Environmental Justice Committee

Mission:  The Environmental Justice Committee (EJC) helps facilitate and coordinate action in personal, congregational, and civic spheres for the UU faith community to engage in an ambitious Environmental and Climate Justice movement that seeks to live fully our seventh principle and achieve our vision of a viable and just world for all.


1)   Build awareness of the significance and complexity of environmental issues
2)   Encourage personal, congregational, and civic lifestyle changes to promote sustainable living, especially reducing our energy imprint
3)   Engage in community action on environmental issues
4)   Strengthen the connection between spiritual place and Earth consciousness
5)   Work to heal environmental injustices
6)   Connect with the wider UU community
7)   Maintain recognition as a UUA-certified Green Sanctuary Congregation


Recent Accomplishments

  • Coordinated Earth Day services (including post-service discussion with guest speaker):
    • 2019: Reverend Jim Antal preached: “How People of Faith Must Work Together for Change” (author of the book: Climate Church Climate World)
    • 2020: Nathan Phillips preached: “Reconciling Science, Faith, and Justice”
    • 2021: Reverend Vernon Walker preached: “In the Fight for Climate Justice – We Must Persist”
    • 2022: Chief Caring Hands preached: “Naticksqw Chief Caring Hands speaks; Words from the Father”.  Tribal members Chief Caring Hands, Quiet Storm, and Strong Bear Medicine also participated in the post service for Q&A/discussion
  • Coordinated All-church Book Reads and Book Discussions:
    • 2019/20: “Climate Church Climate World” by Jim Antal
    • 2020/21: “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal” by Naomi Klein
    • 2021/22: “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  EJC in collaboration with the Minister of Faith Development planned and facilitated a program for the church year called: “Earth Connections: A Spiritual Exploration of Braiding Sweetgrass” which included five book discussions and three experiential field trips.
    • 2022/23: possibly “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson
  • Planned and Hosted Events with Environmental Justice Themes:
    • Climate Cafes and Discussion Forums
    • Movie Nights
      • Co-sponsored Earth Day film and discussion with St. Paul’s (several years)
    • Public Lyceums & Library Talk
      • EJC members did presentations on the Climate Crisis & Solutions
      • Speaker from Beacon Pointe presented Personal Values-Based Investing
    • Intergenerational church Potluck Dinners (including “Three Sisters” recipe book)
    • Field trips to encourage deeper connection with the earth
      •  Edible Nature Walk, Maple Sugaring Tour, and Indigenous Walking Tour (2021-22)
    • Earth Alive:  A Song and Story Telling Celebration with Neil Dale (2019)
    • Co-sponsored the Bedford Community Earth Day Composting Fair and encouraged parishioners to sign a petition in support of hiring an Energy & Sustainability Manager in Bedford (2022)
  • Arranged for Sunday Service Speakers for Share the Plate Program
    •  June 2020: Alice Arena from Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS)
    • April 2021: Laura Wagner from UU Mass Action
    • May 2021: Verne McArthur for Springfield Climate Justice Coalition who was working to stop construction of a highly polluting biomass incinerator
  • Promoted UU Mass Action Priority Legislative Initiatives
    • Encourage parishioners to participate in Advocacy/Lobby Days and UU Mass Action events to support legislative actions for environmental justice in the state
    • Several committee members served on the UU Mass Action’s Climate Team
    • In support of Indigenous justice, EJC endorsed the article on the town warrant to change the name of the holiday Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day
  • Promoted Green Infrastructure in our church building and beyond to support Net Zero  
    • Circulated petition to increase the town’s default for Community Choice Aggregation renewable electricity which was submitted to the town Select Board, and asked the Parish Board to change to the 100% green purchase option in Bedford’s power purchase aggregation program, which the board approved (2019).
    • Encourage parishioners to compost, such as Black Earth composting which First Parish uses.
    • EJC supported the initiative to get solar panels on the building and the broader church effort in assessing our buildings total energy consumption to support continuing reduction in reliance on carbon-based fuel.
    • EJC organized a congregational discussion on the Bedford Minuteman Bikeway Extension Project and supported the article on the town warrant (2022)
  • Attended/hosted UU Climate Collaborative meetings w/other congregations
  • Promoted Earth Circles Environmental Education Curriculum
  • Initiated Congregational Resolutions:
    • 2015: First Parish passed A Resolution Declaring Our Right to a Livable Climate where we recognized that the continuation of extraction and burning of fossil fuels is immoral. “A Resolution Declaring our Right to a Livable Climate”: https://www.uubedford.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/FPB_Congregational_Resolution_Final.pdf
    • 2019: First Parish passed a resolution endorsing the aspirational goals of the Green New Deal to tackle climate change while creating high-paying jobs and protecting vulnerable communities
    • 2021: The Endowment Fund Committee obtained approval from the Parish Board for a change in the Endowment Fund Investment Policy to eliminate from the portfolio any mutual fund or exchange traded fund which holds any incidental fossil fuel company positions, except in the case of funds that hold fossil fuel company investments as part of their stated strategy to be activist investors
    • 2021: Global warming due to emissions of greenhouse gasses is critical and urgent so EJC drafted a resolution, supported by the Peace & Justice Committee, to divest from fossil fuel companies. EJC coordinated congregational discussions on the proposed divestment article (article passed by majority but failed to get ⅔ vote needed for implementation).


Green Sanctuary Program Certification

In April 2015, First Parish was awarded certification as a Green Sanctuary by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA). To earn this certification, First Parish undertook 13 major projects, many of which are ongoing, and collaborate with other organizations. First Parish Minister Emeritus John Gibbons stated: “Since 2013, First Parish has been working on earning Green Sanctuary accreditation – an effort supporting the vision that, together, we can create a world in which all people make reverence, gratitude, and care for the Earth a core part of our lives. We have explored what it means to live on an imperiled planet and to become environmental stewards. We are very proud of our new designation and will continue to pursue sustainable lifestyles as individuals and as a faith community collaborating, as we have, with other organizations locally and beyond.”

Below you can see the variety of projects by First Parish groups that address the UUA Green Sanctuary Accreditation’s four areas of focus.

  1. Environmental Justice
    Understand the significance and complexity of environmental issues, engage in community action and address unequal environmental burdens.

    • Organic Vegetable Garden
    • Films, Presentations and Books
    • Sunday Bus Service
    • Part Time Environmental Organizer
    • Political Action
    • Resolution Declaring Our Right to a Livable Climate
    • Climate Justice Group
    • Outreach to Other Congregations
  2. Worship & Celebration
    Strengthen the connection between spiritual practice and Earth consciousness, and share our joy in life’s complexity.

    • Environmental Services
    • Universe Creation Classes:
    • Climate Justice Moments
  3. Religious Education (RE)
    Teach our children and youth to understand and appreciate how we interact on Earth.

  4. Sustainable Living
    Encourage personal lifestyle changes at home, in our gatherings, and for our facilities.

FP Third P Energy Audit 2009 GSC 2012

04-09-15 GS Accreditation Application

Bedford, MA Accreditation letter