The Medfield Anti-Idling Awareness Initiative – update

Nearly 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, etc. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 16A, 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.” While the Massachusetts anti-idling law exists to improve public health, protect the environment, and enhance quality of life, it remains widely unknown and ignored in the Commonwealth. Idling cars puts all of us at a heightened risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and it affects most strongly those communities and neighborhoods that experience much industrial traffic, or that are located in inner-city areas where public transportation relies on diesel-powered buses. These are often the same neighborhoods inhabited by disadvantaged populations.

First Parish decided to join other communities and religious organizations to help bring awareness to this important law. Several towns and cities in Massachusetts have held anti-idling campaigns, including Wakefield Climate Action Project, Rockport, Sustainable Belmont, Concord, Boxford, Boston, Cambridge, and Wellesley. By working to raise consciousness in Medfield and, eventually, in surrounding towns about the many good reasons for the law’s existence, we have seeked to draw attention to how unnecessary idling in Massachusetts jeopardizes public health, in bucolic suburbs as well as in more thickly settled and less privileged communities. This work stems from the 7th principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence.

A town-wide anti-idling coalition was formed that consists of churches, schools, town management, and civic groups. We believed we could not work alone on this and needed a buy-in from as many groups as possible. The coalition includes:

  • First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Medfield
  • Church of the Advent Medfield (Episcopal)
  • United Church of Christ (UCC) Medfield (Congregational)
  • First Baptist Church Medfield
  • St. Edward the Confessor Church Medfield (Catholic)
  • Medfield Police Department
  • Medfield School Committee
  • Medfield Energy Committee
  • Medfield Board of Health
  • Medfield Board of Selectmen
  • Medfield Green
  • Medfield Garden Club

An anti-idling flyer was created using ideas from other towns plus using the kit provided by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. It has distributed at Medfield Day every year since 2015. It was also distributed to the library, schools, and all the churches as well as to the congregants of First Parish.

The Medfield Police designed and ordered ten permanent anti-idling signs which were erected at schools, two each at five schools. The funds for the signs came from the town’s budget. A second batch of signs were ordered and twelve permanent anti-idling signs were erected by curbs in front of various locations (e.g., Town Hall, Library, etc.). Again, the funds for the signs came from the town’s budget. We understand there will be more signs erected.

A half-hour interview regarding Anti-Idling Awareness was conducted at the Medfield TV station, airing multiple times in December 2015. Three members of the Green Sanctuary Committee participated. The segment is posted on YouTube:

A five-minute playlet about anti-idling was presented to the congregants of First Parish about talking to motorists idling their cars.

We connected with a Medfield High School science teacher, Mike Cowell, who was doing climate change awareness activities. He ran a contest encouraging students to design anti-idling posters. We gave awards from a Medfield business ($10 gift certificates from Juice on Main) to the three best posters. The students also made a video: com/idlingvideo. An article entitled “Medfield Students Join in No Idling Campaign” was published in the Hometown Weekly on March 30, 2016, describing the contest and FPUU’s involvement. See We combined the winning high school students’ posters into one flyer and had the high school students distribute it to parents idling at the school. This new flyer has been distributed to the churches, starting at Medfield Day in 2016, and handed out to First Parish congregants.

Medfield schools were asked to send out anti-idling announcements to parents in their weekly newsflashes and many of them did including Wheelock School (grades 2-3).

We believe this Anti-Idling Awareness Initiative has had an important influence on the residents of Medfield. Thousands of people became aware of the law. We’ve heard many comments:

“The GS Committee has educated me about anti-idling and I have talked to businesses I frequent about putting up signs. I don’t eat red meat and we recycle.”  

“I wasn’t aware of the anti-idling law. It’s a great idea to promote this awareness.”


Environmental Justice Update February 2018

It’s been warm, 70 degrees in Massachusetts in February. Two days later, it snowed. The weather is swinging wildly as I’ve never seen it before. Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” But I think this is even beyond what he envisioned.

We like to keep track of what is going on. Here’s some current news items and actions.

In the news:

From Mass Power Forward:

  • MPF supports achieving at least 50% clean energy by 2030. To do so, we must accelerate the Renewable Portfolio Standard by at least 3% each year.

