2018 Cool Congregation Winners

CCC winners 2018


Community Inspiration

Community-wide Anti-idling Initiative


CI First Parish Unitarian Universalist ChurchNearly four million gallons of fuel are wasted in the US every day as a result of vehicle idling in front of stores, banks, post offices, soccer fields, schools, etc. Under Massachusetts Laws, , it is stipulated that “No person shall cause, suffer, allow, or permit the unnecessary operation of the engine of a motor vehicle while said vehicle is stopped for a foreseeable period of time if excess of five (5) minutes.” Idling cars put 40,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and puts us all at a heightened risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Children are at greater risk than adults. The Green Sanctuary Committee of First Parish (FPUU) realized most people don’t know about this important law and wanted to help bring awareness to the congregation and to the Medfield community. Even the police don’t seem to hand out tickets for offenders. Several towns and cities in Massachusetts have held anti-idling campaigns. FPUU’s objective was to raise consciousness in Medfield about the law and its many good reasons for the existence (reduce carbon emissions, stop wasting money, reduce public health problems).

They formed a town-wide coalition that included churches, government, institutions, and high school students. Newspaper articles brought the message to the community. They created a Medfield TV show about anti-idling that we later extended into other climate topics. As a result, the FPUU congregation and Medfield community have become more aware of the anti-idling law and many have changed their behavior. With this has come awareness of the problems in the environment.


Energy Saver

Let There Be Light



ES Blessed Sacrament Church assembling_workBlessed Sacrament Church had a reduction of 82% of energy use for lighting.  They were challenged in two primary ways.    1) Acceptance of change.  The parish’s energy efficiency committee needed to convince the priest, finance council, and general parish membership of the need to change our light fixtures and bulbs to LED.  After all, “the original lighting works just fine, doesn’t it?”    2) Cost of change.  As a parish, they were able to afford the hardware needed, but not necessarily the labor cost needed for installation.  The underlying question they grappled with was whether church funds should be invested in energy efficiency or whether they should be spent in other more conventional positive ways.

The key influencers learned about the cost savings to be had and how they would recoup the investment in a relatively short time (1.5 years) through energy savings.  They also learned that changing over to LED bulbs and fixtures throughout our facility was not just to have “pretty lights” in the worship space.  This was actually an easy “sell,” because the members of the parish are mostly aware of their responsibility to be good stewards of God gifts.

The second challenge – how to afford the labor costs – was met through enthusiasm and through Providence.  Two of the energy efficiency committee members are electrical engineers.  After studying and considering the project, they determined they were able to design and manage the project and also provide guidance to parishioner volunteers who would do all of the labor.   This challenge resulted in great success by not only saving money, but by building and strengthening community amongst the volunteers, and creating buy-in from the parish at large.

Throughout the facility, over 300 fluorescent tube-light fixtures were re-worked to use LED light tubes and motion detector lights were installed in lower-use areas.    As a result, not only is the quality of the lighting all around is much improved, they are now using less than 20% of the  original lighting load!


Renewable Role Model

Renewable Role Model



RR Unitarian Universalist Society solar_array_photo_.jpegThe seventh principle of the UUA is the “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”  Accordingly, since 2008, the Green Sanctuary Committee of UUS has been educating and motivating the congregation to be more aware of personal, congregational, and global environmental challenges through the programs we have conducted, which involved active participation by members.

The first challenge was the decision to leave the 107 year-old building in downtown Iowa City. Arriving at the decision to vacate their beloved historical church building in order to construct a more sustainable one was a daunting challenge and took about 20 years to come to consensus.  Accessibility was also a big reason for a new building. Aside from switching out light bulbs and advocating for an end to the use of paper products in the kitchen, they were limited in their activities in-house by an old building that could not be sufficiently improved by such things as better windows, efficient heating and a chance to promote green activities such as gardening on site. When the decision to build was made, the goal was to build the greenest and most accessible church possible.   The next challenge was to raise enough money for the land and the facility itself.  To build a sustainable building costs more than a “conventional” structure.    Raising funds for the large solar project was the third challenge.

Throughout the campaign, They reminded themselves that, “We’re building the greenest church in Iowa.”  When vacating the downtown space, many members pitched in to help organize, pack and move into rented temporary space.  The buyer has preserved the original 100+ year-old sanctuary and it remains an Iowa City historic landmark.  When they left the old building their members worked tirelessly to salvage and recycle everything possible and to keep materials out of the landfill.

On April 21, 2016, we celebrated  ground breaking with our members, the architects, and the mayor of Coralville in attendance.  Construction ended October 13th, 2017.  The building has many sustainable features including a geothermal heating and cooling system and on-site renewable energy production through the solar array.  A group of committed UUS members formed an LLC to fund the solar array.  The LLC sells the electricity produced by the array to UUS at a rate lower than our power company, the Linn County REC. The array went online on May 3, 2018.

There are four charging stations for electric cars. The cedar exterior cladding and interior ceiling is made of wood harvested in the U.S., the window glass was selected for energy efficiency, and the roof insulation exceeds that required by code.  The carpet, adhesives, sealants, paint, and coatings were chosen for low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).  There are recycled glass countertops, a polished concrete floor for low maintenance, energy star appliances and LED lighting throughout with motion activated switches.  They expect to be a net-zero building through the Living Building Challenge.


