The Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor was accredited as a Green Sanctuary by the Unitarian Universalist Association in December 2010, after just over three years of effort by a committee that was created in July 2007 and headed by Libby Norton and Christina Diebold. During that time we carried out an environmental audit and 12 action steps in four areas: worship, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living, trying to cut our energy use, reduce waste by recycling, and encouraging the congregation to be more environmentally aware.
Our mission statement is as follows:
“The UU Society of Bangor, recognized as a Green Sanctuary by the Unitarian Universalist Association, endeavors to incorporate care for the Earth into worship and religious education while working to promote environmental justice and sustainable living. We covenant to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
The Green Sanctuary Committee has not been functioning since co-chairs Christina Diebold and Catherine Foxson stepped down in December 2015. As environmental issues, particularly climate change, are pressing and important, we hope the committee can be revived with new leadership.
The Green Sanctuary Committee pursued a fossil fuel divestment policy for UUSB, meeting with trustees and distributing a survey to gauge congregational support for such a policy. It turned out there was strong support, and at our annual meeting on May 17, UUSB members voted unanimously to approve a policy of long-term fossil fuel divestment. In October we organized a workshop on personal divesting, led by Aram Khavari, UUSB’s financial adviser. We sponsored two programs in November – a presentation on the proposed national park and recreation area in the North Woods by Ryan Parker of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and a talk on the glacial history of Downeast Maine by Dr. Hal Borns, founder of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. For two weeks in November we’ll conduct our second window insert build.
In the winter and spring of 2014 the Green Sanctuary Committee explored fossil fuel divestment with UUSB endowment and Hersey trustees. We learned that we have no direct exposure to fossil fuels but want to consider our future course, as well as the personal investments of members. At its General Assembly in June 2014 the UUA passed a resolution urging UU congregations to review their congregational and personal investments with a view to taking action on climate change, such as public divestment of their holdings in fossil fuel companies. A church-wide meeting has been planned for November 16, with Holly Zadra of the First Universalist Church of Pittsfield (which has divested) and Karen Marysdaughter, divestment coordinator for 350 Maine, as speakers.
On February 10, 2013, Frank Mundo of Rockport explained the Window Dressers program that has been taken up so successfully by midcoast churches. Volunteers can insulate windows under this plan quickly and cheaply, resulting in more comfortable homes, cheaper energy bills, and less CO2 in the atmosphere. In the first week of October 2013, the Dorothy was converted into a window insert factory, with some 60 volunteers creating 329 inserts under the leadership of Frank Mundo and Mark McCollough. Some 20 families received inserts at a reasonable price and 52 inserts were installed in downstairs rooms of the church. Collaborating with us on the project were Congregation Beth El and Maine Interfaith Power and Light.
Green activities since our accreditation have included Beltane, Imbolc, Lammas, and Solstice worship services, a talk on legislation to reduce chemicals in children’s products, promotion of local organic food, a discussion of Eaarth by Bill McKibben and a presentation on Transition Towns. In December 2012 we sponsored a powerpoint talk by Alder Stone Fuller, “Climate REALLY, Part II.”
The Green Sanctuary Committee is pleased to report that after over two years of work we have completed the 12-step Action Plan that is below. We plan to ask the congregation to vote ln the fall on seeking accreditation as a Green Sanctuary. Working on these projects got us thinking as a congregation about saving energy, eating locally, recycling, and recognizing that caring for the Earth is an important part of our spirituality. We greatly appreciate the work done by many of our members in carrying out these projects.
If you would like to participate in making our church (and the world) greener, please contact Libby Norton [947-7248, Libby.Norton@gmail.com] or Christina Diebold [941-1670, email@example.com], or you can contact the leader of the project you're interested in.
