Sustainability Action Plan

First Parish Unitarian Universalist Cambridge
Sustainability Action Plan 2013-15
Approved SCLP Certification* May 2013; Plan updated July 30, 2014


Over the past several years, First Parish Cambridge (FPC) has been on a journey to find better ways to make our historic building and environmentally-conscious congregation a more sustainable community in words and actions. In May 2013, FPC won certification from the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program, one of the first churches to achieve recognition for its Sustainability Action Plan. The written plan that follows completes the first stage of the action plan which will continue to grow and evolve as we implement its goals and take concerted action in the months and years to come.


1. Embrace Sustainable Living at First Parish
2. Achieve Neutral Energy Consumption: Lower Use, Increase Efficiency, Purchase Renewable Sources
3. Reduce and Recycle Waste
4. Conserve Water and Prevent Pollution
5. Promote Alternate Transportation

1. Embrace Sustainable Living at First Parish

• The Green Team promotes sustainability as a collaborative congregational commitment toward continuous improvement working with the Standing Committee, program groups, committees and staff
• Engage congregation through educational events, input sessions, FPC Spring/Fall Workdays
• Foster inclusion of sustainability ideas/goals in services including Earth Day service; inspire members with opportunities for personal action
• Participate with Environmental Justice Task Force activities in the larger sustainability movement eg. Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign and
• Consider adopting a “Sustainability Covenant” as a congregation

2. Achieve Neutral Energy Consumption: Lower Use, Increase Efficiency and Purchase Renewable Sources

• Adopt policy and commitment to energy conservation that involves proactive action/investments to lower energy use as follows:
• Improve insulation/sealing of the building envelope; prioritize, schedule and fund upgrades as a primary energy conservation investment in Building & Grounds budget, specifically North Wall (underway 2014), East Wall/Mass Ave Window/Steeple, and attic space in Meetinghouse and Parish House
• Replace non-LED/CFL lighting, transition to all Energy Star appliances, computer system daily shutdown, switching off lights/motion activated lights, and proper use of electric fans, etc.
• Meter tenant electricity usage to recover costs and encourage lower use
• Track and evaluate annual energy use and costs (HVAC and electricity) to identify priorities for improvements needed
• Consider alternatives to cost-effectively provide AC in sanctuary including air source heat pump (possibly improving our heating system efficiency/energy use)
• Consider ways to improve the efficiency of our heating system, lower maintenance costs
would include purchase of energy star appliances; replacement of any non-CFL or LED lighting
• Purchase of renewable energy from Mass Energy or other organization that will help us to reach carbon neutral energy use goal (cost estimate of $1,900/yr)
• Schedule regular NStar lighting audit every 2 years (Fall 2014 next) to estimate and fund lighting upgrade costs.
• Continue to monitor issues associated with solar energy installation on roof with Buildings & Grounds Committee to seek cost-effective options that may be available in future. Foreseeable investments should be guided by energy conservation measures and renewable energy purchase to offset FPC energy use.

3. Reduce and Recycle Waste

• Continue to improve level of recycling through clear signage that assists user in proper trash and recycling disposal as well as providing adequate number of receptacles in key traffic areas
• Purchase reusable kitchen ware to replace all disposable paper goods and require use for Tuesday Meals, Sunday social hour, weddings, etc.
• Research food waste composting options and encourage use for larger events such as Tuesday Meals, community meals, and weddings, etc. (commercial haulers, Harvard Sustainability Program, etc.)
• Monitor progress of City of Cambridge composting pilot program and support city-wide expansion that would allow regular curbside pickup of food waste
• Continue waste reduction, reuse and recycling in all operational activities as outlined in Purchasing Policy (SECTION III)

4. Conserve Water and Prevent Pollution

• Maintain lower water use by installing the latest low-flow plumbing fixtures in rest rooms, kitchen and service areas
• Maintain low water use plantings in landscaped areas and minimize watering except in periods of drought or for new plantings
• Regularly inspect and maintain all plumbing fixtures 2-4x/yr to prevent/repair leaks
• Use low/non-toxic cleaning and environmentally conscious pest control options