From UU Mass Action:

  • Mass Power Forward’s Valentine’s Lobby Day – 100 people turned out to visit their legislators and advocate for clean, renewable energy priorities.  They also delivered valentines to Governor Baker, asking him to break up with fossil fuels! You can still send the list of priority legislation to your legislators.  Please include a personal statement why this is important to you and then include this link:
  • Bystander Training / Upstander Training, With True Story Theater, Sun Feb 25, 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM First Church Unitarian Littleton, 19 Foster St., Littleton. Learn how to support people targeted by bigotry. Workshop includes dramatically exploring the challenges of intervening, short presentations & handouts, role plays. Light lunch at 11:30. Suggested Donation: $15 more if you can, less if you can’t.
  •  Creating Safe Communities Everywhere, Mon Feb 26, 7:00 PM. Thomas Crane Public Library, 40 Washington St, Quincy. Senator Jamie Eldridge, Senate Sponsor of the Safe Communities Act, will speak about the latest developments in the effort to create safety for all who live in our community, as well as communities across our Commonwealth.
  • Local Environmental Action 2018 Conference, Sat March 3, 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave, Boston. For more than 30 years, we’ve brought hundreds of people together to learn, connect and be inspired, and this year is no different. We’re excited to offer workshops on everything from how to fix the grid, to the intersections between toxic chemicals and reproductive justice, to how to build coalition with allies in the labor movement. We’ll also have sessions for activists who want to learn skills like how to foster healthy group dynamics and how to recognize false solutions. (With Mass Climate Action)
  • Sustainable Houses of Worship, Massachusetts Interfaith Light & Power, Sat March 10, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM, St Matthew’s United Methodist Church, 435 Central St., Acton. Leading by example can be a powerful part of our moral responsibility to care for creation. By reducing the carbon footprints at our houses of worship we also lower energy bills and free up funds needed for other important purposes. Register in advance at For more information contact Vince Maraventano at vince@MIPandL.orgor 617-244-0755.
  • Dismantling White Supremacy Film Series. Co-sponsored by First Church UU of Jamaica Plain Social Justice Action Committee and the Theodore Parker Church, West Roxbury Wed March 21, 7:30 PM: The Canary Effect; Fri April 27, 7:30 PM: 13th
  • UUSC Justice Sunday March 25! Join with UUSC for Justice Sunday this spring to learn more about climate forced migration and take action for environmental justice!  The suggested program date is March 25, 2018, but congregations are encouraged to participate any Sunday during the spring.
  • Let My People Go!  Exodus from Fossil Fuel: An Interfaith Witness for Climate Action. Monday, March 26th, 12:00 noon. MA State House with a procession to the Back Bay. For more information, contact (hosted by 350 Mass Action, Mass Power Forward, Climate Disobedience Center, etc)
  • UU Advocacy Day!! Tue April 10, 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM, Arlington St. Church, 351 Boylston St., Boston (We leave for the State House at 1:00 PM) Tickets are now on sale. Early bird rate $25 through March 26th. You’ll receive (Short videos and downloadable documents): effective advocacy strategies, information on each bill (what the bill will do and talking points), and a clear “ask” for your legislative visits



We are a Green Sanctuary!

green_sanctuary_logoOn July 17, we submitted our application for accreditation by the UUA for Green Sanctuary status. In it,w e described the journey that First Parish has undertaken over the last five years from when the Green Sanctuary Committee grew out of an informal conversation group of members who were concerned about climate change and social justice.

In August, we received word that the UUA approved our application, and First Parish is now a Green Sanctuary, joining over 260 other UU congregations nationwide. It took the support of the whole congregation, who resolved to tighten the connection between intentional spiritual practices and environmental consciousness and to treating the world more gently using fewer resources.

The challenge we at First Parish have is to honor the interconnectedness of all life in a divided nation where communication is at a premium. Our choice is to live by our values, practicing acceptance and compassion. People around the country are stepping up to sustainable practices and environmental justice, working hard and holding up their side. While our new status is a tremendous shared accomplishment, this Green Sanctuary status is only the beginning. We have a resolution to live up to. And it will be the honor of the Green Sanctuary Committee to guide you in this work. We look forward to your joining our monthly potlucks for good food and lively conversations.