UUSB Green Sanctuary Action Plan
Project 1: Interfaith Worship Service
Project 2: Green Altar
Project 3 Maine Earth Institute
Project 4: Teaching Sustainability
Project 5: Workshop on Food
Project 6: Harvesting
Project 7: Burkina Faso
Project 8: CFL's
Project 9: Kitchen Composting
Project 10: Weatherizing
Project 11: Carpooling
Project 12: Recycling Center
Project 1: Interfaith Worship Service
Our interfaith service, Caring Spiritually for Our Earth, on April 25, 2010, was preceded on April 18 with a service on religious approaches to environmental justice, with a sermon by our minister, the Rev. Becky Gunn: “Spiritual Care for the Earth – How Some Other Faiths Care for the Earth.” She wrote a column on the topic which appeared on the Bangor Daily News’ weekly Religion Page. Well over 100 people, members of the church and the community, attended the interfaith service, which was held Sunday evening on April 25. Participants, in addition to Rev. Becky, were from Congregation Beth Israel, the church’s Buddhist Affinity Group, Congregational churches, UCC, in Brewer and Bangor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. John’s Catholic Church, the Islamic Center of Maine, and the Temple of the Feminine Divine. In addition we had a Wampanoag speaker in order to give the Native perspective. Drumming and singing were part of the service.
Leads: The Rev. Becky Gunn and Christina Diebold
Project 2: Green Altar
In the back of the Sanctuary, we turned an unused christening font (sometimes even containing trash!) into a pedestal for a vase containing items such as harvest corn, pine cones and acorns. In addition we set up a bulletin board where the congregation can add natural elements. Currently there are feathers, dried flowers, photos and mini-gourds – the elements change from time to time. As a symbol of our reciprocal relationship with the natural world, there are “wonderful world” cards to take when leaving an item on either altar. The cards are attached to the bulletin board.
The double Green Altar has been advertised in the church newsletter, The Chalice and Chimes, and sometimes at services people are encouraged to add a little something to the altars.
Leads: Catherine Foxson and Barbara Guidotti
Project 3: MEI Courses
From October 12-Nov. 23, 2008, the Green Sanctuary Committee sponsored a weekly discussion course titled “Choices for Sustainable Living.” The course is locally sponsored by the Maine Earth Institute and is set up by the Northwest Earth Institute, which created the workbooks containing articles and discussion questions in support of the course. There were twelve participants, six of whom were not members of our church community.
One of the most interesting things about the course was that it brought together many people with different backgrounds and perspectives, and while consensus was not a goal of the course, we certainly achieved an excellent level of positive sharing of ideas. All participants agreed that the course helped them remain energized in their daily quest to be more sustainable.
We offered another Maine Earth Institute course, “Menu for the Future,” from January 17 to February 28, 2010. This course had ten participants, all members of UUSB (although the course was advertised in the community). Once again, discussions have been lively and a very positive atmosphere has been established.
Leads: Chris and Jill Packard
Project 4: RE Sustainability
During 2009, RE classes have focused on using sustainable supplies (when possible -- paint is always a tough one). Particularly, for summer camp we used a lot of natural objects (sticks, polished stones, pine cones, etc). We have built fairy houses from many of those objects. So the doing (with commentary along the way) is the teaching. The habits are part of the teaching (using the recycling boxes in each classroom, reusing scrap paper for notes, etc.). I really think that children and youth understand this more than most adults. Our youth recycle bottles (albeit for the money). Recently the youth came in one evening and "unstuck" many of the windows in the RE space so that we can use natural air and breeze as opposed to dehumidified and fan-circulated air. We use cloth napkins, washable cups and plates, and "green" cleaning supplies for summer camp, youth activities, and Sunday a.m. classrooms. I've been to a number of UU churches throughout Maine and most of them still use disposable paper dishware and napkins.
This year (2009-2010) we are using all new UU curricula. They all have components that focus on the Earth, but none are specifically geared for that. On May 23, 2010, our sustainability teaching culminated with a spring pageant, “The Green Wizard of Oz,” written, planned and performed by RE youth. The pageant featured Litterbugs, the wicked Toxic Waste and Greenhouse Gas witches, the Good Green Witch, and a Wizard who passes out energy-saving devices. It was enthusiastically received.
