More with less says it best, and The First Universalist Unitarian Church April Fuels Day Alternative Vehicle Fair had the best in green transportation on display. Nearly 200 attendees enjoyed the games and cool energy-saving car, bike and scooter showcase.

Our Green Sanctuary Committee worked like protons in an electric Prius with the sunroof open. Twenty church volunteers, several from the Chalice Circle community, formed the cando posse that helped make it all happen. People could climb around in the vehicles and see themselves riding down carbon foot-print-less highway in a sweet plug-in, natural gas coupe, bio-diesel beauty, or a hill toppin’ hybrid. Riders swooped around on recumbent bikes and hip electric scooters. Lots of questions were answered on smart auto energy, saving money, lower carbon footprints and cleaner air and water results.

Our Texas Health Credit Union neighbors came out with us, neighborly offering their parking lot to accommodate visitors. Visiting with them,we discovered more green news—our church members are eligible for the credit union’s no-cost checking and savings accounts.

The Dirigibles provided music that set all toes to tapping as the attendees envisioned themselves as future drivers of these fine vehicles. Quite a few likely imagined themselves driving into the sunset in the sweet silver Tesla convertible one generous owner brought to share.

After the event, some attendees stopped dreaming about owning one of these money-, fueland planet-saving vehicles and ended up buying one.

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

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.”

Water Hygiene Kits from Hopedale, MA

Annually Hopedale Unitarian Parish (HUP) and Union Evangelical United Church of Christ host a joint service.  In preparation for the service HUP holds a collection drive for items to be placed in hygiene kits including soap, band-aid, toothbrushes, washcloths, hand towels, combs, and nail clippers.  These are then assembled into hygiene kits that are sent to Church World Service, a non-profit interfaith group that then distributes the kits to people around the US or around the world who do not have access to adequate supplies of clear water due to war, natural disasters, and refugee status.

Congregants gather to assemble hygiene kits.

November 2010 35 kits were assembled by members of all ages of both churches.  These congregations came together to assemble these kits because “Access to water for washing and hygiene is a basic human need and right which is often inadequate for a variety of reasons such as environmental and natural disasters or war.  Most commonly, it is a problem of the poor and in developing countries without plentiful resources.”

This project has inspired another Green Team member to start a new annual effort and being a collection of soap to be sent to Haiti in response to the recent cholera outbreak there.  HUP finds the Water Hygiene kits “a nice way to come together with our neighboring church and strengthen our relationship to service in others.”

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.



No Fracking in Ohio – November 6th Protest

Ron Prosek, from FACT – FAith Communities Together (for Frac Awareness) contacted me today about this important fracking protest.

Wednesday, November 30th join www.NoFrackOhio.com and folks from Ohio, western PA and West Virginia for a day of protest, learning, and building relationships for action.

10:00 am or 3:00pm – Choose either time: “State of Fracking in Ohio and How to Get Involved at UUYO (First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown)

For more information check out the NoFrackingOhio PDF document.


Hands Around the White House – A Beautiful Day in DC

'Hands Around the White House.' Credit: Shadia Fayne Wood, Tar Sands Action

On November 5th and 6th, approximately 12,000 people  participated in a peaceful demonstration in Washington, D.C. to protest the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline including a ‘Hands Around the White House Demonstration.’

The weekend of action began on Saturday, November 5th, with a Tar Sands Action meeting held at All Souls DC.  Logistics were finalized, regional break-out groups formed to discuss future planning, chants were taught, and a short film about tar sands was shown.

Section of the protesters from the rally stage. Credit: Shadia Fayne Wood, Tar Sands Action

Sunday, November 6th was a beautiful day in Washington, DC – made all the more lovely when approximately twelve thousand people arrived for the demonstration.  (Organizers had initially anticipated five to six thousand!)  The circle around the perimeter of the White House was three-to-four people deep.

Lynn Dash + other members of the UU Congregation of Monmouth County

UUA Witness Ministries Director Craig C. Roshaven joined Witness Ministries Program Associate Kat Liu and Environmental Stewardship Manager Robin Nelson in urging UUs to attend the DC demonstrationUUAstaff connected with 63 UUs who were at the rally/demonstration (more later identified themselves as there but unable to find the group due to the overwhelming size of the crowd!)

Solidarity events were held across the country as well.

