In 2007, the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church started the process of becoming a Green Sanctuary, a designation through the Unitarian Universalist Association that signifies that the church has undertaken the process of reducing its carbon footprint through a series of actions and upgrades.
PUUC, starting with an energy audit, has made dramatic improvements to our properties. Under the guidance of our Property Committee we have:
- Installed insulation in the attics of the Sanctuary and Parish Hall
- Purchased energy-efficient appliances: a refrigerator, freezer, and two water heaters
- Installed energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the Church and office
- Installed programmable thermostats throughout the Church and office
- Refinished and weather stripped the Sanctuary windows
- Installed eight storm windows on the huge Sanctuary windows
- Replaced an oil boiler with a pellet boiler
These energy efficiencies were financed by donations and grants obtained by our Fund Raising Committee as well as by our designated Building Fund, part of our endowment.
The Green Sanctuary Committee guided PUUC throughout the process. One of their first endeavors was arranging for an energy audit and offering composting bins for sale to members. They ensured that there were recycling bins throughout the buildings. Much correspondence was moved from paper to electronic format. Bulk purchasing was instituted. Recycled paper is purchased for use. PUUC members continue to recycle used computer/printer cartridges with Staples and use the credit for office supplies. The Community Supper partners with local farmers for produce in the growing seasons. Small groups began to meet in members' homes during the winter to save on heat costs.
Concurrently, in collaboration with the Green Sanctuary Committee, the Standing Committee, Religious Education Committee, Social Justice Committee, and staff undertook to promote congregational environmental awareness and energy efficiency within our buildings. All our efforts were met with enthusiastic support from our minister who wove environmental topics into his sermons and, with the RE director, into the conversations with the children. Our music director found relevant choir music. Our administrator greened the office, found resources for recycled office supplies and much more.
The Standing Committee established guidelines for purchasing, recycling, heat and energy use and property maintenance and modification for our congregants as well as the many groups that use our facility.
The Religious Education Committee used the curriculum, “Celebrating Our Origins in the Universe,” augmented by “Coming Home to North America, the Great Story Bead Project.” The children participated in a program called the “Council of All Beings” in which students identified with and learned to speak for specific animals (or plants or geological features) about their respective concerns for the Earth. The older children collaborated with a member who wrote a story about the evolution of the Universe; the children provided illustrations. The book was constructed and copies sold.
For adults, in addition to the worship themes, classes were held on the topics “Menu for the Future” and “Voluntary Simplicity.”
The Social Justice Committee convened a Recycling Sub-Committee of interested church members to work on greening our church and our personal lives. They researched the recycling programs of each of the towns from which our membership comes and made this information available during Community Hour. Once monthly, the weekly Social Justice Candle was dedicated to Greening topics, such as promoting the use of glasses, china and silverware for all church events and in our personal lives, and advocating for recycling, local food, and green purchasing. Equal Exchange coffee, tea and chocolate continue to be served during Community Hour and are available for purchase. They put up a bike rack and encouraged biking to church. The committee worked with the children to talk about and to create a bulletin board display of trash that could have been recycled. The children decorated paper lunch bags to hold a compact fluorescent light bulb; these were promoted as Christmas gifts for teachers and friends and successfully sold at Hospitality. Children were introduced to the energy meters available for loan from our libraries; they checked the energy use of incandescent vs fluorescent lights and of kitchen appliances. Using a small solar panel, they were shown how the sun could make a little fan work. Committee members purged the kitchens of Styrofoam cups and plates as well as plastic cutlery. The children posted “We Recycle” signs in the kitchens.
All these efforts culminated in PUUC achieving the status of Green Sanctuary in 2009. Our congregation continues to look for ways to live lightly on the earth. We have fifteen connected storage units, converted from horse sheds; we hope one day to have solar panels on the roof to meet our electric needs.