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!

How to form a Green Team

Amanda Yaira Robinson, Texas Interfaith Power & Light (TXIPL) Coordinator recently contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to lead a conference call for TXIPL on “How to form a Green Team in Your Congregation.”  Having worked with many  UU congregations through the Green Sanctuary Program, I was more than happy to share what I’ve learned along the way. Afterall, the point of my job is to help inspire and create a greener faith community and world.

Wednesday, January 25th I joined the TXIPL monthly conference call and shared some of the things I’ve learned over the last 4 years.  Take a look at the notes from the call for ideas on how to get a Green Team started in your house of worship! And if you want to know more listen to the call recording.

Thanks to Amanda for providing me with this opportunity to share UU experiences with environmental work to the greater faith community!

UU Church of Palo Alto readies solar panels

In their December 2006 Green Sanctuary Candidacy Application the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA) decided to raise money to pay for the increased cost of purchasing green electric power.
Also during that time they had congregation members writing carbon dioxide reduction pledges on colorful plastic leaves and hanging them on a small madrone tree in their courtyard. Now that the total pounds of CO2 saved is just under 100,000 the leaves are displayed on their bulletin board.
UUCPA is taking their green energy a step further; instead of buying green energy, they are going to make green energy.  UUCPA has installed new solar panels that they are ready to turn-on once the city of Palo Alto gives them the go-ahead.  The solar panels are on the roofs of two walkways, facing SE and SW. They will produce up to 12,000 watts.  We wish them good luck and hope they get the approval soon!UUCPA became an accredited Green Sanctuary on September 9, 2009.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now!

Interfaith Power and Light – A Religious Response to Global Warming is one of the many organizations that the Green Sanctuary Program encourages congregations to become involved with.

They do impressive work and we are proud to support it.  Today I was looking on their webpage and found “10 Things You Can Do Right Now!“.  You can check it out for yourself – its what we’ve been encouraging all along.

Some notable “things” are:

  • conduct a home energy audit
  • be an Energy Star congregation
  • stay informed.

Do you have other things that you would add to a list of “Things You Can Do Right Now”?

“Going Green Beyond Belief”

At General Assembly on Sunday, June 26th UUA President Peter Morales presented an short oral response to the 2011 Green Revolution in Religion Business Resolution.

Attendees were given bookmarks.  The front had the “Going Green Beyond Belief” logo and this quote about Environmental Justice:
“Despite the diversity of backgrounds and approaches, the environmental justice movement united around three ideas:

  • environmental problems are intimately entwined with social problems;
  • the current environmental framework exacerbates both environmental and social problems;
  • and the environmental establishment has neglected these relationships, in part, because of their elitism and exclusive practices.”                                                                                                                                        — Eileen McGurty

The back directed folks to go read the full report

“Going Green Beyond Belief”
The UUA President’s report
in response to the 2010
Green Revolution in
Religion Business Resolution

I encourage you read the full report.

Green Sanctuary at 50th Annual General Assembly

It’s that time of year again!  Soon thousands of UUs will be descending upon Charlotte, NC for the UUA’s 50th General Assembly.

General Assembly, GA, is our yearly meeting of congregations where we come together “to take part in the governance of our Association, to build together a vision for its future, to learn from each other, to work, talk, play, and imagine together, to grow together” (from the opening of the General Assembly Program 2010).

The Green Sanctuary program traditionally has a presence at GA. Robin Nelson (soon-to-be Environmental Stewardship Director, for Congregational Stewardship Services) will be attending, leading workshops, meeting with leaders, hostessing a Green Sanctuary Reception, co-leading a Plenary Chalice Lighting, staffing “the booth”, and available at GA.

For a listing of all of environmentally-related offerings at GA:

  • check out the Environmental Justice Programming on page 8 of the Program. (This includes the Green Sanctuary workshop)
  • check out our ad on page 66 of the Program.

