Our beautiful earth
Earth is in our hands

Promoting the seventh Principle of Unitarian Universalism: to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Our mission is to educate ourselves and others about environmental issues; advocate public policies to protect the global environment; act locally in our homes, church and city; and connect spiritually with the web-of-all-existence. We work towards that mission by organizing educational, community-building action and service projects. Emerson is an accredited Green Sanctuary Congregation.  We typically meet on the 4th Sunday of the month. Currently we are meeting virtually. Check the weekly e-blast for updates or send an email to ministryforearth@emersonhouston.org

Upcoming events (online)

Emerson Ministry for Earth meets online

January 24, 2 to 3 p.m. Let’s get together briefly to check in and see what’s coming up, including options for advocacy in Texas with TXUUJM and Texas Impact.  Join Zoom Meeting

Sunday, Jan. 31 at 10 a.m.  Strike while the world is hot! Now is the time to take action for the climate. Actions can be as simple as a call or email or virtual postcard to your state and federal legislators. Join Social Action Council at https://emersonhouston.org/AdultLearners for a fun, interactive learning experience. Find out more how we together can make the world better for all, especially the most vulnerable among us. Find out more about specific actions at Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Interfaith Events, open to all 

Sunday, January 31, 6 p.m., online. Being Healthy in a Toxifying World.  In January, join Steve Stelzer, Program Director at the Houston Green Building Resource Center, as he discusses the many paradoxes we face as global citizens regarding staying healthy in a world where business insists on dumping toxic wastes into our air and water supply.  Without getting too gloomy about it, Steve will also discuss options for actually doing something about the problem.  Spoiler alert: “Superman’s Not Coming”.  Meanwhile, it seems we might be reaching a critical mass to turn this around. Please register for this talk on www.eventbrite.com. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.com with any questions.

February 14, 2 – 4 p.m. Join Lara Cottingham, Chief Sustainability Officer, to learn about the Houston Climate Action Plan & how houses of worship can engage.  Lara will cover the goals of the CAP in the areas of transportation, energy transition, building optimization & materials management, including the strategies & actions to be employed in reaching the goals. The CAP is designed to address climate change, but there are many co-benefits which Lara will also highlight. And, she will discuss how faith communities can partner with the City of Houston to achieve the goals, helping to lead Houston to a more sustainable future. 


CCL Central Chapter meeting

Saturday, Feb. 13, 10:30 a.m. online. Learn about the Sunnyside Solar Energy Project. Meeting Online: https://citizensclimate.zoom.us/j/6963048644 Or by phone: 1-929-205-6099; 6963048644# Passcode: 123.

CCL Regional Conference Feb. 20 and 21 online. “Forward Together”, to help solve Climate Change. For Information and to Register:  https://bit.ly/39r8hXz


Beach Clean-Up hosted by Galveston Bay Foundation and IENOH Logo Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2 – 4 p.m. We will remove trash polluting a shoreline along Galveston Bay in Kemah, helping to protect and restore the beautiful bay ecosystem. This event will offer activities for all ages and skill levels, so bring the whole family! Supplies will be provided. You just need your mask, sun protection, a reusable water bottle, and closed-toe shoes. The event will be limited to 2 groups of 10, using masks & social distancing. Registration is required for participation. Register at: https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/f4oGd9P3Ecdf9rd.  Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.com or Sasha Francis at sfrancis@galvbay.org for more information.

Good News!

Ministry for Earth congratulates Dori Wolfe and Wolfe Energy for receiving lease of Sunnyside Landfill

The Houston city council vote to lease the landfill site for a solar farm “marked an important step for those involved, who say they want to see the land change from blight to a showpiece of how contaminated property can be repurposed. The agreement allows companies behind the effort to seek approval from the state environmental agency and power grid managers to build on and sell energy from the 240-acre spot. It covers at least 20 years of operation, with construction slated for 2022. Chief Sustainability Officer Lara Cottingham, who spearheaded the project, has called the effort “historic.” Mayor Turner referred to the project as a “plus for the city as a whole.” 

On Houstonchronicle.com ‘This is historic’: City agrees to lease the Sunnyside landfill for a solar farm, charging $1 a year.   