5. Promote Alternative Transportation

• Encourage congregation to use alternate transportation (public transit, walk/bike or carpool); provide clear access instructions that promote non-auto access but recognize that parking is needed to serve accessibility needs
• Encourage organizations that rent our facilities to promote non-auto access
• Collaborate with City of Cambridge to facilitate adequate bike storage and rentals
• Consider ways to encourage and reward staff who use alternate transportation


First Parish Cambridge is committed to the responsible purchase of all materials, supplies and services by principles of seeking environmental sustainability, social justice, and ethical production. The following guidance has been developed to assist the Standing Committee, all committees and staff in the assessment of purchasing choices with the understanding that they will undertake due diligence in evaluating alternatives to make a well- informed and balanced decision that evaluates each purchase in the context of UUA Principles and with the goals noted below as primary considerations along with sound financial stewardship.

1. Goals

• Make Well Informed Choices, Set High Standards: Along with quality, effectiveness and cost considerations, seek information and evaluate social justice, environmental and ethical production issues that may be associated with proposed purchases to find credible choices and to set high standards that best adhere to our UUA principles.
• Reduce Carbon Footprint, Be Environmentally Responsible: All purchasing decisions shall consider ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce and recycle waste, lower energy use, conserve water and other natural resources, and prevent pollution.
• Improve Access, Safety, Inclusivity: Purchasing considerations must include maintaining and improving the health, safety and access for visitors, members and staff in order to meet goals of inclusivity for all.
• Contribute to the Local Economy: Local vendors and service providers should be sought and actively considered with the goal of supporting the local and regional economy.

2. A Shared Responsibility

First Parish Cambridge is a vibrant community with diverse groups making purchasing decisions. It is important to recognize that improving our collaboration, information resources and shared knowledge will help us all to make better and more consistent buying decisions. While the ultimate responsibility for overall financial management is with the Standing Committee and Finance Committee, we recognize that many committees and the staff play an important role. Thus, we ask that everyone become familiar with the following purchasing process guidelines in evaluating the attributes of a particular product or service purchase to contribute to a collaborative process that will help us meet our commitment to developing well-informed choices consistent with our principles.

3. Suggested Purchasing Process

Step 1: Research
• Consider social justice and sustainability attributes of the purchase – these can often be confusing and contradictory
• Seek information resources within FPC and from outside sources on sustainable choices relevant to the procurement
• Current purchasing policy at First Parish that may affect the decision (what was previous choice and why)
Step 2: Consultation
• Seek input from other FPC committees
• Consult with appropriate staff
Step 3: Report Results
• Report costs, sources, performance to staff and all interested parties in the decision making process with the purpose of improving our record-keeping, cost comparison/ savings and understanding of sustainable solutions

4. Develop Operations Manual

The Green Team proposes to work with staff, other committees and program groups to document best practices for key sustainability-related activities in the operations of First Parish. We plan to document key processes and procedures in the community that affect our ability to reach our sustainability goals with the purpose of collaboratively finding means and methods that will make our joint efforts more cost-effective and intuitive. Working with others, we will seek to publicize the need for change and make agreed upon approaches readily accessible through website, Google document sharing and signage. It is expected that simple checklists will be a prime tool in helping to establish shared protocols for a number of sustainability-related issues such as:

• Incorporating reusable dishware in dispensing food for community meals, Tuesday Meals Program and other events
• Minimizing waste generation with print copy protocols, recycling and materials reuse
• Encouraging energy conservation with lighting shutoffs, electronic device shutdowns, etc.

*SCLP Certification was awarded by the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program recognizing FPC’s leadership in adopting sustainable practices and a commitment to continuous improvement. The program requires the establishment of plan goals and performance assessment every 3 years.