A treat for the new year

A treat for the new year

Some of life’s great joys are the feast days of the circling year: Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas. My favorite feast dinner is on New Year’s Day. There’s pork, because a pig roots going forward; corn bread, for the golden color that brings gold and good luck; greens, for the green of prosperity; carrot coins, which represent gold coins; and, of course, black-eyed peas. Anyone who grew up in the Deep South knows that you will only have good luck in the coming year if you eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.  

Maybe you have a New Year’s resolution. If you were inspired by the last Save and Savor blog post by Nicole Haines, you might have resolved to make January “Veganuary.” How can you translate veganism into a New Year’s feast? I suppose instead of corn muffins, you could just have corn: that’s going from vegetarian to vegan. And leave out the pork or use Morningstar sausage or similar. But can you leave the pork out of the black-eyed peas and still have the tastiest, luckiest black-eyes ever?  

The following recipe is from the New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, with a few changes. The result, in my family, is praised by vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. I cook it once a year.  


Boston Black-Eyed Peas


Four cups cooked black-eyed peas
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, or maybe just a little more
2 minced cloves garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped fresh beet greens, collards, chard, or spinach
¼ cup tamari soy sauce
⅓ cup molasses
1 teaspoon dried mustard or a good quality prepared mustard


Start out with a one-pound bag of dried peas. The night before, cover them with water, enough to totally submerge the peas plus about two inches, or more, and let them soak overnight. The next day, drain them, rinse them, and cook as follows: bring the salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the black-eyed peas. Cover and return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Use four cups of these cooked black-eyes in the recipe.

Sauté the garlic and onions in the oil until the onions are just translucent. Mix the greens into the onions and continue to sauté until the greens wilt. Mix together the soy sauce, molasses, and mustard and set aside. Drain the black-eyed peas, saving a cup of the liquid.

In the saucepan, stir together the drained peas, the sautéed onion mixture, and the molasses-soy sauce. Cover and simmer on very low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. During this simmer, there is some danger of sticking or scorching, so add some of the reserved pea stock as necessary and continue to stir. 

Serve with the rest of the New Year’s dinner, and enjoy good luck in 2023!


The recipe originally called for 4 cups of fresh black-eyed peas or 2 frozen 10-ounce packages of peas, boiled initially 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes. If you are using frozen peas, I think one one-pound bag works better than 2 frozen 10-ounce packages.

I think dried peas which soak overnight end up being softer and have a more appealing texture.  You could try 3½ cups of peas in this if you want to have more of the delicious sauce. I used a standard size one-pound bag of dried peas last time I made this; there were cooked peas left over, which I froze.  

Tamari soy sauce is a premium product made with 100% soy and no wheat, unlike only 40-60% soy in typical soy sauce. This is according to the label on the San-J Organic Tamari soy sauce, which I use in this recipe and which you can find at Publix.

• • •

JOIN US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT. Our next meeting will be in person on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 1 PM at the church. Learn more about the CAT here.

READ UP: Our peer-to-peer lending library boasts over 75 titles that cover a broad spectrum of environmental, climate, and ecospirituality topics. Review the list, schedule an exchange with the book owner, and cozy up with a book worth reading!

FUNDS AVAILABLE: The Carbon Offset Fund is now ready to offer grants. Read more here and consider working with another member or church group to prepare a grant request. The process is simple!

One church couple’s solar adventure

One church couple’s solar adventure

My husband, Gordon and I chose to investigate solar panels when we called Creative Solar in 2021 to come out and assess if our house could be right for that option. There are a lot of trees around our house, so we didn’t know.

Chaia Lewis from Creative Solar explained that about a quarter of the roof would work for solar if we cut back several branches of the massive oak tree that towered over the house. Going solar would cost about $23,000 plus tree work, so we were talking about a total of around $30,000. That was something we had to think about.  

In the meantime, as a member of UUCA’s Climate Action Team, I participated last year in a talk by Solarize Atlanta, sponsored by Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, to encourage people to install solar panels. We could sign on the dotted line for the winning solar company to come out to our house to discuss it. And that company was, you guessed it, Creative Solar! We would get our panels at a reduced price because it was part of the Solarize Atlanta project. Creative Solar came out again, took $3,000 off the proposal, and we were in. If I had not been a member of the CAT, this would not have happened, and we would not have solar panels today. At the end of 2021, the contract was signed.

We had to cut two big branches off the huge tree, which received several expensive restorative treatments and is flourishing today.

The project happened in a number of phases, with payments at the beginning of each phase and a final payment at the end. First was the design phase, when they decided how many panels we would need and where they would go. Then there was permitting by the City of Atlanta. Following that, the panels were supposed to be procured, but the company was out of the panels we had chosen. We could get better panels for $3,000 more – or nothing.  That led to a redesign. Now we had 21 recently available, very efficient panels. They were installed, which was very exciting! 

