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Unitarian Universalists Take 40-Day Pledge for Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary
Unitarian Universalists Take 40-Day Pledge for Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary

Unitarian Universalists are extending Earth Day’s fortieth anniversary (April 22, 2010) to last 40 days, as part of a “40/40/40 for the Earth!” campaign. Unitarian Universalists in over twenty states rose to take a “40/40/40 Pledge,” each making 40-day commitments to behavioral changes for the sake of the Earth and environmental justice. Congregations with 40 members participating receive special recognition from the denomination’s “Food and Environmental Justice Core Team.

“The fortieth anniversary of Earth Day has inspired us to try out green lifestyle changes we believe in, but had not yet adopted” said Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh, minister in Winchester, Massachusetts, and chair of the team. “Unitarian Universalists are trying to better live out our respect for the planet and all who live on it through our consumer choices and daily actions.”

Congregations are coordinating their festivities by using a blog and Facebook page to swap stories, accomplishments, and challenges. “We’re trying to learn from one another about personal food choices with positive global impacts,” said Rowan Van Ness of the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth. “We’re still choosing food based on nutrition, tradition, taste, and price tag. But we’re beginning to also ask what’s fair, humane, and better for the planet.”

Each congregational participant will make his or her own personal commitment. Some will give up drinking from plastic water bottles. Some will switch to organics or try vegetarianism. Some will adopt new customs around the family table, and some will even lobby local, state, and national legislatures through phone calls and letter campaigns.

In addition to individual commitments, more than eighty congregations (PDF) are leading Ethical Eating projects and on-going programs. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Bridgeport in Stratford, Connecticut, planned an entire calendar of events and activities for the 40/40/40 celebration. The UU Congregation at Rock Tavern in New York will clean up trash in local wetlands, including a portion that flows through one of the few remaining dairy farms in the region which produces and sells milk locally.  They’ll top off the event with a community potluck and they plan to continue with discussions on dairy production issues later in the year. The Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Virginia will follow their Earth Day service with tastings from the “Cooking—All Things Considered” class.

“Religious communities have an obligation to take action now for the future of the planet and humanity, especially the poorest and most vulnerable,” said UUA President Rev. Peter Morales. “The challenge is daunting. But we must have faith that a healthy future for our planet and for all its people is still possible, provided that we make the major changes that are now absolutely necessary. We owe nothing less to one another and to future generations.”

Eliza Burns, a student at Smith College, says that young adults are particularly excited about the campaign. “We’re invested in building a just and sustainable world, and it’s exciting to ask ourselves about what next steps we can take individually and as a collective. What’s been in the back of your mind to try out that you haven’t tried out yet? Who can you get on board to try it with you? Doing this in community adds another layer of power and meaning.”

Many Unitarian Universalists will keep daily personal blogs about experiences. After the 40 days, participants will gather to share stories of what worked well and what did not, how their perspectives changed, and what might come next.

“We’re learning so much from each other in our own congregations and across the continent, there has already been talk of a 41/41/41 campaign next year” said Millspaugh. “Maybe we won’t have to wait three centuries to practice justice and environmental responsibility 365 days a year.”

Please visit the 40/40/40 campaign page for additional press materials, including background information, releases, and links to recent coverage.

The Unitarian Universalist Association is a faith community of more than 1,000 self-governing congregations that bring to the world a vision of religious freedom, tolerance and social justice.

The UUA has supported environmental protection for over forty years. Our association voted in 2006 for a Statement of Conscience on the Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change acknowledging the danger of global warming and pledging to take action, and in 2008 for a Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice acknowledging the worldwide implications of our food choices and pledging to take action.

Congregations in AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, IO, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, Canada, and Cuba, have registered their participation in the 40/40/40 campaign, and many others are participating but have not yet registered.

The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for the Earth organization has worked closely with Unitarian Universalist congregations around the country to promote participation in the 40/40/40 for the Earth! campaign.

For more information on the UUA, including recent press releases and news articles, please visit our online press room.


Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh, Chair
Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice Core Team
Winchester, MA
(781) 835-9422 (cell)
jmillspaugh [at] uuma [dot] org (jmillspaugh @

Rowan Van Ness, Program Associate for Environmental Justice
Unitarian Universalist Ministry for the Earth
Washington, DC
(202) 393-2255 x22 (office)
(425) 238-5476 (cell)

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