Energy and Climate: Take Action

Taking action to shift to a low-carbon future is our moral responsibility as people of faith and conscience. Check out the actions below to get started. You can also visit our Energy and Climate Overview, Energy and Climate: Learn More, or the Energy and Climate Book List for more.

Where are you in the big picture?

Use UUMFE’s “Our Place in the Web of Life” curriculum to identify the source(s) of your congregation’s energy. Uncover the impacts of your energy consumption on communities up and down-wind, stream, pipe, or rail. Which communities and ecosystems are damaged by resource extraction? By transport and processing? By burning of fuels? By wastes and pollutants? Your investigation may uncover potential partnership opportunities for environmental justice projects in your community. See also Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project below.

Choose one or more of the comprehensive discussion course guides published by the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI) to inform your learning, reflecting and action: (1) Change by Degrees – Addressing the Climate Challenge, which includes Global Warming: Changing Course and Powering a Bright Future (updated edition due in May 2015); (2) Just Below the Surface, a one-session guide about the 2010 BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico (free download); and (3) Choices for Sustainable Living, which has a session devoted to transportation. Find ideas for reducing your energy use in your home or workplace, see NWEI’s energy efficiency category from its 2014 Eco-Challenge.

Consider using exercises and teaching pieces from Ecological Justice: A Call to Action (scroll down page), a 93-page collaborative training manual for urban social justice organizations. Produced by Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, it is designed for community organizers, service workers and educators to lead trainings on the interrelationship between ecology, race and poverty. Start your first session with this short eye-opening exercise (download PDF).

The Grassroots Global Justice Alliance – Many Struggles, One Movement – worked with Movement Generation to found the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA – see vision and principles), which created the Our Power Campaign – Communities United for a Just Transition. Find inspiration for action in your community through CJA’s six pilot projects around the country.

As you learn about adversely affected communities and ecosystems, nearby or elsewhere in your state, consider the range of possible responses.

  • What part can your congregation play in the just transition to clean, renewable energy?
  • What clean energy options are available or feasible locally, regionally and in your state?
  • How best can you connect and work collaboratively with others in your community?
  • What initiatives or coalitions around energy conservation, energy efficiency or public transportation are already in place?
  • How might your congregation best engage in and support their work? What skills and resources do you have to bring to the table?
  • How might you organize and advocate for access to clean energy and energy efficiency for residents of all neighborhoods, regardless of income, education or ethnicity?
  • How can you help grow the green jobs movement?

Promoting clean and local energy initiatives

  • Consider whether Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is something to pursue in your area by reading about Marin Clean Energy (MCE) of Marin County, CA, the state’s first CCA program. It is a public, not-for-profit electricity provider with clean energy options (solar, wind, hydroelectric) for homeowners and renters of all economic means. Read about MCE’s history for inspiration and encouragement. Learn more about how Marin and other California communities are charting their energy futures in this Grist article.
  • Learn more about how your community can finance, purchase, install and promote clean energy by using ICLEI’s Municipal Clean Energy Toolkit, written for aficionados to beginners.
  • Consider the feasibility of working with others to launch or support a community-based energy project, such as the ones shared in this Community Resilience Chat video: Power from the People (scroll down page). More information, resources and help can be found in the book: Power from the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects (2012).
  • Co-op Power is a good example of a consumer-owned sustainable energy cooperative, which offers a range of energy efficiency and renewable energy products and services. The co-op is a network of local councils that create a multi-class, multi-race movement for a sustainable and just energy future.
  • Our Power Campaign’s Net Metering Tool Kit is designed to educate and empower communities to defend and expand net metering programs. It is a great place to start whether you are supporting community solar projects or thinking about solar panels for your congregation (or your own home). This State by State Review of Net Metering Struggles will help you assess the situation in your community.
  • The Solutions Project was founded in 2011 “to use the powerful combination of science and business and culture to accelerate the transition to 100-percent clean, renewable energy” by 2050, using wind, water, and solar (WWS) for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry). Click on your state on the map to see what is possible! Hear Dr. Mark Jacobson, Stanford professor and co-founder of the project, speak at the 2014 Climate Conference, “Dirty Energy, Clean Solutions” (54 minutes) or TEDxPaloAltoHighSchool (17 minutes).
  • Explore alternative fuel options and cooperative models of ownership that fit the circumstances of your location. For example, the Save our Sky & Protect Our Planet Home-Heating Cooperatives combine sustainable, organic agriculture practices, fair compensation for the grower and energy efficient, climate-friendly corn pellet stoves as a means of reducing fossil fuel dependence.

