Sustainability Heroes: Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation ‘walking their talk’

Members of Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church walk at March Point in Anacortes earlier this year to support the Swinomish tribe in their quest to block a rail spur on their lands.

(On July 22, 2016, Cynthia Pruitt and Hank Landau, members of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee of Edmonds interviewed Gayle Leberg and Stephen Ernst. Both Gayle and Stephen are members of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation (EUUC).

Right from the start, Gayle Leberg and Stephen Ernst made it clear that the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation (EUUC) had overwhelmingly voted to enact a congregational stand on global warming. Gayle and Stephen are committed to implementing this stand and reduce EUUC’s production of heat-trapping gases.

That work has started with several building improvements. These improvements include replacing existing windows in the 70-year-old building with double-paned ones. And as a result of an energy audit, they replaced their ceiling flood lights with CFLs. They have also installed a high-efficiency furnace, which is zoned to distribute temperature control to the right place at the right time with minimal energy spent heating and cooling unused spaces. They have also installed a bike rack. In the future they hope to mount solar panels on the roof.

Gayle and Stephen are members of EUUC’s Peace and Justice Committee, which leads the church’s sustainability efforts. The committee has initiated several projects over a period of several years, aimed at raising the congregation’s consciousness including placing a highly visible chart in a way that encourages every member to calculate their carbon footprint, and then note it on the chart. Nearby, a poster shows changes that members can make in their household to reduce that footprint. Each person was asked to put a dot on the changes they had completed, thereby showing the collective efforts of the congregation.

The committee has also provided information to the congregation on the types of food that would contribute to reducing their carbon footprint.

Gayle and Stephen both told of being influenced by the coming together of the Interfaith Action Committee (IAC) in Edmonds. EUUC had a leadership role in both of the events put on by IAC: “Prayers for Our Planet,” and “Lift Up Our Voices For the Planet.”

Congregation members had testified about the negative carbon footprint of the proposed oil terminal at Cherry Point, Bellingham. To deepen the impact of their testimony, they provided key points of their testimony to the congregation and encouraged others to pick some of those points to base letters of opposition on.

Several other efforts influenced how the congregation thought about global warming. One was a workshop on Joanna Macy’s book, “Active Hope.” Another was a book group’s study of Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything.”

Both Gayle and Stephen said that they feel a responsibility to share the values of sustainability with the broader Edmonds community, including the larger faith community. They explained their view that global warming is a moral issue, using slavery in comparison. Faith institutions/churches are uniquely qualified to address moral issues. Doing what the church can do to reduce its carbon footprint is “walking their talk.” In addition, they are saving money. They would definitely recommend that others explore similar efforts.


  1. The Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Peace & Justice Committee thanks the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee of Edmonds for the honor and recognition of EUUC’s efforts in working for a sustainable future. The work in this arena has been an ongoing effort at EUUC and has involved the effort of more than one committee. Early efforts at reducing carbon footprint were spearheaded by the Sustainability Committee. Then the whole church became involved, when all of the social justice committees joined together for a 2-year effort at raising awareness to reduce carbon footprint at home. EUUC bought shares in the Edmonds Community Solar Co-op at that time, and many members did too. When the Sustainability Committee folded, Peace & Justice continued, expanding our efforts to community and global advocacy on the critical moral issue of global warming. We appreciate your recognition on behalf of everyone at EUUC.

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