According to the 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, to prevent increasingly catastrophic and irreversible trends, we must reduce global net emissions of carbon dioxide 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
UUA’s Green Sanctuary 2030: Mobilizing for Climate Justice
This “roadmap” provides a supported process for congregational transformation on climate. Established in 1989, this is the seventh iteration of the Green Sanctuary Program. Learn more about Green Sanctuary 2030 vision, mission, and outcomes.
Climate justice calls us to mitigate (reduce) the emissions that cause climate change, adapt to changing climate conditions, and increase resilience to worsening climate impacts through congregational transformation and community engagement. We must balance the urgency of the climate crisis with the need to center justice in our actions. Opening our minds and hearts to learn and collaborate with communities most impacted will ensure a just transition to a clean energy future where all can thrive.
Each congregation completes a Congregational Profile, performs a self-assessment, writes a plan, and completes projects across: Congregational Transformation, Mitigation, Adaptation/Resilience, and Justice.
Congregations are also encouraged to join other UU initiatives, as well as interfaith organizations. Examples of UU organizations dedicated to environmental / climate justice are:
Environmental Justice Practitioners Network (EJPN) is a community of practice for Unitarian Universalist environmental and climate justice leaders and community partners.
This is the 7th iteration of the Green Sanctuary Program since it began in 1989.
The climate-change crisis with Global Warming is the existential threat to the human species and the web of life. It is the urgent, overarching survival and justice issue of our time, calling us to impactful action now. In an era in which the call to dismantle racism could not be more clear, and when the COVID 19 pandemic stunningly highlights that systemic racism is inextricably bound (PDF) to climate degradation and injustice, Unitarian Universalist Faithful Response calls us to bring our individual and collective gifts together to act with bold, inspiring, collaborative, networked, and effective leadership to ensure a livable world for all descendants and create climate justice with those who are systemically oppressed.
Climate action and climate justice call us to mitigate (reduce) climate change, along with better adaptation (coping) and increasing resilience (ability to adapt) to increasingly disastrous climate impacts. It calls us to balance urgency with open minds and hearts to learn and collaborate with communities most impacted. The result will be a difficult but creative and exciting transition to a clean renewable world with opportunity, survivability and justice for all, now and for future generations.
The 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit galvanized people of color who have led work addressing environmental and economic justice and health issues as basic civil and human rights as delineated by the Principles of Environmental Justice.The UN Sustainable Development Goals (PDF) comprise a general framework, making clear that climate action is intersectional, addressing justice issues including poverty, hunger and inequality.
Many UUs are already leaders in the forefront of climate action. This 2020 edition of UUA Green Sanctuary (GS) calls for a much more widely shared level of UU congregational climate action and climate engagement, infused with spirit and passion to join others in climate action and justice. GS provides a path that offers the gift of transformation to congregations. It begins with spiritually grounded depth and moves the whole congregation through a continuous spiral of awareness and commitment, resulting in transformed congregational life and courageous, ongoing climate action.
With optimism to move forward, courage to confront obstacles, and persistence to address the present and increasing impacts of climate change, we UU’s can faithfully respond to the urgency of this moment and live our values.
A world that is sustainable and just for humanity and for the whole of the web of life, including present and future generations.
A Unitarian Universalist culture that is characterized by bold, collaborative, urgent, effective, action to mitigate the climate crisis, build resilience and adaption to climate change, and secure environmental and climate justice.
Green Sanctuary provides structure, leadership and support, in broad collaboration, for the UU faith community to engage in an ambitious environmental and climate justice movement that seeks to live fully our seventh and eighth principles and achieve our vision of a sustainable and just world for all.
UU congregations have the knowledge, resources, and support to engage in an ambitious climate-action and Environmental Justice /Climate Justice movements that seek to honor the interconnected web of life and achieve our vision of a viable and just world for all.
All congregations are invited to use this program whether or not they are interested in Green Sanctuary accreditation or reaccreditation. If accreditation or reaccreditation is desired, the congregation must document its assessment, action plans, and impacts of significantly increased participation for campaigns to meet the following three intersectional goals.