Ministry for Earth commends Michael Bloom for proposing more plants, less concrete for Houston

Michael Bloom, Emersonian member, prepared the final report, Houston Incentives for Green Development, for City Council, recommending a new property tax abatement program for developers who incorporate green stormwater infrastructure.  Green infrastructure includes natural landscapes that collect or slow stormwater runoff and reduce urban heat effects, including  “green roofs,” permeable paving and detention ponds.  In Houston, the tax abatements would  create an incentive program that rewards developers for minimizing the downstream impacts of development. The incentive “creates an opportunity to foster a development culture around sustainability,” says City Council member Abbie Kamin.   Link to the report Houston Incentives for Green Development, https://www.houstontx.gov/igd/documents/igd-report-final.pdf

See Houston Chronicle article https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/environment/article/More-plants-less-concrete-Houston-now-will-15840174.php?cmpid=gsa-chron-result#photo-20448242  

Please contact your City Council Member to thank (except Greg Travis and Michael Knox, who voted against the proposal)

Environmental Justice (online)

Grant enables EJ work:  UUSJ* received a grant for a new Environmental Justice Project: Shifting to Collective Environmental Justice Through Partner Engagement and Virtual Federal Advocacy. It focuses on working with impacted communities and UU justice organizations. The grant leverages UUSJ’s advocacy network and virtual strategies to engage communities at the greatest risk of environmental and economic injustice. UUSJ will seek to amplify voices around federal policy reform efforts to address climate change and reduce the risk of environmental devastation. Partnerships pursued will include both UU and non-UUs parties.  *Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) includes UUs, UU congregations, Impacted communities, Organizations that represent impacted communities. The mission is to advance equitable national policies and actions, aligned with UU values, through engagement, education, and advocacy.

Faithful Resilience: A Study on Climate Resilience for Faith Communities

Tuesdays, January 12 – February 16, 2021, 6 p.m.,  6-part online study group.

The climate crisis has arrived. Faith communities must not only react, but also prepare. Over the last decade, hurricanes have intensified, wildfires have burnt stronger, and heat waves have baked our cities. These events can only be expected to get worse in the next decades. Most of our faith communities are not ready for these climate-driven disasters. Yet, the communities who will be most threatened by climate change also have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in building resilience in their towns and cities. Whether a faith community has a large facility, land, social capital, or something else, those assets can be channeled into building climate resilience in preparation for the coming physical and spiritual storms of the climate crisis. Join us for a six-week exploration of how Emerson could  become a force for climate resilience for our community. To learn more/register, see: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/faithful-resilience-a-study-on-climate-resilience-for-faith-communities-tickets-130072625725 Facilitated by nonprofit Texas Interfaith Center for Pubic Policy.

Climate Effects on Indigenous Peoples

People of the Land: logo Carrizo-Comocrudo TribeHealing from The White Supremacy & Colonization Pandemic

Texas UU Justice Ministry (TXUUJM), along with the UU Service Committee (UUSC) and UU Ministry For Earth (UUMFE), is forging a new relationship with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. The Esto’k Gna have been leading environmental justice efforts along the so called Mexican-American border: protecting indigenous sacred sites, resisting construction of LNG (fracked gas) terminals and accompanying pipelines, and educating people about the environmental devastation the Border Wall will cause.  Join this series of online conversations with the Tribe. The first two conversations explored native identity and lifeways and the pandemic of racism.

The Condor & the EagleCondor_Eagle_Poster

About the film: Four Indigenous environmental leaders embark on an extraordinary trans-continental adventure from the Boreal forest to deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of “Climate Justice”. The film’s four protagonists (including Bryan Parras, Houston activist, and Yudith Nieto, of T.E.J.A.S.) learn from each other’s long legacy of resistance to colonialism and its extractive economy. Their path through the jungle takes them on an unexpectedly challenging and liberating journey, which will forever change their attachment to the Earth and one another. 

 – WATCH THE TRAILER   The Condor & The Eagle has won 8 awards including Best Environmental Documentary at the 2019 Red Nation Film Festival. Co-hosted by UU Ministry for Earth, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Religions Initiative, and others. 

Climate Action 

10-Minute Climate Play Competition 

Links to recorded readings of all 3 plays. Thanks to Emerson Players for superb readings.

No better way to change hearts and minds than through story and metaphor. Co-sponsored by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Houston Chapter and Ministry for Earth

Events in and around Houston

Check out Citizen’s Environmental Coalition weekly update, on the News tab.

Houston Green Film Series (Facebook page) at Rice University

Current Focus Issues

Acting on Climate Change – 

  • Renewable Congregations Campaign  – Emerson challenges other congregations to shift to 100% renewable energy. Book discussions included 
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is the leading organization in the nation advocating for climate change and its practical solutions. CCL works with all levels of legislative bodies and educates the general public on the “Carbon Fee & Dividend” program that is CCL’s central focus. The mission of CCL is to create the “Political Will for the Livable World.” Dori Wolfe, Houston Central chapter organizer.

In Jan. 2020, the congregation endorsed the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). We support the “fee and dividend” legislation to drive down America’s carbon pollution, help bring climate change under control, while unleashing American technology innovation and ingenuity.  Importantly, it provides monthly dividends to households. Learn MoreFrequently Asked Questions(1 page handout) and Slides from Educational sessions.