Resisting and dismantling dirty energy systems

Reducing your energy usage

  • Conduct a congregational energy audit, and make plans to reduce your overall energy usage. Helpful resources for conservation, energy efficiencies, and considering options include:
  • Download the Energy Star Action Workbook for Congregations, a resource and planning guide for clergy, staff, and laypersons to help increase energy efficiency through realistic and cost-effective energy improvement projects.
  • Apply to Interfaith Power and Light for recognition as a Certified Cool Congregation when you have reached 10, 20, 30 or 40% CO2 reductions. Online resources include start-up kits, resources and information on going solar for congregations, and links to state IPLs.
  • Access the GreenFaith 2014 free Energy Webinar recordings and documents online, which includes an introduction to using the ENERGY STAR PORTFOLIO MANAGER program. Also, consider earning GreenFaith’s Energy Shield merit badge by engaging in a month of cost-efficient energy-saving improvements, and jumpstart your plans for more advanced measures.
  • Organize programs for your church or community to support small or large groups of individuals and households meet carbon reduction goals, choosing from the resources below:
  • Take the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Cooler Smarter 20/20/20 Challenge: 20 ways. 20 days. 20% less carbon. See “Scale It Up” graphic on the same page (click box for full view). Use the companion book: Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living (2012) to reduce your GHG emissions associated with transportation, home heating and cooling, electricity usage, food choices, and more.
  • Visit the Transition United States website, a resource and catalyst for the Transition Town movement and its grassroots level model to increase local self-reliance and resilience (use this map to find a local initiative near you). Plan ahead to use Transition Streets, a curriculum-based project for small groups of neighbors to reduce their carbon footprints, save money on energy bills, strengthen social bonds and preview what a low-carbon future would look like in their neighborhood. For a preview, watch the YouTube video: “Transitions Streets-Coming to a Neighborhood Near You!” The US national rollout is scheduled for May 2015; sign up online to stay up to date! Read about the fourteen communities that are pilotingTransition Streets. Print publications related to the movement include The Transition Companion” (2011) and the original The Transition Handbook (2008). Here is a great article on the Transition initiative from Orion Magazine.
  • The MPower Toolkit, created by Green for All, models an energy efficiency program for affordable housing tenants and building owners, linking green jobs opportunities with carbon pollution and resource waste reductions. Its practitioner-focused Toolkit for Residential Energy Efficiency Upgrade Programs assists new, established, and future energy efficiency programs launch and scale initiatives that can deliver the full promise of the green economy. Consider partnering with your local housing authority to sponsor one of these programs in your community.
  • To better understand how to approach a citywide energy efficiency program, learn best practices from the nation’s first energy efficiency and green jobs pilot project, Clean Energy Works Portland, and its Community Workforce Agreement. Check with the Planning & Sustainability or equivalent office in your community to learn the status of green energy and job initiatives and build a project around what you find.
  • This 2011 article from Climate Access highlights research on barriers to changing household habits – Changing Household Behaviors to Curb Climate Change: How Hard can it Be?

Increasing public transportation options

  • Improve and support public transportation options, advocating at the planning stage. Access to reliable, clean-power transit is a social, economic and environmental justice issue.
  • The Transportation Equity Network (TEN) is a grassroots network of more than 350 community organizations in forty-one states that focuses on equity in transportation-related legislation. The group advocates for increased funding of ecologically friendly mass transit to diverse communities, community input in the planning stages, and job and training opportunities for low-income workers. What is the public transportation situation in your community? Use this resource to help you advocate for improvements.

Increasing financial investments in clean energy

  • The Divest-Invest initiative responds to climate change by encouraging people, groups, and institutions to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions. The website has sections for individuals and foundations plus a page for allies to sign up to support and a great resource section.

Skill building tools

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