MITIGATION is action to reduce the causes of global warming. Mitigation is essential for climate justice and a livable future with fewer disastrous climate impacts. Mitigation to accomplish a livable and just world needs to reduce global net carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and to near zero by mid-century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Robust mitigation will reduce the risks of severe climate impacts and make possible a transition to a sustainable future for all.
To meet this goal, after determining the baseline carbon footprint at the beginning of the Green Sanctuary process, the congregation must describe and implement a combination of strategies aiming toward or exceeding the IPCC targets of a 45% reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. Congregations should determine the actions that will have the greatest impact - which will likely include a combination of the congregation, the wider community, state and/or the world. Engagement in meaningful and ongoing civic action advocating mitigation is required. Read some examples of mitigation activities (Word, 3 pages).
Adaptation is the process of (a) reducing vulnerabilities to the harmful effects of climate change (b) making the most of potentially beneficial opportunities associated with positive responses to the crisis. Resilience is the capacity to maintain function in the face of external stresses created by the climate-change crisis.
To meet this goal, building upon the assessment of the congregation’s knowledge and commitment, the congregation must plan and implement an accumulation of actions and experiences that transform the culture of the congregation, creating a foundation for long-term response to climate crisis.
Adaptation: similar to the aforementioned work in the community, congregations should address their own adaptation to increasingly severe climate conditions and weather events as applicable.
Resilience: The plan should provide climate-focused educational and spiritual content to worship services, religious education and congregational life. The intended impact is twofold: greater awareness of the climate-change realities we are facing and will continue to face, and the spiritual grounding in Unitarian Universalist values that is needed to inspire and sustain congregants to engage in the long haul of climate justice work.
In addition to their congregational plan, Green Sanctuary candidates must choose one or both of the following systems as part of their Adaptation/Resilience campaign:
Natural Systems Adaptation/Resilience:
Congregations identify a local or regional ecosystem endangered or impacted by existing and intensifying climate change. After assessing the current status, the congregation initiates actions or collaborates with existing groups that seek to increase the ecosystem’s capacity to withstand climate change, and documents results.
Human Systems Adaptation/Resilience:
Congregations identify a local or regional human community endangered or impacted by existing and intensifying climate change. After assessing the current status, the congregation initiates actions or collaborates with existing groups that seek to increase this community’s capacity to withstand climate change. Examples of this would be addressing disaster preparedness and response and recovery. If this work is done in collaboration with a front-line community, this could also count toward the justice goal, see below. Congregations are encouraged to select actions that will enable them to submit measurable results in their application for accreditation.
Working in partnership with communities who experience and confront the reality that the greatest impacts of the climate crisis are disproportionately imposed on those (a) historically oppressed and least responsible for the crisis (b) with the fewest resources with which to face the crisis while already under environmental stresses, and (c) future generations. These communities are sometimes referred to as front-line, vulnerable or marginalized.
To meet this goal, congregations will deepen or expand an existing collaborative relationship or form a new partnership with a front-line community or front-line led organization that is battling the effects of climate change and the economic and political systems that sustain climate injustice. In their application congregations describe the process of building and strengthening that relationship and identify the primary focus of the group. Because the focus of this work must address the priority of the collaborating group, the project might be described as part of the campaigns that address mitigation or adaptation/resilience. Congregations will provide a statement of intended long-term impacts resulting from the partnership (including impact on the congregation) and they will describe the practical steps for action identified in collaboration with their partners. When the plan has been implemented, congregations document actions taken and resulting actual impacts. If it is not imposing on their time and/or capacity, partners from front-line groups and communities could be invited to provide feedback and assessments, if they wish.
For congregations who wish Green Sanctuary accreditation, the Green Sanctuary program guides them through a process of education, opportunity assessment, and discernment that produces an action plan composed of activities and projects for campaigns that address the above three goals. It must include some form of activism/civic action. The plan must also describe intended impacts and measures of success.
Along the way, Green Sanctuary teams have available to them information on this site and support from staff and volunteers (all congregations are invited to use these resources whether or not they are interested in Green Sanctuary accreditation or reaccreditation). There are suggested educational resources, assessment templates and multiple examples of successful plans which will provide teams both inspiration and a clearer understanding of what is required.
