Environmental curriculum for congregations ready

The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth has created a five-session environmental justice curriculum. Called “Our Place in the Web of Life,” the curriculum was developed to help congregations meet the environmental justice requirement of the Green Sanctuary program. It provides an introduction to environmental justice concepts and a process to identify community needs so that a congregation can develop a local justice project.

The curriculum also emphasizes racial and ethnic relationships in doing environmental justice work. It is available as a free download from the UUMFE website. The curriculum was designed by Dr. Mark Hicks of the Meadville Lombard Theological School and Pamela Starr, environmental justice consultant.

UUMFE, an independent affiliate of the UUA, supports congregations in environmental justice work, including Earth Day activities and providing environmental resources for religious education and worship.

Energy Star now includes houses of worship

The Energy Star program, a voluntary labeling program for energy-efficient products, has been expanded to cover houses of worship.

Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Other areas it covers include computers, office equipment, residential heating and cooling units, lighting, new homes, and commercial and industrial buildings.

Two early recipients are the UU Congregation of Atlanta and First Parish in Needham, Mass. The Atlanta congregation is the first one in Georgia to receive the Energy Star designation. First Parish is the first house of worship in New England to be so designated. Advocates suggest that many congregations can cut energy costs by up to 30 percent with more efficient equipment, facility improvements and maintenance.

Find out more at the UUA’s Green Sanctuary blog and at Energy Star for Congregations.

Congregations reduce energy use

Several Unitarian Universalist congregations have recently made environmental improvements that have allowed them to reduce their energy consumption.

  • The UU Church at Washington Crossing in Titusville, N.J., installed solar panels, which are generating about 90 percent of the electricity needed by the congregation. The system is expected to pay for itself in about four years.
  • The UU Community Church of Santa Monica, Calif., was honored by the city for making energy improvements that decreased its electrical bill by 9 percent. It also added cisterns to its property to reduce pollution runoff.
  • Cedar Lane UU Church in Bethesda, Md., is making efforts to reduce energy and paper use, including using permanent rather than disposable dinnerware. The church earns money from selling recycled ink cartridges.
  • The UU Congregation of Atlanta has adopted a “Sustainable Living Initiative,” which helps members weatherize their homes and encourages everyone to live more sustainably. It is working on a Buying Club to make green products more affordable to everyone.

Stories about these and other congregations are on the Green Sanctuary blog of the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship Office.

Environmental justice stories and resources from the UUA

Stories about the work that congregations are doing in the area of environmental justice and new resources that they can use in that work are now on UUA.org. Environmental justice is the newest category of congregational stories on the Congregational Life webpage at UUA.org.

The stories highlight the work of Green Sanctuary congregations. Robin Nelson, program manager for the Green Sanctuary program, which is administered through the Congregational Stewardship Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association, will be posting monthly environmental justice articles to the page. Send stories to Nelson at  greensanctuary@uua.org.

The Green Sanctuary program invites congregations to develop projects and activities that are focused on care for the earth. There are currently 214 congregations participating in the Green Sanctuary program, which began in 2002.

Here are other environmental justice resources from the UUA:

• All congregations received a copy of the film Renewal and a viewing guide in September. This documentary, composed of eight stories of various faith communities engaged in environmental work, could be included in a congregational film series, used to start an interfaith discussion or as part of a worship service, and to inspire interest in the Green Sanctuary program. If your congregation did not get a copy, email greensanctuary@uua.org.

• The 120-page Green Sanctuary manual is available online, as are reviews of green books and films.

• Information on the International Day of Climate Change, October 24, in which many UU congregations are participating, is also online.