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Environmental and Social Justice Blog

UUBridge Environmental and Social Justice Committee

Preliminary Plan for 2021

By Lisa McQuail, Committee Chair

The Environment and Social Justice committee (ESJ) had its first 2021 meeting on January 17, following the weekly Zoom service of the Unitarian Universalists of the Blue Ridge (UUBRidge). Our primary aim was to look at projects that we had proposed in January 2020 “BC” (Before COVID-19) and see how we could work toward our goals going forward. We are likely to be hampered by COVID-19 restrictions for much of the year, but we want to creatively increase the impact of our Green Sanctuary projects while building virtual (for now) person-to-person communication and cooperation in our community.

Our plans for this year are listed below. We will continue to share our progress and discuss issues related to the environment and social justice in this monthly blog and on the UUBRidge website. In next month’s post, we will introduce the members of the ESJ committee.

Monitoring Virginia’s Energy-Related Legislation and Electric Utilities, Advocating for Change

2020 Climate Action Lobby Day in Richmond

Vernon Graf and Frank Dixon are our leaders in the area of clean energy and energy legislation. Clyde Humphrey, UUBRidge Board member and co-chair of the Page County Forum, is also a knowledgeable resource on these and other topics.

Vern will update us on relevant legislation during the 2021 Virginia Assembly, currently in session. He also follows and reports on posts from Ivy Main of Virginia’s Sierra Club.

Many of our members live in the service areas of the Rappahannock Rural Electrical Cooperative or the Shenandoah Valley Rural Electrical Cooperative. We will continue to monitor those Cooperatives and their attitude towards renewable energy sources, and advocate for change in how the energy we use in our homes is produced and delivered.

Green Energy Survey

We would like to give the congregation some ideas on conserving energy and survey members later in the year to gauge energy conservation progress.

Hearthstone School Solar Energy Project

Hearthstone School Energy Project

We want to check in on the solar energy project of the Hearthstone School in Sperryville, VA, where UUBRidge rents space for services and activities. Fundraising for this project began last March, which was when our services moved from in-person to virtual.The ESJ Committee would like to help with this effort and explore ideas to that end with our Board and the school. Hearthstone had to cancel plans for an Alternative Energy Expo last year. If they are able to put it on in 2021 or 2022, we would like to offer our help in planning and implementation.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Adopt-A-Highway Program

Jay and Sue Road cleanup

ESJ members have periodically organized and participated in trash clean-up efforts along local roads. Ellie Clark worked with VDOT to arrange UUBRidge’s sponsorship of Tiger Valley Road in Rappahannock County, and Will and Sue Daniels sponsor two road sections in Page County. Roadside trash pickup is outdoor work, so we kept those projects going in 2020, and had fun doing it. We plan to continue those efforts this year.

We discussed outreach to local churches to get them interested in sponsoring roads by inviting them to join us to see how the program works. Every clean-up trip results in many large bags full of trash, as well as bags of aluminum, glass, and recyclable plastic. Future plans might include community education to discourage people from throwing trash out of their truck or car windows or distributing convenient trash containers that can be used in vehicles.

Food Security through Community Gardening and Promotion of Home Gardening

Page Area Community Action Garden

Page Area Community Action Community Garden

UUBRidge Board Member and ESJ member Will Daniels is a Master Gardener who has devoted much of his spare time in the past two years to community gardens in Page County and the local food pantry. Ellie Clark volunteered with the Rappahannock Food Pantry and distributed garden plants to families in need, as well as children’s books and toys to keep children occupied as their families waited in their cars for food assistance. Ellie also jumped right in to supervise, plant, and harvest an established vegetable garden donated for ESJ use as a community garden. The resulting produce was donated to the Rappahannock Food Pantry. Along with Will and Ellie, Sue Daniels, Bridget Harrison, and Lisa McQuail and other UUBRidge members will continue to work with community volunteers and agencies to distribute garden seeds, vegetable and fruit plants, container gardens, and produce through local food banks and community gardens.


Regional COVID-19 Community Recovery Projects

Rt 211 SignESJ Chair Lisa McQuail founded the “Rt. 211 Corridor” regional planning group in 2020. It includes members in Fauquier, Rappahannock, Page, Shenandoah, and Rockingham Counties and meets regularly to review grants available to help residents, business owners, and local government recover from COVID-19. Grants from the federal government to Virginia include food security funding from the USDA, funding from the federal Housing and Urban Development agency for COVID-safe tourism projects, community-center programs, broadband access, and community gardening, as well as funding from the Departments of Labor and Education for emergency COVID-19 funding for workforce training.

ESJ member Milda Vaivada will be exploring planning and fundraising for the Rt. 211 Corridor African American History Trail, one of the proposed tourism projects and an effort to increase interest in African-American history and tourism in our region. We will partner with the Shenandoah Valley African American History Project (SVAAHP) based in Harrisonburg, VA, for COVID-safe car-caravan tours. We hope that through our work some major grants will go to the SVAAHP. With her experience planning events and working with restaurant and hotel venues, Milda will be a welcome addition to the Rt. 211 Corridor team.

Limberlost Trail Hike

ESJ Founding Member and Past Chair Marc Malik designed the Limberlost Trail — the only trail in Shenandoah National Park that is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. People with motorized scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, and canes can easily navigate it. Marc feels very strongly that part of our ESJ work should always include the enjoyment and study of nature. We hope this year to be able to sponsor a community hike on the Limberlost Trail with Marc, which we had begun planning nearly two years ago.

Photo from Go Hike Virginia (gohikevirginia.com/limberlost-trail/)

SimpliRural: Exercise and Minimalism

by Jay Allen
Jay Allen

I am coming clean(er) about my passion for this quest — clothes and books (skads of both) are becoming clutter in my home. And tonight I got hit upside my head realizing that the only minimizing I easily do is to keep potential and current friends at bay! More therapy is in my near future!

Switching to safer ground, here are some “hacks” from World’s Best Life Hacks—200 Ingenious Ways to Use Everyday Objects by Sarah Devos. These time savers will free up energy for “minimal” interests.

1, Use a firm (metal?) straw to core out a strawberry!
2. Try the magic of microfiber cloths to clean windows without water and soap!
3. Want to know how long your foot is without involving your foot? Measure from the crease of your elbow to your wrist!
4. Say goodby to puffy eyes by putting used, cooled tea bags over your shut eyes for 5 minutes.
5. Wonder how much is a single serving size of pasta? Use a 12-ounce beer bottle filled up to the neck.
6. When traveling, roll up clothes to save suitcase space.
7. Use a clothespin to hold a nail in place while the hammering it in place.
8. With your next paint job, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the paint can to freshen up the painted room.
9. Paint quality is not affected by this addition.
10. Next time you check fuses in a darkened basement, use a rubber band to attach the flashlight to your forearm.

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.