Pre-2020 Green Sanctuary Program Introduction

Part of Green Sanctuary

Note: This is the Pre-2020 Program Introduction. Read the current program introduction.

Created in 1989, the Green Sanctuary program is a path for congregational study, reflection, and action in response to environmental challenges. It provides a structure for congregations to examine their current environmental impacts and move towards more sustainable practices grounded in Unitarian Universalism.

To date, 254 or 25% of Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations have achieved Green Sanctuary accreditation, with another 70 in process. They support one another as they strive to embody environmentally just principles and improve the condition of our planet.

Each congregation performs a self-assessment, writes a plan, and completes several projects across four focus areas: Environmental Justice, Worship and Celebration, Religious Education, and Sustainable Living. The goal is to engage a two to three year process of bringing congregational culture into greater alignment with environmentally aware faith and practices. Green Sanctuary accreditation is a formal recognition of a congregation’s service and dedication to the Earth.

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Goals of the Green Sanctuary Program

More than a study curriculum, Green Sanctuary is a way for congregations to educate themselves on environmental issues and take part in transformational activities designed with several goals in mind. The Green Sanctuary Program seeks to:

  1. Deepen ties to UU faith and the seventh principle, bringing congregational culture into greater alignment with environmentally sustainable practices.
  2. Empower congregations, families, and individuals to embrace and integrate effective stewardship of the Earth into their daily lives.
  3. Grow the environmental movement among people of faith by inviting congregations to support Commit2Respond, a UU-affiliated coalition addressing climate injustice through activism.

Why Become a Green Sanctuary

Our world is faced with enormous, overwhelming environmental challenges. Green Sanctuary offers a way to amplify the efforts of UU congregations to develop and achieve a healthier, more sustainable future.

The GS accreditation process empowers congregations by:

  • Calling us to simply to do our part through small steps carried out consistently, with faith in our power to make a difference. Religious leaders from most of the world’s faith traditions claim that our environmental crises may be the greatest moral challenge facing humankind in the 21st century.
  • Considering the long-term impact of our individual and communal practices and behavior. Green Sanctuary congregations learn how their choices can damage or enhance our environment, weaving related moral, emotional and spiritual issues into worship. This creates space to care for and help one another in challenging times.
  • Identifying as a faith community with a historic and deep commitment to justice that respects the interdependent web of all existence. We understand that caring for the Earth and all of its inhabitants is a critical ingredient in building true justice.

Program Organization

In 2015, after recognizing the need to directly connect environmental sustainability with racial and economic justice, Green Sanctuary became part of the UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group. Part-time staffing is supplemented with consultants and a large cadre of volunteers including an Advisory Group, Review Teams, and Coaches.

Green Sanctuary’s parent organization, UU Ministry for Earth, and participation in the Commit2Respond coalition provide environmental expertise and movement building capacity.

Program History

The Green Sanctuary program began as an outgrowth of the Seventh Principle Project, a UUA-affiliated environmental organization created in 1989. In 1991, the Seventh Principle Project published the first Green Sanctuary Handbook, introducing UU congregations to a process intended to integrate environmental consciousness into UU faith communities.

Since then, the program has undergone six revisions, ensuring it remains relevant in supporting congregational responses to environmental and environmental justice issues.