Congregations have a good deal of flexibility in making their plans and are encouraged to select activities and projects that best suit the context of their own congregation and surrounding community. Plans will be reviewed by staff and the volunteer Green Sanctuary Review Team, who offer feedback in order to ensure that the plan is sufficiently robust and that the congregation is on the road to accreditation.
Accreditation is achieved when the plan has been implemented and the congregation submits a final report describing and documenting the extent to which the intended impacts have been achieved. This typically takes two to four years and is intended to transform congregations by creating new structures for long-term congregational engagement in climate justice work.
For reaccreditation, the congregation assesses what they have accomplished since they received accreditation and where they are at the point of starting this current cycle of work, then creates an a action plan that includes either new or significantly deeper work with each of the three goals (mitigation, adaptation/resilience, justice) as well as significant activism/civic action. The plan will be reviewed by a Review Team and reaccreditation will be achieved when the plan is accomplished, and a final report describing and documenting the extent to which the intended impacts have been achieved.
The Green Sanctuary program is done in five stages.
Team Building and Congregational Education: A Green Sanctuary Team forms and educates itself and the congregation about the program. The Team starts its application process by submitting the Congregational Profile
Opportunity Assessment : The Green Sanctuary team ascertains what is currently happening in various aspects of congregational life and its community, including calculating the congregation’s carbon footprint. The Opportunity Assessment is submitted to Green Sanctuary via the online application for review and feedback. The Assessment becomes the core of the Action Plan. Congregations find it helpful to review the Guidelines for Opportunity Assessment first.
Action Plan : Based on the assessment results, the Green Sanctuary team designs campaigns with projects that address the goals of carbon mitigation, adaptation/resilience, and justice and includes some form of civic action/activism. Action Plan is submitted to the Green Sanctuary Program staff, who give feedback and suggest any necessary modifications to the Plan. Congregations find it helpful to review Guidelines to Action Plan first.
Final Report: The congregation implements the Action Plan and reports on the results in an online template where it will be reviewed and approved for accreditation/reaccreditation, or returned with comments suggesting what else needs to be done. Please review Guidelines to the Final Report for assistance.
Accreditation or Reaccreditation: Once approved the final report will become a public document for information sharing across congregations and organizations.
In this stage, you’ll (1) create a Green Sanctuary team and charter, and (2) educate and engage your congregation around the Green Sanctuary process.
Also, when the team is ready, create a congregational account on Create Climate Justice.
There you will fill out and submit “Congregational Profile”. Once submitted, your team will receive all important communications and will be invited to become part of a supported cohort of congregations doing similar work. Download the profile template.
Sometimes the Green Sanctuary Team forms first, then educates the Board and the congregation; other times an exploratory group brings the program to the Board, and the Board charters a Green Team. In addition, for congregations in which the minister is responsible for programs to enact Vision and Mission, it may be the minister or ministerial team that will determine the process. The team’s formation should reflect how your congregation does its best work.
The team could be an Executive Team that coordinates the work of many sub-groups; a committee composed of the chair of every other committee; or a team of two or three Board-approved people charged with coordinating congregational activities and the application process. The size of the Green Sanctuary team will depend on the process or governance that works best in your congregation.
The purpose of this team is to manage the entire process. The Green Sanctuary team could be called a committee, ministry, or whatever term is customary in your congregation. The team can invite the possibility that climate change work be suffused with a UU sense of possibility, love and celebration of life, and understanding and strategy deeply rooted in the intersection of race, class and climate. In other words, the team can bring a UU Faithful Response to the urgency of this climate crisis.
Present to the Board: Typically, the initial organizers make a presentation to the congregation’s Board of Trustees (or other governing body) explaining what the Green Sanctuary program is, and its benefit to the congregation. If the board members agree the idea has merit, they authorize the group to start a Green Sanctuary program.
If your congregation operates under Policy Governance, the direction for this work will come in partnership with the Executive staff team (Minister, Justice Minister, Religious Education [RE] Director, etc.). Find suggestions about this here.