Lead: Wendy Erickson, DRE
Project 5: Service/discussion on Sustainable Diet
On April 11, 2010, we led a service called “Ethical Eating: Food, Politics and Spirit.” Phyllis Havens, a dietitian, did a story session with the children, asking about their favorite foods and where they come from. We shared the sermon time, making use of information from our Menu for the Future course and Earth Day materials sent out by UUA, emphasizing the importance of local food and eating less meat. (We have been advertising CSA shares and the availability of land for community gardening at a Catholic church in Bangor.) After refreshments and socializing we continued the discussion, with brief talks given by a vegetarian, a hunter, and a grower, followed by questions. About 30 people stayed for that session, and the conversation was lively.
Leads: Phyllis Havens and Christina Diebold
Project 6: Harvesting
Some 14 UUSB members participated in the Plant-a-Row for the Hungry project at Rogers Farm in Orono in late summer/fall of 2009. Ages ranged from pre-teen to seventies, with most decades represented. From August 11 to September 15 we spent about 30 hours harvesting approximately 500 pounds of tomatoes, cukes, summer squash, green beans, rutabaga, bell peppers, celery, and Swiss chard. Produce was weighed and delivered, mostly to the Salvation Army, where it was incorporated into the lunches served there and made available for pickup by their clientele, who seldom have access to fresh organic produce. We also distributed some to the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter and to the Crossroads Food Pantry in Old Town. One member was involved since May in the planting and tending of the gardens.
In addition, we participated in the potato harvest on October 14, delivering 500 pounds of potatoes to the Salvation Army.
Leads: Libby Norton and Susan Wishkoski
Project 7: Burkina Faso Well
Members of the Green Sanctuary, the UUSB congregation and the singing group Women With Wings worked with the BARKA Foundation in the fall of 2008 and winter/spring of 2009 to support an effort to build a well in the drought-stricken and poverty-stricken African nation of Burkina Faso, both through raising funds and increasing awareness. In September 2008 we held a service on the topic, inviting the congregation to carry a five-gallon bucket of water as women in the village do for up to six miles a day. To educate the community, we had a table at the annual HOPE Festival, attended by hundreds of people, with informational materials and a film on a laptop.
In the spring of 2009, we showed a film about Burkina Faso and BARKA on six evenings, inviting members of the community as well as the congregation, with some of us there to answer questions and sell cards made from photos of villagers in Burkina Faso. Our project culminated in May when we worked with BARKA founders Ina and Esu Anahata as they made a 10-day, 500-mile Peace, Water & Wisdom Walk from the U.N. building in New York City to their final destination of UUSB in Bangor, Maine. They raised money along the way by meeting with groups at designated destinations and as they were walking.
We contacted all the UU churches along the parade route for this walk and asked that they consider helping out with a site for a talk, a meal, and/or a place for the walkers to stay. We are pleased that even with very short notice there was participation from UU communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. As the walkers arrived in Bangor, UU members welcomed them and walked the final mile with them to UUSB. At the church, we all joined in a potluck dinner and ceremony. As the event had been advertised in local media, people from the community attended, including the mayor of Bangor, who gave a short speech. Maine musician Ellen Tipper sang for us. We raised more than $1,700 for a well in Burkina Faso.
We are still planning continued outreach, with talks at schools and organizations. In December 2009, Ina and Esu spoke at the church and showed slides about their work in La Petite Village. They expect the well will be dug in the spring of 2010.
Lead: Laurie Cartier
Project 8: Compact Fluorescent Lights
At this point essentially all of the incandescent bulbs in the building, about 133 bulbs, have been replaced by compact fluorescent lights. We experimented with replacing some of the halogen lights in the chandeliers in the Sanctuary, but the 100-watt CFLs we used kept burning out. This might be because we replaced only two chandeliers and all the lights need to be the same, or it might be because the 100 watt equivalent bulbs were not compatible with our fixtures. Since replacing all the bulbs in the chandeliers would be very labor-intensive, the church decided to keep the halogen lighting, which is somewhat more efficient than incandescent lights, and wait until the cost of LED lighting becomes affordable. We posted information on how to safely dispose of CFLs, whether broken or worn out, in RE classrooms. This project was definitely educational and we maintain our resolve to have lighting that is as efficient as possible.
