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.

What’s all this talk about food?

If you went to the UUA’s General Assembly in Charlotte, NC last year you may have been present for (or watched via live-streaming) the heart-felt debate and vote for the 2011 Statement on Conscious Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice.

If you’re involved in Unitarian Universalist Association issues you may have been aware of th3 2008-2012 Congregational Study Action Issue: Ethical Eating.

If you’ve been in the market for food you may have seen an increase in “CSAs,” “farmers markets,” “organic gardens,” “community gardens,” “sustainable gardens” etc.

If you’ve been to a store you may have noticed the increase of “sustainable,” “organic,” “green,” “natural,” “GMO-free,” etc products.

Or maybe you’ve just recognized that people are talking about food a lot more today than they were say 10-20 years ago.  Saturday, the New York Times published the article “The Myth of Sustainable Meat.”

So the topic of food seems to be everywhere. Yes, we eat everyday, and I’d contend that most of people in the middle-to-upper class in the USA did little thinking about how the food they ate everyday affected others. Climate Change is impacting our planet’s ability to produce food and there are a whole other list of issues that are impacting the World’s Food Economy.

Rev. Peter Morales, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s President, has appointed a President’s Advisory Council on Ethical Eating.  This appointment demonstrates a commitment on the part of the UUA to follow-through with the SOC: Ethical Eating.  I highly encourage folks to check out the Ethical Eating website on UUA.org to learn more about the community the that is flowing from this creation and our continued dedication to this important subject.

If you’ve exhausted the resources on the Ethical Eating website and want to bring the subject back to your congregation you may want to investigate using one of the Nortwest Earth Institute‘s discussion courses: Hungry for Change and Menu for the Future.  While Hungry for Change is a newer curriculum, Menu for the Future has been used over the past several years by many UU congregations.  These curricula are helpful in educating people to thoughtfully about Ethical Eating.

This year Earth Day falls on Sunday, April 22nd.  If your congregation is planning on celebrating Earth Day please consider reporting your community’s action to the UU Ministry for Earth


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

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.


The Great Turning – Film Review

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
David Korten (Actor), Robin Mallgren (Director) 2006

This movie provides a whirlwind overview of the multiple socio-political-economic strands feeding into the tangled knot of environmental destruction and looming oil crisis we are leaving for our children and grandchildren.  David Korten makes the case that largely the knot is tangled by the stories we tell about who we are as a species, how we do business, and what political structures best ensure our survival.  The most tragic part of these stories is that they may actually run counter to our survival as a species. By changing our stories we can change the way we approach each other and how we do business, which will ultimately increase our chances of survival.

As I approach the end of a master’s in sustainable communities, I can attest to the truth in Korten’s reasoning.  Because this is an overview, he doesn’t lay out in a way that will convince the unconverted.  However, the areas where he is less than convincing may entice viewers to conduct a bit of research on their own. I would suggest holding a discussion group after this movie so that you have an opportunity to assess the group for any frustrations with those limitations, and bring them around to a place of curiosity instead.

The extremely positive conclusion at the end is Korten’s focus on the solution, which again finds strong support in the world of sustainability: we must forge community where we are, and find common ground with our neighbors.  We cannot rely upon governmental bodies or corporate entities to make decisions that are in our best interest.  Instead, we must join together one relationship at a time to create a strong community that shares a vision of a more just and sustainable world.

I have yet to read his book, which I hear is fabulous.  I can envision this movie being the lure that sparks interest in forming a book group that delves deeper into the questions raised. If you’re interested in reading the book, which goes into greater detail, the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economy page can provide you with information on how to order a packet including the book, CD of David Korten’s slides from General Assembly 2006, and supplemental materials.

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

The Story of UUCF’s Certification as a Green Sanctuary

After a congregation has achieved Green Sanctuary Accreditation I always encourage them to “begin to assemble a “scrapbook” which shares information about your Green Sanctuary movement – congregations create these in many different way; some use their applications, some include orders of service, newsletter columns, fliers about special events, and pictures, some write storybooks about the journey, and some come up with new ideas that we’ve never seen before.”

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick took this task to heart.  Sandi Smith-Gill sent me an email encouraging me to take a look at the “just finished Green Sanctuary pictoral history – which started as a project to send for the reception at the GA, but ended up taking 3 months to finish.”  I opened their scrapbook and was impressed by the amount of time and effort that was put into pulling it together.  I was equally impressed with how well they did at sharing lots of information and showing that lots of people from the congregation had been involved in the project.

I don’t expect all scrapbooks to look like this, each is individual and unique.  And I encourage you to look at what they’ve done for inspiration for projects as well as what a scrapbook might look like.  I have a feeling that the UU Congregation of Frederick will have a printed version of this book in their congregation for many, many years.

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).