  • At our October meeting, a member of CCL, John Glover, presented the En-ROADS tool (a very cool MIT-created interactive indicator of future CO2 levels based upon different legislative and other actions).
  • The Path of Hope: A Study on Climate Action for Faith Communities Path-of-Hope,climate-action-study

    An online discussion series built around 15-minute videos covering four key climate policy issues and why these impacts create an imperative for people of faith to advocate for strong US climate action. The Action Center provides practical, step-by-step instructions for advocacy activities, as well as recommended policy asks for local, state, and national leaders.  

Ethical Eating and Environmental Justice

Our potluck suppers feature vegetarian and vegan menus, such as the “veggie burger cook-off.” Other campaigns have highlighted industrial agriculture, consumption, and unfair labor practices in the production of chocolate.

On HoustonChronicle.com: Here are 35 places that exclusively serve vegan food in Houston 

Consumption and Sustainability

We encourage members to refuse, reduce and reuse as well as recycle. We encourage members to use china, glassware, and cutlery instead of disposables for all events that provide food and drink.

Water Quality and Water Conservation for Houses of Worship and Their Members, Sunday, September 13, 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. online. Join Sarah Gossett Robinson, Senior Community Liaison for Houston Water, to learn how you/your house of worship can assist in conserving water & preserving water quality. 

Local Conservation and Animal Welfare Organizations

  • Support for Corridor Rescue Coalition and Pet Adoption
  • Planting trees with Trees for Houston
  • Cleaning up the beaches and bayous (Adopt-a-Beach and Trash Bash)
  • Marsh Mania (planting sea grass) with the Galveston Bay Foundation
  • Volunteering at Earth Day Houston

Recycling & Composting at Emerson:  

We had to remove the Republic Services recycling bin in the parking lot. While the church is not meeting in the building, we are seeking another company to pick up recycling at Emerson. Meanwhile, volunteers are again taking the recyclable material to a city collection location. 

Composting continues. Please bury any compostable material you leave in the bin in the fenced area.

Partner Organizations

UU Ministry for Earth  – A national program of the UUA and the inspiration for our environmental work at Emerson. In 2011, the Emerson Green Sanctuary group took took the name Ministry for Earth. More info here  https://www.uumfe.org/resources/world-water-day/   

Citizen’s Environmental Coalition (CEC) – The CEC is an alliance of over 130 diverse nonprofit, governmental, professional, conservation, advocacy, and educational organizations to foster education, dialogue, and collaboration on environmental issues in the Houston/Gulf Coast region. The weekly Houston Environmental News Update publicizes opportunities to become involved, take action, and make a difference. 

Citizen’s Climate Lobby (see above)

Sunrise Movement Front yard climate strike posters

We participated in Stay-at-Home Climate Strike, April 24, 2020 from our yards with posters and banners. 

Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston (IENOH) –  Emerson UU Church is a founding member of the new Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston, an affiliate of Texas Interfaith Power and Light.  The purpose of the new organization is to empower the faith community in Houston to advocate and act collectively as stewards of the environment. The organization is open to staff of local environmental non-profits, so that a strong connection between them and the faith community can be nurtured.

Texas Impact, an Austin-based interfaith justice advocacy organization, is the Texas chapter of Interfaith Power and Light, with both educational 501(d)3 and Advocacy 501c)4 activities.

T.E.J.A.S. – t.e.j.a.s. is a front-line community organization that works in the Manchester area of Houston, near the ship channel.   See the extensive Houston Chronicle article on March 15th about Bryan, one of the founders, at  https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Environmental-justice-documentary-puts-spotlight-15126835.php#


Green Sanctuary Certification (2003)

GreenSanctuary-logoEmerson was certified as a Green Sanctuary in 2003 through the process now administered by the UUA. Certification recognizes our work to expand eco-awareness to religious education, service, worship and sustainability of our church’s physical facilities. 



LEED Certification of Delaney Hall (2006)IMG_0852-LEED2-cropped

When Emerson began planning for Delaney Hall, the Green Sanctuary committee urged the architects to consider green building design and gave them a “Lean and Green Challenge” – to go as “green” as possible without adding cost to the building budget! The architects did such a good job of this that they themselves submitted the building for LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). After the architects provided extensive documentation on demolition, materials and handling, and recycling and construction procedures, we received 29 points. Delaney Hall is the first church building in the U.S. to be LEED certified, and the third building (of any kind) in Houston to achieve this certification. The building features sustainable design and construction methods, energy conservation, use of recycled materials, and pollution prevention techniques (air, water, light). The grounds were landscaped with native or highly adapted plants. We use integrated pest management and avoid pesticides. We encourage the use of recycled and/or reusable products for meals and parties.