Sacred Grounds

Greening Binkley-3 stream waste diversion



SG Binkley Baptist Church2At the beginning of 2018, Binkley’s Earth Ministry Committee began crafting a Proclamation of Sustainability, which was formally approved and adopted by Church Council on April 16th, 2018. The committee began looking at ways to improve stewardship and care of the Earth by reducing the amount of landfilled waste we were creating.

Binkley church has two preschools, a Meals-On-Wheels chapter, 30+ weekly user groups, weekly one-time user groups, and weekly food-oriented congregational functions, ALL operating out of our facility. It’s not surprising that we were producing a lot of organic and recyclable “waste,” all of which was being landfilled. The task was to address these large amounts of landfilled waste by focusing on three areas: eliminating single-use items, better recycling, and composting.

After conducting a trash audit, we determined that more than 75% of our “trash” was compostable or recyclable. Next the challenge was two-fold. First, we needed to revisit conventional recycling; although the  municipality had been recycling for many years, including curbside pickup, most people didn’t understand what could be recycled. Second, we needed to get Binkley on board with composting; while some members did some composting at home, ours would be on a larger scale working with a commercial composting facility. To accomplish this, we designed a waste diversion and collection system for the facility and implemented it in stages.

As a congregation, Binkley church has eliminated almost all single-use items by stocking the kitchen with reusable plates, napkins, tablecloths, cups, glasses, and cutlery. The kitchen pantry is stocked with only  compostable materials to be used when reusables are not feasible. User groups have been provided documents with comprehensive instructions for product purchasing and system compliance and are offered ongoing support. Each church committee has a designated “green” ambassador who oversees proper waste collection at committee meetings and events.

From May 15 to December 15, 2018, Binkley church has diverted 18,865 pounds of compostable waste from the landfill ( averaging 2700 pounds per month.) We  now have three 64-gallon compost carts with twice a week pickup. We have also improved the efficiency of our recycling program. We now have three 96-gallon rollout carts versus the one 96-gallon cart with which we started the year and have requested a fourth 96-gallon cart to meet our needs. Binkley Church and Earth Ministries have also started collaborating with other faith organizations in the area, discussing our project and making recommendations as to how we can assist them in implementing similar waste diversion and collection systems. At Binkley, we have learned that with small steps, we can make a difference in the lives of others and positively impact change in how we take care of our Earth.


Cool Congregations Planner

Solar Outreach Program



fb_img_1530555905103The Solar outreach project is designed to bring solar power to the people in the Lybrook and Counselor communities. There are several elderly and single parent families that are living without any form of electricity. Some of these people do not have the means to get electricity or have been told that there isn’t any money in the budget to get electricity to them. The initial phase is to bring solar powered refrigeration to 10 homes. The second phase is to put complete solar on 3 homes by December 2019.

LCM is working with Gallup Solar, Global Food Initiative and NMIPL to find ways to bring low cost refrigeration to the community. There are community members that have medications that require refrigeration. We are looking to initially install small solar powered refrigerators, with the intention of continuing exploring solar on a larger scale. We are also using community members as volunteers to learn how to and install these solar units.

Gallup solar and NMIPL has provided one of the solar powered refrigeration systems that will be installed in a community members home. We are also adding a lighting system as well as 2 110 VAC plug ins. Global Food Initiative has granted an initial grant to purchase a unit to be installed as a training aid at Lybrook Community Ministries. We are planning to install 10 solar powered refrigeration systems by the end of 2019.

The solar outreach project is only one part of Lybrook Community Ministries vision of the community becoming self sustaining. We are working with community members through our gardening program which helps to establish small family gardens.


Runners Up


Community Inspiration

CIGreece Baptist ChurchGreece Baptist Church

Greece, NY






CIValley Friends Meeting2Valley Friends Meeting

Dayton, VA




Energy Saver

ES Des Moines Zen Center temple_dedicationDes Moines Zen Center

Des Moines, IA




ES Harmony Creek Church lighting_upgrade2_phase_1Harmony Creek Church

Kettering, OH








ES United Hebrew Congregation ssecc_indoor_snow_dayUnited Hebrew Congregation

St. Louis, MO





Renewable Role Model

RR Community Church Unitarian Universalist solar_panels_of_ccuu_satelite_imageCommunity Church Unitarian Universalist

New Orleans, LA




RR Gesu Church gesu_solar_panelsGesu Church

Detroit, MI




RR West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church _panels_West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church

Rocky River, OH




Sacred Grounds

SG Faith Lutheran Church faith_lutheran_butterfly_releaseFaith Lutheran Church

Okemos, MI




SG St. Paul’s Episcopal Church 3St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Chattanooga, TN




Cool Congregations Planner

ES Hamline Church United Methodist solar.arrayHamline Church United Methodist

St Paul, MN






L St Aug warming_earth_image_by_youth_2018Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St Augustine

Saint Augustine, FL




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