Congregations Take Action on the Global Warming/Climate Change Statement of Conscience

At General Assembly 2006, UUs passed a Statement of Conscience (SOC): Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change. The SOC is available on the UUA website.

The list that follows is a compilation of actions reported to UU Ministry for Earth during 2006 and by the 154 participants in the General Assembly 2007 program “Global Warming, One Year Later.” Workshop participants were asked to address two questions: 1) What is the best thing your congregation has done/is doing to address climate change? and 2) What has been the major challenge in engaging your congregation on this issue, and how did you resolve it, if you did? Numerous congregations did many of the actions below, so what follows is a compilation of ideas and action steps rather than a numerical tally of actions. UUs across North America have clearly taken seriously both the need and the urgency to implement the Statement of Conscience.

What is the best thing your congregation has done/is doing to address climate change?


  • Showed An Inconvenient Truth. Almost all congregations reported doing this and many showed other climate-change-related films (some congregations organized community-wide film festivals)
  • Hosted electric car demonstrations, some offered free rides in newspaper articles
  • Hosted Union of Concerned Scientists and other expert speakers from local universities and colleges and environmental organizations
  • Sponsored the new discussion course from the Northwest Earth Institute called “Global Warming: Changing Co2urse”
  • Held RD green principles class
  • Launched educational efforts to encourage driving less, use public transportation more, eat local, buy “green” cars, reduce junk mail, and eat vegetarian or less meat
  • Hosted simple living workshops and simplicity circles
  • Organized a “transportation adventure” field trip to experience and learn to use various forms of local public transportation
  • Hosted Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow’s “Evolution of the Universe” workshop
  • Took field trip focused on retrofitting older or historical buildings
  • Offered Adult RE course on political consequences of oil dependence

Congregational Actions:

  • More than 30 congregations applied for UU Ministry For Earth Green Sanctuary candidacy
  • Many congregations conducted environmental audits of church properties
  • Put green sanctuary/Earth ministry work at board level with members on all major church committees
  • Installed timed thermostats
  • Installed hot-water-on-demand water heater
  • Planted trees on property and/or in community, took Ten Tree Challenge
  • Sold seeds and native plants
  • Installed system to use run-off water from building/parking lot for gardens
  • Made annual auction green-themed
  • Installed water management system
  • Created gardens, some organic, some organized and maintained by teens
  • Committed to building an environmentally sound new building
  • Became certified as an Audubon Natural Wildlife Habitat, RE project
  • Made church property part of a nature conservancy
  • Held vegetarian potlucks
  • Changed to silver and china and away from disposables
  • Held worship services devoted to global warming and its challenges (some led by youth groups)
  • Put map in directory to facilitate carpooling
  • Conducted professional energy audits of buildings
  • Added insulation, and/or replaced caulk around doors and windows, installed weathers tripping, and converted to cellular window shades
  • Performed the play Mother Earth vs. The Earth’s People (available in UUMFE Global Warming Action Kit, Vol. 1)
  • Organized an invitational gallery art show on the theme of global warming
  • Youth attended a Youth Con on global warming
  • Partnered with congregational building committees to advocate for green building practices, energy efficiency, and, in some cases, renewable energy options in new building and remodeling plans
  • Offered ride sharing/alternative transportation options plans for Sunday services
  • Led field trips to sites such as energy-neutral houses, a passive-solar/solar-electric house, and a local farmers market
  • Green columns in newsletters, green tips in order of service
  • Recycling bins in church
  • Replaced venetian blind window covering with insulating/reflecting blinds
  • One new sanctuary is LEED certified, at least one other new sanctuary will be LEED certified
  • Made new building addition green by using geothermal heat
  • Created community investment program with micro loans for insulation upgrades
  • Joined Interfaith Power and Light
  • Minister of RE started “cool deeds” program
  • Began planning for an environmental justice program
  • Committed line item in church budget to support wind power in NM through the Blue Sky Project
  • Replaced furnace
  • Committed to making congregation carbon neutral, calculated congregational footprint

Helping Individual UUs Living More Sustainably:

  • Youth conducted survey on “How did you get to church?”
  • Calculated personal carbon footprints and committed to reducing emissions and, in many casing, offsetting the portion that could not be reduced (see Carbonfund)
  • Many sold CFLs as fundraising project for green sanctuary projects or youth groups
  • Created buying club to make energy-efficient appliances more available
  • Created black footprint poster which represents 50,000 tons of CO2 – as actions are taken by individual members, footprint is being covered with white stickers representing units of carbon reductions
  • Tire pressure reading and pumping up events and education actions • Bike tune-ups and clinics to encourage bike riding
  • Created a bike co-op that lends bikes
  • Bike-to-Church Day
  • Solar heating for hot water, installed solar panels
  • After An Inconvenient Truth, 150 families in congregation changed to green electricity option

Community Action and Advocacy:

  • Advocated with other liberal faiths to make city council a green council
  • Working with local organic CSAs (community sustainable agriculture)
  • Participated in “STEP IT UP 2007”
  • Organized community awareness events; partnered with coalition of community organizations, local experts, and local businesses
  • Supported state legislation on renewal energy and energy conservation
  • Worked with local governments to join the cool cities campaign, and hosted Sunday coffee-hour presentations on the cool cities program
  • Supported UU Legislative Ministry efforts in Florida and California related to global warming
  • Organized letter-writing events to support legislation to end mountaintop-removal coal mining, protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge against oil drilling, and establish a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions
  • Sponsored alternative gift fairs that included sales of reusable water bottles, Arbor Day Foundation’s adopt-a-tree gift cards, energy-conserving holiday lights, and reusable grocery bags made of recycled materials
  • Two congregations have adopted villages adversely affected by global warming, one in Alaska and in one congregation, children write to their congressional reps about how global warming is affecting their friends
  • One congregation gave 1000 CFLs to farming community with info pamphlets in English & Spanish; another purchased 120 CFLs and is donating 10 per month to local food bank
  • Organized film series and workshops for community

What has been the major challenge in engaging your congregation on this issue, and how did you resolve it, if you did?

  • Large congregation, members don’t read newsletter
  • Changing deeply ingrained habits of life and consumption
  • Maintaining interest in environmental issues
  • Church resists taking a stand
  • Folks are sometimes depressed/discouraged/paralyzed
  • It’s great to partner with the larger community, but you can lose the congregational spark
  • People can feel guilty, turned off; we have to support one another through that
  • Need grounding in our sense of place, because so many of us come from elsewhere
  • Building design issues
  • Money to do things right
  • Lack of imagination and passion/ being green still seems like a cottage industry
  • Making the connection between industrial agriculture and climate change
  • Our committee sometimes works in secret, appears exclusive and not accessible
  • Science vs. Tree-hugger disagreements
  • Difficulties in cleaning up after events, (people-power, etc) results in use of disposables
  • Bringing this issue into our worship
  • Apathy
  • “We are too well-educated,” “More-righteous-than-thou” attitudes
  • People are “resistant” to this issue, overwhelmed, in denial
  • Need to combine the civil rights movement with Earth justice
  • Need for continuity throughout church
  • Need this issue to be institutionalized
  • Make caring for earth part of the liturgy
  • Need to respond to many issues
  • Leader burnout, not enough volunteer energy
This is an administrative account for UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE).