Environmental activists, often on the verge of burn-out, ask themselves “Does my work really make a difference?”
The answer to this question is “YES!”
As Unitarian Universalists, we seek out action that has meaning in our lives. We find that meaning by looking to the UUA’s Seventh Principle “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” I’d encourage people to see how each of the Seven Principles calls us to be good stewards of the Earth.
The Green Sanctuary Program, originally founded and managed by the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth, was designed to give roots and wings to the vision that, together, we can create a world in which all people make reverence, gratitude, and care for the Earth that is central to our lives. The Green Sanctuary Program offers a way to join our efforts, both symbolically and explicitly, with thousands of other Unitarian Universalist congregations across the country. Additionally, the Green Sanctuary program projects have deepened the inspiration of many individuals in their congregation to make personal changes in their lives.
One UU Church that decided to embark on the Green Sanctuary journey together was South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In their Green Sanctuary accreditation application they discussed sustainability and how it has become a major issue in Portsmouth. They have become a huge supporter , as well as a prominent leader, in the wider efforts in the New Hampshire seacoast region. In addition to that, they were able to the see the “Ripple Effect” of the Green Sanctuary Program. The list below is a sampling of the change effects that have resulted from what congregants describe as personal lifestyle modifications that were likely the result of the work of the environmental activism work of South Church:
- A member of the GS Team was the chair of the 50th Alumni Reunion at the University of NH and sustainability was selected as the theme.
- A woman installed a geothermal heating system in her home.
- A woman built a passive solar home.
- A reporter started a column in the Portsmouth Herald entitled “Earth Matters” featuring articles on local efforts for sustainability.
- A real estate agent started recycling in her office and produced a newsletter on sustainability.
- A man who was the first LEED certified realtor north of Boston started a green commercial real estate business.
- A man co-hosts the “Environmental Show” on the local Portsmouth radio station.
- A man, who as a part of his job at the Maine Cooperative Extension, has obtained a grant to train high school students to teach middle school children about sustainability.
- A woman has become involved with organizing a local Farmer’s Market.
- A couple donated a bike rack for South Church is now widely used by members of the congregation.
- A woman got the Historic District Commission in Portsmouth to approve putting solar hot water panels on a historic home.
These are just a few examples of personal lifestyle changes that came from a community effort on the part of South Church to be more environmentally conscious. As this environmental work continues in South Church, one might wonder what more personal changes will be made in years to come. It is in South Church that we see a perfect example of how a deeper understanding of our community role in sustainability and environmental activism can lead to more change on the individual level as well. Thank you to South Church for letting us share their story, and I would like to encourage others to take notice of the “Ripple Effect” that may come from increased environmental awareness!