At this point, it is likely that only a small number of people are aware the Green Sanctuary program started. However, the process cannot be successful or meaningful without the participation of the entire congregation.
The purpose of conducting an opportunity assessment is to enable the congregation to identify and describe opportunities and challenges to achieving the greatest impacts with respect to:
The assessment gathers descriptions and data which guide development of an action plan to achieve those impacts and engage in that collaborative work. It also establishes baselines, which make it possible to measure and describe the impacts and results of the congregation’s Green Sanctuary efforts.
Each section of the Opportunity Assessment has two parts: Gathering Information and Discussion. The former poses questions about your congregation’s current environmental practices and context. The Discussion questions give you a chance to do some initial analysis of the data you have collected and some reflection about possible ways forward. Think of them as a guideline more than a prescription - you may encounter issues not listed here, or find you need more specificity in some areas. The objective is to think as broadly as possible, eventually targeting specific issues as you learn. Not every item will be relevant to your congregation; be selective, spending time and resources where it matters most. Remember, too, that the purpose of the assessment is to document where you are right now so you can plan how to move forward. Focus on what your congregation is actually doing, not what you’ve talked about, or think you “should” do. Don’t worry about whether your current practices are “good enough.” No matter where you are starting from, the Green Sanctuary program will give your congregation the opportunity to grow.
Once you have completed your information-gathering and your analysis, the Opportunity Assessment is submitted to the Green Sanctuary Review Team for feedback. We strongly suggest that you make use of the Opportunity Assessment Guidelines before you submit your Assessment and include it with your Assessment. They will help you determine if you have collected enough data to create campaigns with significant impact, which is the goal of Green Sanctuary accreditation.
The next step will be to use the feedback from the Review Team to create an Action Plan, where you will design three campaigns (one each for mitigation, adaptation/resilience, and justice) that make sense for your congregation’s circumstances and passions. These campaigns- a combination of education activities, projects, and civic action- will be the heart of your work towards congregational transformation and Green Sanctuary accreditation.
The goal of this Action Plan is to chart your intended strategies in each of the three campaigns (Mitigation, Adaptation/Resilience, and Justice). Once you submit your plan, the review team will offer feedback and suggestions using the Action Plan Guidelines (Impactful, Needs Improvement, Missing). The GS 2030 program does not require a specific number of component projects within each campaign. It is up to the congregation to create campaigns that achieve the intended impacts on the road to congregational transformation and climate sustainability and justice.
MITIGATION is action to reduce the causes of the global warming trend of climate change. Mitigation is essential for climate justice. Robust mitigation will reduce the risks of severe ,climate impacts and make possible a transition to a sustainable and just future for all. Mitigation action needs to reduce global net carbon emissions by around 45% by 2030 and to near zero by mid-century, according to scientific analysis in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.
Please state in brief the findings in your opportunity assessment on which this campaign is based. If it makes more sense to list the opportunity assessments connected to each component project, feel free to do that.
For each component project within your campaign list
ADAPTATION AND RESILIENCE - Adaptation is the process of (a) reducing vulnerabilities to the harmful effects of climate change (b) making the most of potentially beneficial opportunities associated with positive responses to the crisis. Resilience is the capacity to maintain function in the face of external stresses created by the climate-change crisis.
For each component project within your campaign:
JUSTICE: Working in partnership with communities who experience and confront the reality that the greatest impacts of the climate crisis are disproportionately imposed on those (a) historically oppressed and least responsible for the crisis (b) with the fewest resources with which to face the crisis while already under environmental stresses, and (c) future generations. These communities are sometimes referred to as front-line, vulnerable or marginalized.
Please state in brief the findings in your opportunity assessment on which this campaign is based. If it makes more sense to you to list the opportunity assessments connected to each component project, please feel free to do that.
For each component project within your campaign:
Approximately 30% of Unitarian Universalist congregations are fully accredited Green Sanctuaries. This list reflects all known Accredited and Re-Accredited congregations, and those that have achieved Candidate status in the last five years (2012-2020).