Sample Green Sanctuary Convenant

This sample Green Sanctuary Covenant comes from the First Universalist Church of Denver.

“We the members of First Universalist Church of Denver and Participants in the Green Sanctuary Program:

  • Recognizing the vulnerability and interdependence of Earth and all living things;
  • Recognizing the need to protect and maintain the quality of our common natural resources;
  • Recognizing the need to act individually, as a congregation and to join with others to promote environmental justice and to create a sustainable society based on love and respect for out Earth and its diversity of life and resources; and
  • Recognizing our universal human rights to a clean environment

Do covenant:

  • To engage in ongoing activities and projects and to encourage each other in a personal and congregational commitment to living this promise through our Unitarian Universalist Principles, including the Seventh Principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”;
  • To incorporate the Seventh Principle values and practices into our worship services, celebrations and religious education programs;
  • To live lightly on the Earth and strive to continually improve our environmental impact; and
  • To affirm and promote programs to raise the awareness of human behaviors and actions that affect the health and sustainability of our living Earth and humanity.”

First Universalist Church of Denver was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on October 27, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Scavenger Hunt

After having their “Sample Statement of Purpose and Commitment” shared on the Green Sanctuary blog, Helen Deffenbacher from the Green Sanctuary Team of First Unitarian Church of Omaha wrote to me asking if I would include information about one of their service projects for Earth Day.  You don’t have to wait till you’ve been featured to send me information about your congregation’s Green Sanctuary efforts – I love to share congregational stories, so if you have one be sure to email me at RNelson @ and I’ll be happy to share yours too.

Helen Deffenbacher writes:
The Green Sanctuary Team of First Unitarian Church of Omaha invites all Green Sanctuaries (and others aspiring to someday become Green Sanctuaries) to join us in a national spring housecleaning! The 2011 Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Scavenger Hunt will be held from now until Earth Day, April 22nd.
Groups set their own rules & target date for completion, make up a list of items each individual or family hunts for in their own homes, and award one or more prizes (optional)—preferably not more stuff but a green outing, for instance. (more…)

Sample Statement of Purpose and Commitment

This sample Statement of Purpose and Commitment comes from the First Unitarian Church of Omaha (“A Different Kind of Congregation”).

  • We are each committed to learning ways in which we might live more sustainable lives that will help reduce the threat of global warming.
  • From that growing awareness and knowledge we will strive to make personal lifestyle changes that strengthen the connection between our spiritual principles and our daily actions.
  • We will strive to lead by example and not by words alone.
  • We believe that a commitment to change must come from within.
  • We believe that each person at First Unitarian must take responsibility for his or her own actions within our church and the greater community.
  • We believe that a “greener than thou” attitude has no place in a [Environmental Stewardship] program, inasmuch as we are each in the process of learning and growing.
  • We believe the role of the Green Sanctuary Committee is to build upon our church community’s awareness and knowledge of environmental issues and to build upon and strengthen our denomination’s commitment to our Seventh Principle.
  • We will strive to encourage widespread congregational participation in the 12 projects and activities required for Green Sanctuary accreditation.
  • We will encourage and support both individual and collective action.
  • We will encourage and facilitate networking among different committees in our church.
  • We will strive to build networks in our wider community as we work on these projects.
  • We will provide frequently updated information on the Green Sanctuary Program to our congregation.
  • We will remain open to new ideas and to new members.

Green Altar – UU Society of Bangor

For one of their Green Sanctuary Worship and Celebration projects, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor (UUSB) created a ever-evolving Green Altar.

They took a unused christening font, located in the back of the Sanctuary, and turned it into a pedestal for a vase holding items such as harvest corn, pine cones and acorns. On the other side, they set up a bulletin board where members of the congregation could add natural elements.  At one point in time there were feathers, dried plowers, photos and mini-gourds – and of course, the elements change from time to time.  As a symbol of their reciprocal relationship with the natural world, there are “wonderful world” cards to take when leaving an item on either side of the altars.

The double Green Altar was advertised in the church newsletter, The Chalice and Chimes, and sometimes at services people were encouraged to add a little something to the altars.

The Green Sanctuary Committee wrote:
“This has been a simple and easy project, but very satisfying, and we think it has added to the atmosphere of the Sanctuary, giving it a green flavor… and draw comments from visitors.”

UUSB was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on December 8, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website.

Creating Benchmarks for Success

Paperwork.  Everyone hates paperwork.  Or at least everyone I know hates paperwork.  But we all have to do it sometimes.

One of the requirements to becoming a UUA Accredited Green Sanctuary is to file both a candidacy and an accreditation application.  Yes, though I loathe paperwork, I require people to fill it out on a regular basis.  When the UUA began to manage the Green Sanctuary Program we stream-lined the application process by requiring that people fill out standard candidacy and accreditation applications.  One might think that this meant that all applications would then begin to look the same – oh contraire!  Applications still look as unique as the congregations they come from.

Part of the application includes the “Action Plan” and then asks one to list

  • project title
  • project description
  • timeline for completion
  • lead

Generally people get the point and provide all the required information.  A while back, I came upon an application that really took the “timeline for completion” section very seriously.  For their larger projects they broke them down into smaller pieces and created what I now call “benchmarks for success.”  These mini-goals would ideally help the congregation stay on track, know when they’ve significant accomplishments (often times when we are in the midst of larger projects its hard to see that you’ve made any headway), and lead them to success.  This is something that I would have never have imagined would have come out of the “timeline for completion” and I am grateful to this congregation for inspiring me to come up with the idea of “benchmarks for success.” (more…)

Hayward Community Gardens + Starr King UU Church

Starr King UU Church in Hayward, CA partnered with Hayward Community Gardens to help low income immigrant families use plots to grow their food in a variety of ways.