First Parish’s Earth Day 2015 message

Our minister Meg Soens and the Green Sanctuary Committee has just completed a four-part series on climate change and climate justice inspired by the UUA’s Commit2Respond climate group. I think we can agree that this journey we took both heightened our awareness and commitment to climate justice. On March 15, the Green Sanctuary Committee lead a service on “Gratitude for Nature, its Beauty and Gifts.” Committee members shared how they have experienced gratitude for the workings of the Earth. Poems by Mary Oliver and Robert Frost were read.Earth Caught Cold On March 22, Rev. Meg Soens gave a sermon on “Reckoning: Acknowledging the Earth’s Changes.” During the service, parishioners stood up and named the environmental damage they have experienced. Together, we honored our pain around it. The story for the ages was “The Earth Has Caught a Cold” by Roxane Marie Galliez. Our April 14 service was an intergenerational service where Rev. Meg Soens gave a sermon on “Seeing the Earth and Ourselves with New Eyes.” This was a time of reframing the problem and seeing it with new eyes. The Brave ParrotThe last of the services, on April 26, Rev. Meg Soens spoke on “Going Forth: Commitment to Climate Justice.” This was about recharging, recommitting and becoming ready to act. “The Brave Little Parrot” by Rafe Martin and Susan Gaber was read. As a handout, Rev. Meg gave out background on carbon fee and dividend initiatives, and also websites for learning more, and actions people can do in their personal lives (see below)

Websites for climate change actions and resources

  • Citizens Climate Lobby – a grassroots lobby missioned to create the political will for a stable climate. They promote a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend, working to get Congress to enact it. Will empower you!
  • Commit2Respond – a coalition of Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith and conscience working for climate justice. If you believe that a better world is possible and that we are called to help bring it into being, join up.
  • Climate XChange – guiding Massachusetts to a clean energy future. The mission is to reduce global warming pollution and strengthen the Massachusetts economy through a carbon fee and rebate policy.
  • Climate Outreach and Information Network – mission is to ensure climate change and its impacts are understood, accepted and acted upon across the breadth of society in a manner that creates a truly sustainable future.
  • – building a global climate movement with climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions led from the bottom up by people in 188 countries. The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.

Some of the things we all can do

  • Adopt a vegetarian diet
  • Change light bulbs to energy-efficient ones
  • Turn off all lights and/or unplug appliances when not in use
  • Install dimmer switches
  • Install solar panels
  • Wash full loads of laundry in cold water
  • Turn off anything plugged into an electric socket (plug small appliances into a power strip and turn it off)
  • Change filters on heaters, air-conditioners
  • Dry on the clothes line, or at least only run your dryer with full load
  • Use your stove less. Use the microwave oven or toaster oven instead
  • Install a timer on your hot water heater
  • Grow your own produce as much as possible
  • Buy groceries from local farmers
  • Turn your air conditioner up or off when leaving the house
  • Use awnings to shade south and west facing windows
  • Hang white drapes to reflect light
  • Service your air conditioner
  • Recycle motor oil
  • Weather strip doors and windows
  • Keep your house cool by closing blinds on sunny side of house
  • Water your gardens in the morning
  • Use a car wash for washing your car
  • Don’t idle your car
  • Buy a hybrid or electric vehicle
  • Drive less often: walk, bike, use mass transportation
  • Replace appliances with energy efficient ones
  • Retrofit home
  • Install low-flow showerheads
  • Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth
  • Vote with your dollars! Don’t buy products from companies not practicing sustainability
  • Drink shade-grown coffee
  • Join groups to make your voice be heard and to learn, e.g., Citizens Climate Lobby,, etc
  • Educate yourself (see website list or read)

Earth Hour 2015

Earth HourThis year’s Earth Hour on March 28th saw over 1,400 of the world’s most iconic landmarks switched off. There were over 41,000 earth hour celebrations, over 378 million twitter reaches, 5.9 million Facebook reaches, and over 36 million views of the earth hour video.

Earth Hour was started by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature to unite people to protect the planet. It started with lights-off in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and has been growing ever since. More than 172 countries are involved. But it is more than an event of turning off lights: it is a movement that has achieved massive environmental impact including legislation changes through grassroots efforts.

Bad Apples…

It is smart to buy organic on all apple products.  More than 40 pesticides have been found in conventional apples, which, of course, also show up in products like apple juice or apple sauce.

Did you know, however, that even organic apples might be “bad”?  Organic orchards are allowed to treat fruit trees with oxytetracycline to control fire blight, and this antibiotic has been detected in organic apples.  The National Organic Standards Board aims to ban the use of oxytetracyline in 2014.

Source: “Antibiotics for Organic Apples.” The Daily Green. April 8, 2013.