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Sustainable Living Focus Area for the Green Sanctuary Program
Climate & Environmental Justice, Green Sanctuary Program
  • What can Unitarian Universalists (UUs) do individual, as households and at the institutional level to live more sustainably.
  • How does our individual, household and collective way of life impact marginalized people as well as the environment?
  • How do we know that the actions we take make a difference? What have we learned that can help us in the next effort?

What do we need to know and about the way we live that impacts communities of people we may be only marginally aware of? How then shall we live?

This focus area is an opportunity to reduce your congregation’s envi-ronmental footprint, lightening the burden of your lifestyle on Earth’s systems. Select at least four projects in this area, including at least one aimed at energy conservation. Other possible areas to target include landscaping, building management, waste management, water conservation, and transportation, to name just a few. 

Projects that focus on congregational practices often require developing or modifying relevant policies (including building rental agreements, when appropriate). And to ensure that policy changes are actually carried out in practice, consider a publicity campaign. For example, if you adopt a recycling policy, perhaps children and youth could create colorful posters reminding individuals to place recyclables in designated containers.

Some projects may encourage congregants to change their daily habits at home and elsewhere. For these, document the changes individuals make and calculate the collective benefits to show how individual actions can quickly add up to a big difference.

Possible Projects

  • Implement at least some of the recommendations from your energy audit to reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Start a program for recycling and/or composting waste.
  • Establish a composting “buddy system”: those who don’t have a compost pile can give their vegetable waste to those who do.
  • Form an energy task force to make suggestions on how to reduce energy and water usage.
  • Develop and implement policies for purchasing recycled products (such as office paper) and/or using environmentally friendly cleaning products.
  • Encourage congregants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in their personal lives, perhaps by making a pledge to take specific actions.
  • Ask for individual commitments to reduce energy consumption at home. Use one of the online tools available to calculate cumulative savings for the congregation.
  • Suggest changes in dietary habits to become more sustainable, using the Ethical Eating Guide available on the UUA website.
  • Commit to include vegetarian and/or local foods in your community potlucks.
  • Design a program encouraging the use of alternative transportation, such as carpooling or bicycling.
  • Develop policies to direct the congregation’s investments into socially and environmentally responsible funds.
  • If you serve meals at your facility, take steps to make them Zero Trash events. One congregation raised funds to buy additional dishes to replace paper plates and received a grant to hire a neighborhood resi- dent to help wash dishes.
  • Promote a “Bring Your Own Plates” campaign for congregational potlucks.
  • Create a Green Campaign Fund, to be spent only on projects that reduce the carbon footprint of the organization.
  • Redesign your property’s landscaping using xeriscape techniques-using native and drought-tolerant plants to reduce water usage.
  • Install a photovoltaic solar panel.
  • Arrange for the facility to receive 100% of its energy from clean sources, and encourage families in the congregation to do the same.

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