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Environmental Justice Overview: the Green Sanctuary Program

What is it?

Environmental justice (EJ) acknowledges that marginalized communities are often hit first and hardest by environmental crisis. Beyond this, it bases analysis and action on an assumption that oppression of the environment is intricately linked to oppression of different groups of people. This list of elements / principles (PDF) further clarifies how the Green Sanctuary Program understands environmental justice.

Doing environmental work guided by these elements shifts us beyond providing assistance, to thinking and working with negatively impacted communities. Some Unitarian Universalists (UUs) refer to this as a culture shift from “charity to solidarity”.

Because of its foundational orientation, environmental justice work should be integrated into your entire Green Sanctuary Action Plan, so it is important to be aware of its implications early on in the process.

There are four phases to the work with an environmental justice focus.

Develop Environmental Justice (EJ) Action Plan

Congregations are required to plan and implement only one environmental justice project, which consists of various components, various action steps that build on each other. One-time events do not qualify.   

See the checklist for a list of criteria and guiding questions. Make sure you use the check list that is appropriate for you (use either candidate or re-accreditation checklist, and the “GS Team” form of each. The Review Team forms are available for your review, but you are not required to respond in writing.)

Implement EJ Action Plan

For all levels of Certification, Congregations are required to plan and implement only one environmental justice project, which consists of various components, various action steps that build on each other.  We anticipate that the project will take a significant amount of time, such as a year or more. One-time events do not qualify.  

As you implement the environmental justice components of your action plan, you may need to revise certain aspects to adjust to changing conditions or new insights you gain.  Please take note of this for reporting purposes.  Also, please make sure everyone is aware of how you will evaluate each major piece of your project before you begin because that will make it much easier to keep track of things. We are interested in both the tangible and not so tangible impacts it has on your congregation, your neighborhood and your larger community.

Your projects must demonstrate that they are based on an analysis of the intersections of race, class, gender and other oppressions that are at work in the symptoms, or root causes of the problem addressed, or in a project designed to take advantage of a particular opportunity or strength in the community.  Congregations are strongly encouraged to develop projects in consultation with affected communities and in partnership with other congregations and/or community groups.

You will be asked to use some of your research and analysis gathered in Phase #1 to provide background documentation for your proposed environmental justice project.  You will be asked to describe the environmental, economic, social, political, cultural, spiritual and emotional dynamics that perpetuate the situation you are trying to address, or are at play in the opportunity you want to take advantage of. You will be asked who will benefit from your project and who will be driving the decision-making in designing and implementing the project.

Evaluate EJ Action Plan

Your Green Sanctuary review team will be using checklists as they read through your report. This can serve as a helpful guide in both formulating your plan as well as writing your report.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your coach or Green Sanctuary staff.

For more information contact uua_greensanctuary@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

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