One of the first ways that they got involved with Hayward Community Gardens was  Renee & Darryl Ray, Starr King members, taught a composting workshop on April 25, 2009 for the community gardens.  At the workshop they were able to give out water timers and 20 Biostack composting bins due to a donation from the City and  Interpreters were there for the Spanish speaking community.  Starr King also got donations of 150 tomato plants from a local organic farmer. Sandy Frost, a Hayward Community Garden board member and volunteer helped to organize the workshop as well as supplying a wonderful local food spread.  Because the workshop was so successful, it was offered again in May and August of 2009.

Starr King participated in two volunteer workdays in 2010.  The first workday they helped to measure each of the 200+ plots to help determine what each member should pay for their plots.  The second work day, strong workers helped to build big compost piles.  With manure donations, clipped leaves and branches from their property and bales of straw, workers built three compost piles. The compost has helped to enrich soil, save water and improve crops. (more…)

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

Arlington Community Garden started by UU Church of Jacksonville

Update from Lynne Paradise, COC Chair and Arlington Community Garden Project Manager, former Green Sanctuary Chair at UUCJ

“In October of 2009 the Green Sanctuary Committee of Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville (UUCJ) applied for a grant to build an organic vegetable garden for the Arlington Community at Tree Hill Nature Center. The application stated that UUCJ would build the garden, manage it with volunteers from the church, and offer both educational classes and fun community events in order to educate the community about the environmental importance of local/organic foods, teach interested individuals how to garden, and enhance the spirit of community in Arlington.

Tree Hill agreed to partner with us on this project offering the use of their land, water, and expertise.  Members of both Boards (UUCJ and Tree Hill) signed off on the project, and in March of 2010 we were told that we were being awarded a grant of $18,886 to achieve our goals. Everything, however, had to be completed in 6 months.

UUCJ rose to the challenge and everyone hit the deck running. Volunteers were recruited to manage the garden (“Garden Organizers”), to manage the grant and act as the garden Board (Garden Steering Committee), and a team of community advisors consisting of organizers of successfully operating community gardens and a landscape architect were tapped. Meetings took place at least weekly, often twice a week. By August of 2010 the garden was built and ready for business. A Grand Opening was held for the community that included several local dignitaries and reporters from The Times Union. At the ceremony the garden received an award of excellence from Slow Foods, an organization that educates the public about the importance of local foods and healthy eating. (more…)

SouthCoast Sustainable Cinema – UU Society of Fairhaven

The Green Sanctuary Group from the Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven (UUSF) and the Marion Institute have teamed up to sponsor a “South Coast Sustainable Cinema” film series this spring.

The South Coast Sustainable Cinema is set up to run every third Thursday of the month from January through June.  The goal is to turn individual passion and ideas into community-wide conversation and action.  Through the collaboration all films are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.  Doors open at 6:45pm and seating will be first come first served and free popcorn will be served.  The films will be shown either at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA or the Fairhaven Unitarian Memorial Church in Fairhaven, MA.

The kick-off film in January was Renewal hosted at UUSF. In the Fall of 2009 the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) Office of Congregational Stewardship Services (CSS) Green Sanctuary program shipped copies of the interfaith film Renewal and “Renewal: A Guide for Screening and Using the Documentary” to all UUA congregations free-of-charge, we are pleased to see that UUSF and the Marion Institute are making use of this resource. (more…)

Mt Vernon Church Breaks Ground for Net Zero Energy System on Winter Solstice

Press Release
Contact: Mary Paden at mepaden @

On the snow- patched lawn of Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church (MVUC), on the chilly afternoon a few hours before the church’s Winter Solstice celebration, Rev. Kate Walker, clad in black robes, bade a ceremonial goodbye to a black-draped rusted heating and air conditioning unit before a small crowd that included U.S. Rep. Jim Moran and State Sen. Toddy Puller.

Rev. Walker began by noting that the congregation had been kept “comfortable” for many years by an energy system that allowed coal miners to “die deep beneath the Earth, mountaintops to be torn apart, soils to wash into the sea, and streams to turn orange with acid and metals.”   She said the congregation has decided to enter a new world “where lives are not devalued and the Earth is respected.”

Turning to the unit, she said “Today, I offer these words for our old-world heating and air conditioning system: You have served your duty. But your time is up. We say ‘no more’ to what you represent. We created you in a time of need and we shall terminate you now for our needs have changed. We have created your replacement.”

Board of Trustees Chair Joan Darrah stepped forward to cover the unit in a tasseled black cloth, as Rev. Walker pronounced, “Your existence is over, as ours begins anew.”

With that, Rev. Walker and Ms. Darrah, broke ground for a new geothermal heating-cooling system, that together with solar panels, will allow MVUC’s 5,200 square foot meeting house to become a net zero user of energy from the grid by spring, possibly making it the first church in Virginia to do so.

As she took the shovel, Rev. Walker said, “May this represent the turning over to a new future of living our deepest values.” (more…)