The Green Sanctuary Committee purpose is to support our Society and its members in practices of sustainable living, spiritual connectedness to the earth, and educating the congregation on environmental issues. One of the committee’s most significant goals is to support and put into action our belief in the seventh principle of the UUA: We covenant to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. The committee is very active in local environmental issues and has a long history of many projects in our Society, some of which are listed below. Each year we plan an Earth Day Service with the minister to acknowledge our 7th principle and give thanks and appreciation for our relationship with all life on the planet. We are a warm and welcoming committee and invite you to join us at any of our meetings. Please contact our office administrator to find out contact information and/or meeting location and times.

Writing postcards to support green energy legislation in Massachusetts
Writing postcards to support green energy legislation in Massachusetts

We have been been a Green Sanctuary since 2007.   The Green Sanctuary Program, a program of the Unitarian Universalist Association, provides a path for congregational study, reflection, and action in response to environmental challenges. The Green Sanctuary Program, now in its sixth edition, partners with congregations to address climate change and environmental justice. Congregations that complete the program are accredited as Green Sanctuaries in recognition of their service and dedication to the Earth.

This program provides a structure for congregations to examine their current environmental impacts and move towards more sustainable practices in ways grounded in Unitarian Universalism.  The program has four focus areas:

  1. Environmental Justice acknowledges that marginalized communities are often hit first and hardest by environmental crisis.  In partnering with these communities we are able to address human and environmental needs at the same time.  Environmental Justice emphasizes a shift from providing charity to working in solidarity with the communities most affected by climate change.
  2. Worship and Celebration is the heart of Unitarian Universalism.  As we work together towards a cleaner, more just and sustainable world, worship enables us to stay connected to each other and to celebrate the work we have accomplished.
  3. Religious Education shapes more than just minds. It shapes attitudes and practices.
  4. Sustainable Living requires us to treat the world more gently by using fewer resources and being mindful of the choices we make.

Green Sanctuary Projects (past and present):

Connecticut River Clean Up: Each year we join the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s Source to Sea Clean Up. Many volunteers in our congregation join us on a Saturday morning in September to clean up a section along the Connecticut River. We bring rakes and trash bags and usually fill up a pickup truck with trash. All recyclables found are recycled. This is an easy way to volunteer and help make a difference.

Eating locally: It makes sense to eat food from local sources. One year we made an extensive study of local grocery stores and made lists of the local foods they offer. We live in rich farm country and the food raised by farmers who live nearby is delicious. Joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) is a great option for families in the Pioneer Valley. There are many CSAs which make it easy to eat local vegetables. There are also local farmers’ markets and many ways to choose food in a grocery store which comes from relatively close locations. Eating locally helps build sustainable farming methods in our locality and also keeps local dollars in our area for a greater benefit to our local economy. We encourage people to bring locally sourced food to our UU Society’s sponsored events as much as possible.

GS trio2

Divestment of Fossil Fuels: Our committee brought a fossil fuel divestment resolution before the congregation in 2013 and it was passed unanimously. We also joined with other UU congregations to help pass a fossil fuel divestment resolution at the UUA General Assembly in 2014. Divesting our investments from fossil fuel stocks helps bring attention to the impact that fossil fuels have on climate change. One of our members leads the effort to pass legislation in Massachusetts to divest the state pension plan; several of us are members of the plan. Another member divested her stock in Exxon Mobil and gave the Society the money to purchase a solar electric system.

Stop the Pipeline: Our committee educated the congregation on why we opposed a recently proposed natural gas pipeline traversing part of Western Massachusetts. A resolution to oppose the pipeline was brought to the congregation and it was passed by a large majority. Work by our committee and many others have led to a suspension of plans to build the pipeline.

People’s Climate March: In September 2014, nine members of our congregation traveled to New York City to march in support of climate action. The march drew almost 400,000 people!   Several of us also went to Washington DC for a similar march the year before.

climate march

Climate Action Now: The Green Sanctuary Committee and our UU Society are active sponsors of Climate Action Now in Western Massachusetts. Climate Action Now meets every other month in our Social Hall and is very active in important climate change related programs in our state.

Green Burials: One of our current projects is to educate the congregation and local community about the benefits of green burials. Current burial practices have large carbon footprints. We are encouraging people to learn more about green burials.

Cut Flowers: A new project is to find out where locally available cut flowers come from, especially in the winter. We are concerned about the fossil fuels used to transport them and the pesticides/herbicides that are used to grow them. We understand that communities in Ecuador and other Latin American countries are suffering from the chemicals, and hope to create guidelines for ourselves and our members in purchasing cut flowers.