UUs of Southern Delaware: Joe Farrell, Anne Pikolas, + Kris Acker

The ‘Hands Around the White House Demonstration’ came about in August 2011 when Tar Sands Action and 350.org proposed a radical demonstrationt o oppose the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Beginning with non-violent civil disobedience — which included standing and sitting in front of the White House — 1,253 protesters were arrested over two weeks including celebrities like Daryl Hannah and Margot Kidder. Climate Scientists Bill McKibben and James Hansen also put their bodies on the line to persuade the President to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.  UU World reported that 15 UUs were arrested on the designated interfaith day and many more were arrested on other dates.

UU Church of Silver Spring members along the East side of the White House. Credit: Kat Liu

While the arrests were making some headlines, organizers grew concerned when Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that he hadn’t even briefed the President on the campaign. As a result, efforts increased with local organizing in affected communities as well as attendance at “Public Meetings following the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline” across the country (along the route of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline).

Many elected officials, activists, artists and celebrities have come out against the Keystone XL Pipeline including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Governor Dave Heineman (NE); Former Vice President Al Gore; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Van Jones, Robert Redford, and Ogalala Vice President Tom Poor Bear.

Let us know about your participation in ‘Hands Around the White House’ or a solidarity event you attended by emailing Rnelson@uua.org or commenting below.

Hands Around the White House – November 6th

On Sunday, November 6th, over 50 UUs will be joining an interfaith contingent and tarsandsaction.org and 350.org, one year from the next election, to encircle the White House to ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline.

We need YOU to show up on Sunday, November 6th to participate in this action (along with your friends, neighbors, fellow congregants, and perhaps even enemies)*.

Thousands of people are expected to peacefully and solemnly encircle the White House to urge President Obama to fulfill his campaign pledge of shifting us to a clean energy future and reject a permit for the proposed transnational Keystone XL Pipeline.  This is a legal gathering and no civil disobedience will occur (so we aren’t expecting arrests). Indigenous leaders in Canada and the U.S. oppose the project, saying it abrogates treaty rights and devastates their lands. Midwestern farmers, environmentalists and others are concerned about possible land and water contamination from spills. NASA climate scientist James Hansen states that the pollution caused from using this amount of oil would “make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”

  •  A group from All Souls will join UUA Environmental Stewardship Manager, Robin Nelson, to go to the rally. Meet at 1 p.m. in the CHURCH COURTYARD.
  • We’ll join other UUs in front of Starbucks at 1001 Connecticut Avenue NW at 1:45pm and then proceed together to the northwest corner of Lafayette Park.
  • If you have a yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” T-Shirt, please bring it to wear.
  • If you know in advance you are coming, RSVP to Robin Nelson at: Rnelson@uua.org.
  • To be in touch with us on Sunday, contact Robin on her cell.  Texts are easiest as it will be loud and crowded.
  • Interested in volunteering to be a crowd marshal? Training will occur at ASC around 5 p.m. on Saturday evening.

Please check in with Robin Nelson whenever you arrive to join us.

Some additional FYIs:

You should only bring things that you can carry, you won’t be allowed to put anything on the ground.

The organizers said that banners and signs would be problematic once the rally ended around 2:50 and people then would be processing around the White House. They want us to hold hands – so there would be no way to keep hold of a sign or banner. They are suggesting people put signs on hats or around their necks if they want that.

Think about wearing gloves or mittens, you won’t be able to put your cold hands in your pockets if you’re holding the hand of persons next to you.

In case of emergency or complications, you will want valid (current, government issued) identification for any interaction with the police, or for any medical issues.

Dress as you would for a serious meeting or other businesslike event.  Additionally, UUs are wearing Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts to identify ourselves to each other.

A reusable water bottle is a must and think about bringing a small snack such as a granola bar or trail mix we’ll be out there from 2pm-5pm.


*Can’t make it to Washington, DC?  Join a solidarity action and submit information and photos to Robin Nelson at Rnelson@uua.org afterwards.  Tar Sands Action Seattle is planning a solidarity event.

Take Action: Sign petition to EPA about Tar Sands

We urge folks to help stop the Keystone XL pipeline by signing onto this petition.  It encourages head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, to reject the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline which has most recently been called corrupted by bias, lobbyist influence and conflicts of interest.  The New York Times posted an article questioning whether or not the State Department Reviewers had a conflict of interest.  If you are more of a visual person check out this image of possible corruption.

Help us stop the Keystone XL pipeline and avoid what NASA climate scientist James Hansen has coined as “essentially a game over for the climate.”  Sign the petition today! And ask your friends, neighbors, and fellow UUs to sign the petition too!