Leads: Marj Lawrence and Christina Diebold
Project 9: Kitchen Composting
The Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor's application for Green Sanctuary status includes a project to compost food waste generated in the church. Every Sunday we have coffee grounds, fruit parings, and the occasional cookie that hits the floor. Monthly, we put on a free meal for the hungry which generates vegetable peelings as well as uneaten plate scraps. Leftover food that is not garbage is given to a local shelter, so that does not go to waste. Occasional meetings and rental parties also produce various amounts of food garbage.
Our composting project first involved education of what could be composted. Meat, fats, and mayonnaise were not included, since they break down slowly and attract vermin. The Green Sanctuary Committee has provided buckets for collection, and each week a member of the committee or other congregational volunteers take the collection bucket home to deposit on that individual's home compost pile.
Lead: Natalie Gregory
Project 10: Weatherizing
During the winter of 2008-2009 members of the Building and Grounds Committee weather-stripped two sets of double doors and one single door. We also installed 20 Truchannel Harvey storm windows. These are high efficiency storms. The vent windows in the Sanctuary have been weather-stripped to improve comfort and save fuel. In February 2009, Builders Insulation was hired to inspect and measure the church to see how much we can benefit from insulation. Although our brick wall construction offers no opportunity for insulation, the company estimated we could save energy by adding insulation over ceilings above the Sanctuary and the large gathering room, as well as the south wall of our unused narthex. It is likely we will be making progress with this in 2009-2010. In the winter of 2010 the Vestry pocket doors were refurbished to prevent drafts.
Leads: Bob Kelly and Mark McCollough
Project 11: Carpooling.
Members of the Green Sanctuary Committee devised transportation logs to chart gas-saving efforts such as carpooling, walking and bicycling, both in a longer form with more data and an abbreviated form. The logs were kept on the Green Sanctuary table in our meeting room, with a box holding logs (which also can be downloaded) and a container to put completed logs in. So far, in the fall and winter of 2009 and 2010, members of the congregation have saved 2,206 miles by carpooling, walking, taking the bus, and consolidating errands.
In January 2010, children in the K-3rd grade RE class joined in with a discussion of climate change, causes of climate change, and efforts to mitigate it. They decorated transportation logs to be delivered to their parents in an effort to boost participation. They also decorated a long yellow streamer posted on a wall that will show how many gas-guzzling miles the congregation has saved and will save. As of May, we had saved 2,206.3 miles.
Leads: Libby Norton and Christina Diebold
Project 12: Recycling
Following a request from the Green Sanctuary Committee to help with setting up recycling, I contacted Jerry Hughes at Bangor Public Works and Victor Horton at Maine Resource Recovery Association. Between these two sources I was able to get the specifications for the recyclable materials that Bangor collects.
At a meeting with the committee we decided to place recycling bins in the kitchen for the materials we could recycle in Bangor. We decided it did not make sense to drive to another collection site to return additional materials. We also decided that where Bangor does curbside collection for residential recyclables, but not for businesses, the simplest solution was to informally have members check the church bins and take contents home to merge with their own household recycling.
My husband and I purchased five stackable bins. I labeled these: plastic, glass, tin, cardboard and returnables and attached specifications for each category. Bags for transporting materials home were located on a nail nearby. The youth group is in charge of emptying the returnables into their collection barrel in the Vestry.
Office paper and newspapers are collected downstairs in the office and RE classrooms. The RE classrooms each created a box for sorted office and newspaper. One classroom (grades four and five) practiced a recycling song and story to share with other classes at some point. There are specifications printed on some. Wendy Erickson, DRE, plans to have a volunteer transfer these to the paper collecting bins beside the church. (Bangor does collect this material.) Susan Vernal, office administrator, eagerly agreed to separate 8.5” x 11” office paper, so the RE children could draw on the backs. This paper can also be used for notepaper by the telephone in the kitchen.
Lead: Nancy Jacobson