Earth Justice Team

You Can Reduce Your Use: From the Earth Justice Team

From Roz Gohagan on behalf of the Earth Justice Team

Justice On Earth: Making the Journey

I am only one person. What difference can I make?

In our final review of Justice on Earth, the authors of the chapter The Journey of Partnering for Justice detail the work started by one UU who forged a relationship with indigenous people in her town in the Pacific Northwest.  With a background in indigenous rights activism, Beth Brownfield asked the local Lummi Nation for permission to teach a class about their history.  That led to fund raising and gathering community support for an annual tribal event providing opportunities for neighbors to learn about the nation’s culture and spirituality.  The Native American Connections Committee formed and later delegates from Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship (BUF) attended an environmental justice event at a reservation and a UN seminar on indigenous rights.  BUF, other UUs, and the UUA passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, an international principle since the 15th century that allowed indigenous people to be denied their rights, and sovereignty and humanity.

After an expanded application was submitted to build a port terminal from which coal would be exported, BUF’s Green Sanctuary Committee worked with environmental groups and faith communities to draft a response in opposition.  Forums to discuss the impact of the terminal on the Lummi, on aquatic life, climate, the economy, and health were held. BUF supported annual Totem Pole Journeys that raised awareness of issues faced by other nations including fighting extraction of tar sands and building tar sand pipelines in Canada, and destruction of local waterways in Montana due to coal mining.  The UU College of Social Justice at Lummi Nation was established. BUF facilitated a partnership with the nation and the UUA that led to a climate justice event at the General Assembly in Portland, and later led a workshop on climate justice and impact on indigenous nations at the Canadian Unitarian Council General Conference.

Before we can support similar efforts to improve our communities, we must take stock of what motivates us to participate in justice work and internalize the characteristics to be successful:

  • Practice humility — acknowledge our cultural prejudices, and be willing to leave them behind. 
  • Being authentic — no pretensions, no personal agendas
  • Listening — deep listening to those with whom we collaborate. Do not be afraid to ask questions. 
  • Cultivating trust — it is not built overnight, but through showing up repeatedly, and standing by what you say and do. 
  • Doing your homework — educate yourself about the issues and about the community. Be open to learning even if it makes you uncomfortable.
  • Be in it for the long haul — This is a marathon. The intent is to make a positive, impactful change to our environment and our communities. With each activity, we build and strengthen relationships and trust, and expand the circle of people who understand the value of social justice work. 

It all starts with one.

For more information, please contact Silke at  


Please click here for more information on the Green Policy that was passed at our Annual Meeting on May 18, 2014.


The Earth Justice Team program was established by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to help congregations implement our principle of: 

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Our committee began in 2001 and, with the support of many members of our congregation, completed the necessary work to reach the initial accreditation as a EJT in July 2010.  In order to maintain our standing we must continue to address six areas of congregational life.  Here are some of the activities we have accomplished along with those on our “to do” list:

1. Worship and Celebration – We have held services and celebrated several February Focus months around environmental issues and continue to celebrate the eight solar holidays in a small-group setting.  We will continue to dedicate at least one Sunday worship per year to the environment/sustainability (E/S) issues.  The ministers and worship committee have incorporated environmental prayers, meditations, or readings and encourage this to be continued.

2. Religious Education – We dedicated four of our last focus months to environmental issues, including Sustainability, Ethical Eating, and Spirituality and Nature, all which will or have had a special curriculum for our young people.  We addressed the availability of solar energy for private homes in New Jersey through an adult RE event.  We plan to have at least one lesson for the young people’s RE program addressing an E/S topic, and preferably more than one lesson on an ongoing basis.  We plan to offer special adult RE events on E/S topics such as a film screenings or speakers.

3. Earth Justice – We participated in an Environmental Justice Tour of the Ironbound section of Newark and helped with the ecological restoration of Clark’s Pond in Bloomfield.  We plan to become more involved with Habitat-for-Humanity Newark in many ways: helping to build the actual building, fund raising, and supporting 1-2 families after they’ve moved in with green home maintenance. We will continue to be involved with the Interfaith Environmental Coalition (IEC) of Greater Montclair, where members of many different houses of worship come together to share ideas and experiences about how to make their members’ and congregation’s lives more sustainable.  The IEC also sponsors an annual special event to showcase sustainability in our wider community, such as the EcoFair and Zero Waste Event.

4.  Sustainable Living.  We conducted two energy audits of our congregational buildings and implemented some of the recommendations (weather stripping, changing lights to CFLSs or LEDs where possible, and acquired a new, energy efficient refrigerator), and we intend to address the remaining recommendations soon including: installing programmable thermostats, upgrading to a more efficient boiler for the Rotunda building, and investigating solar panels.  We have shared information and products to make personal changes for more sustainability, such as offering CFLs, reusable water bottles, #5 plastic recycling, and promoting walk/bike/car-share to Sunday services.  We plan to help the Board of Trustees to establish a congregational policy on “Sustainability,” have a policy on (set-back) temperatures in the winter and summer, green coffee hour, find ways to reduce trash and compost, investigate renewable energy purchasing, buy environmentally friendly paper and cleaning products, and have a designated “Energy Steward” who monitors the congregation’s energy consumption and reports the findings back to the Earth Justice Team.

5. Communication.  We will continue to share information in the Gazette and insert in the bulletin on Sundays and we plan to make information available on our website.

6. Community Connections.  We plan to connect with other groups, such as the Health and Wellness Committee of the Montclair schools, to present the “Climate Showcase” of Montclair, and to get more involved with the position paper about Ethical Eating that the UUA is discussing.

The Earth Justice Team accreditation and re-accreditation process occurs every 3-5 years and has 3 aspects:

  1. Rethinking our spiritual beliefs and practices in connection with our environmental consciousness as individuals and as a congregation.
  2. Investigating and, where necessary, changing the ways we live our lives in the light of evident environmental issues, as individuals and as a congregation.
  3. Looking into many different aspects of environmental sustainability, which can go beyond our usual idea of the environment to include social justice, to name one example.

We also plan to network with other like-minded individuals and groups within the wider community related to these areas to have the best results.

The EJT would like to invite EVERYONE – young and old – to join us.  Simply attend one of our monthly meetings, usually held in between services, or by being involved with a project!

Contact: Silke Springorum, 973-744-1518,