Environmentally and Socially Responsible Electronics Recycling – Hinsdale, IL

elec-recycl 003The members of Unitarian Church of Hinsdale understand that environmental justice and environmental actions are directly related not only to the Seventh Principle – the respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part – but also to the First Principle – the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  Recently, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale has begun working on electronic waste (e-waste) issues.  E-waste that is not disposed of in local landfills but collected in “recycling” efforts is transported to China or developing nations in Asia or Africa.  This e-waste is then processed in primitive conditions, with plastic insulation burned to get at copper wiring, lead-based solder melted over hot plates, and poisonous residue washed into drinking water.  Congregants at the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale felt that they needed to help break this cycle to help heal these environmental injustices.

After hosting the films The Digital Dump and Exporting Harm to educate the congregation and community about e-waste by, members of UCH found a local responsible electronics recycler through the Basel Action Network (BAN).  The company accepts electronics of all kinds and removes the most valuable copper wiring, pulverizes lead-containing monitor glass for transport to a smelter in Canada, and crushes and sorts the remaining plastic, ferrous, and non-ferrous metal parts.  None of the material is sent overseas and all waste is disposed of in accordance with the BAN recycler’s pledge.  Recently, thirty members of the congregation toured their responsible electronics recycler, Sims Recycling, to see how the electronic devices are dismantled, shredded, and the pieces are separated for recycling.  After this, the UCH Green Sanctuary committee scheduled two electronic recycling events at the church: one in the fall of 2007 and one in the spring of 2009.  The first event brought in 1,800 pounds of electronic devices.  The second event, after being publicized to the wider community, led to the collection of over one ton of material.  Each person dropping off an electronic item paid a fee (as much as $10), to promote the idea that responsible recycling is not free, and received printed materials about the need to recycle e-waste locally and responsibly.

“The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales” – A Book Review

barefootbookFor a child to understand their own connections to the Earth as well as the commonalities between themselves and other children around the world is a priceless gift. This can help children to understand the importance of Earth, its care, and can have a lasting effect on any child. The tradition of oral storytelling, which has been practiced for thousands of years, can act as a connection between children all around the world and their Earth. The tradition continues to grow and change and the book, The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales written by Dawn Casey and Anne Wilson, commits these traditional oral stories to print. Each story is connected in some way and all celebrate the beauty of nature and remind us of the importance of Earth.

There are also some unique characteristics to this book that make it special. Prior to each folk tale, there is a brief history of where the story originated from, and how it has sustained its popularity. Additionally, after each folk tale there is an activity that has some sort of connection to the story or the history of the region from which the story came from. Some examples of activities are how to build a willow den, how to make a pinecone birdfeeder, how to make a song-line painting, and how to make a cornhusk doll. Directions for all activities are simple, materials are inexpensive, and all can be completed in less than an hour.

A Thriving Ministry of Local Foods – UU Rockland, ME

Port Clyde, home to he fleet of the Midcoast Fisherman's Association, credit Peter Ralston
Port Clyde, home to he fleet of the Midcoast Fishermen's Association, credit Peter Ralston

When First Universalist Church of Rockland, ME (UU Rockland), with other local churches, founded the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Bank, the seeds were planted for a thriving ministry of local foods.  In addition to regularly collecting food for the Food Bank, the congregation participates in the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen where they prepare, serve, pack-up left-overs, and clean-up a meal on the fifth Sunday of the month at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rockland.

In November 2004 the congregation teamed up with the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Maine Council of Churches Environmental Justice Program to co-sponsor a Harvest Supper potluck with the theme “Thinking Globally/Eating Locally” , featuring locally produced foods,  followed by a program inviting conversation on how food choices impact the environment.  In November 2005 the congregation again participated in the Harvest Supper featuring Russell Libby, Director of the Maine Organic and Gardeners Association speaking on “Who Is Your Farmer?” (more…)

Multi-faceted, Multi-Generational Project hosted by Second Unitarian Church of Omaha: Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival Project

1stUOmaha1On October 4, 2009, the Second Unitarian Church of Omaha hosted a Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival.  This projected highlighted all four focus areas of the Green Sanctuary program: worship and celebration, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living and brought attention to the Congregational Study Action Issue – Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice for 2009-2012.  

Members created a festival plan, designed advertising, built family friendly interactive games, implemented sales of pumpkins, collected and contributed canned donations, sat at booths to run games, prepared food for volunteer workers and interfaced with the public.  The intended scope of the project was to bring membership in alignment with agricultural reality versus the ideal.  Using the religious education curriculum started in January 2009, the children planted seeds and nurtured them into young sprouts.  The teens were introduced to long-term planning and commitments by aiding in the labor to prepare the ground for planting in March 2009 and later to supply the labor to distribute flyers and run the booths at the festival.  Beginning January 2009 church members provided pre- and post- Sunday service commitments by providing the vision, sprouting seeds, transplanting seedlings, watering the patch, consulting and problem solving things like soil balance, predator control, early ripening while reaching out to the church neighborhood and connecting the church to the local community via contact with the Omaha Food bank and surrounding farmers.  

Through the process, the members of Second Unitarian of Omaha learned about the very issues the small organic farmer faces each day, and became more enlightened and compassionate toward the future of food.  They acknowledged the fragile connection we maintain with nature and the intimate pledges we maintain as to how we care for the environment.  Materials for the patch were a collaborative effort of farmer donations, merchant donations, and purchases paid for with money from the sales of Free Trade coffee and teas.  The project yielded sixty-seven pumpkins grown to maturation.  They collected one 55 gallon blue barrel filled with canned food items, and made a $592 monetary contribution from pumpkin sales to the Omaha food bank.   Through the Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival members celebrated the completion of a multi-faceted, multi-generational educational, environmental justice, and sustainable living agricultural project.  Learn more about the project at Second Unitarian Church of Omaha’s website.