The Green Sanctuary Program falls under the portfolio of Congregational Stewardship Services which is part of the larger Staff Group called Congregational Life.  As such, I will be in the Congregational Life “booth” #721 in the Exhibit Hall.  If you have questions for us you can stop by “the booth” and leave a message for me and I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as we can.

See you at GA!

Connecting the Strands of the Interdependent Web

Recently a friend shared a story about a failed effort to establish composting on her campus.  The students behind the effort met with administration and got approval for the compost pile, then proceeded to contribute organic matter.  Shortly thereafter, the Buildings and Grounds team, not knowing what it was, bulldozed the pile.

Another friend told me about trying to start a Green Sanctuary team at his very environmentally conscious church.  He did a sermon on the topic, hoping for a bevy of volunteers, but never heard a peep.

What is the take home lesson in these stories?  To paraphrase Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  And not just communicate, but communicate deeply and personally about things that matter. In grassroots community organizing this communication takes place in the context of a relational meeting.  While you may not think of yourself as a community organizer because you’re not doing political work, make no mistake about it: every congregation is a community in need of some organizing!

You can learn a lot by spending 30-45 minutes in deep conversation with someone exploring her or his motivations for participation on a particular committee or your church in general.  In relation to Green Sanctuaries, you have the opportunity to learn not only whether or not the people you meet with are passionate environmentalists, but what other community groups they may be involved in and what skills they may possess that they may contribute to your project in the future. And best of all, you can learn how your Green Sanctuaries projects may meet their needs, too, which will help you gain support and make recruiting volunteers a cinch! (more…)

Easing into Green

I’m pretty excited about my Green Sanctuaries Internship, so naturally I talk about it to anyone who will listen.  I’m a student at Andover Newton Theological School, with an audience of future ministers so I am of course hoping that this is good PR for the program, too, and not just idle conversation.  The other day a friend said she thought it was unlikely her church would ever participate because it was too hard: “Don’t you have to be carbon neutral and get solar panels and things like that?”

As it turns out, that’s not the case at all.  If you’re interested in the Green Sanctuaries program, please know that this program can work for you whether your church has yet to begin recycling or whether your congregation is the epitome of sustainability.  All you have to do is take a few steps toward sustainability, a few carefully planned and implemented steps.

This project, like any other effort at behavior change, will work best if you aim for a change that feels significant, but isn’t so large as to feel out of reach.  Below are some ideas of beginning and intermediate level projects to get your creative juices flowing:

Examples of possible Worship and Celebration projects: (Two required)

  • Any increase in environmentally themed services. Some churches are not doing any, so they begin by adding an Earth Day service.  Others already have 1-2, and commit to doing 6.
  • Earth Day celebration with booths educating people about environmentally sound practices.
  • Committing to one environmentally-themed reading or hymn during service every month.
  • Any increase counts!


Missed the EnergyStar webinar? Watch it on your own time.

On Monday, May 16, 2011 the UUA and EnergyStar hosted a webinar specifically for UU congregations called “Green Sanctuaries and Portfolio Manager for Congregations.”

The training introduced congregations to the EnergyStar for Congregations Portfolio Manager.  The UUA is encouraging all congregations, especially Green Sanctuary involved congregations, to join EnergyStar for Congregations.

The webinar focused on one of the most useful tools that they have the Portfolio Manager.  It can benefit your congregation in many ways including:
*Managing of Energy and Water Consumption for All Buildings
*Rating Your Building’s Energy Performance (versus other similar buildings)
*Estimating Your Carbon Footprint
*Setting Investment Priorities
*Verifying and Tracking Progress of Improvement Projects
*Gaining EPA Recognition (like the UU Congregation of Atlanta and First Parish in Needham)

To watch the recorded session of the UUA and EnergyStar webinar go to https://energystar.webex.com/energystar/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=TC&rID=48233262&rKey=41c4df31afe679bc&act=pb

The Data Collection Worksheet and the Quick Reference Guide mentioned in the recorded session are useful tools for getting started with the Portfolio Manager.