The electrician connected them, and then the City of Atlanta came out to permit and found a number of problems. One issue was a garden in front of the control boxes installed on the side of our house. That garden had to go before the City would issue a permit. It took Gordon two hours to dismantle the garden. Now there is bare dirt and some weeds where the garden used to be. This actually turned out to be a good idea since later on, we had some problems and had to open the boxes to see if they were working correctly..

After the City permit, Georgia Power came out in August, charged us another fee to do something to the meter, and, finally, we had Permission to Operate! The Georgia Power worker flipped the switch, and voila, there was power! 

We learned some things. Those 21 panels generate a LOT of power on a sunny day, in a bell-shaped curve from about 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Much of this electricity goes back to the grid. 

Our household does not have net metering because that was limited to only 5000 customers statewide by Georgia Power and the state’s Public Service Commission. This cap on net metering has been a battle, and the Climate Action Team has been involved in this battle with the PSC. What is net metering, anyway? When a household with solar panels is charged for power, Georgia Power subtracts the number of kilowatt (kWh) hours of solar power sent back to the grid from the amount the household uses and charges the household based on that. Under the present system, we send a lot of power back to the grid, and Georgia Power pays us 2 cents/kWh. It then turns around and charges us roughly 14 cents/kWh for the power we use. The utility thinks rooftop solar customers are cheating it out of the profit the company is entitled to if those customers do have net metering, so Georgia Power is opposed to more customers having it. In the latest vote, PSC commissioners  voted 3-2 to not expand net metering.  

We would like to have net metering. In the absence of that, we have learned to work with the bell-shaped curve of solar production. On a sunny day, for example, we plug in one electric car at 10:30 AM, the next at 11:30, start the clothes dryer at noon, and so forth, unplugging as we go down the curve. We have learned not to charge our cars or use the clothes dryer at night. Those wet clothes can just sit in the washing machine until noon the next day! Our first post-solar-installation bill was $100 less than the previous month.  

During our year-long process of moving to solar panels, President Biden and Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act. For us, that means that next year, we expect a 30% tax credit on the $23,000 that we spent on the solar panels, plus a 30% tax credit on the initial tree work of $4,500, so that’s good. This would reduce the solar installation price to $16,100 plus the reduced price of tree work. In 24 years, at an estimated $75 per month saving, we will recover the expense for the solar panels plus the initial tree work and subsequent arborist tree treatments. Not counting tree work, we estimate we will recoup the money for just the solar panels in about 18 years.  Also, we expect the solar panels will enhance the resale value of our house. Our primary reason for installing solar panels was not to make money, however.  It was to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce global warming. It was to do the right thing.

And now we have electric cars powered by the sun, so how cool is that?

• • •

JOIN US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT. Our next meeting will be in person on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 1 PM at the church. Learn more about the CAT here.

FUNDS AVAILABLE: The Carbon Offset Fund is now ready to offer grants. Read more here and consider working with another member or church group to prepare a grant request. The process is really easy!

Hayhoe unites science and faith in bestseller

Hayhoe unites science and faith in bestseller

What do I, a free-thinking Unitarian Universalist, have in common with an Evangelical Christian?

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, a book by Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, the chief climate scientist for The Nature Conservancy and also an evangelical Christian, combines science, vision, kindness, perceptiveness, open-mindedness, and optimism, through warm, accessible writing. 

Hayhoe writes that we often assume there are two camps of thought around climate change: believers and deniers. She objects to the term “believer” when it comes to climate change. Those who feel climate change is real and a grave threat to the Earth and all living things on it come to this conclusion through overwhelming evidence, not through faith in something unproven. “It is not an alternative, Earth-worshiping religion,” she explains. Instead Hayhoe offers a classification into six groups: the Alarmed, the Concerned, the Cautious, the Disengaged, the Doubtful, and the Dismissive. The Dismissives are 7% of the population, and their identity is tied up in their rejection of global warming, despite the facts. Consequently, it is probably impossible to persuade a Dismissive that climate change is real no matter what you say. In the book, she describes personal experience with her uncle who is one of the dismissives. With the other 93%, you have a chance of getting through. This book tells real-life stories that make the subject come alive.

Hayhoe is clear about what she believes. As a Christian and a scientist, she states, “Climate change disproportionately affects the poor, the hungry, and the sick, the very ones the Bible instructs us to care for and love.” These are the ones who already suffer from malnutrition, food shortages, water scarcity, and disease. These numbers include refugees. This supports the social justice argument to do all that we can to fight climate change and to persuade others to do so as well. “What is more Christian than to be good stewards of the planet and love our global neighbor as ourselves?” she asks. I would say it is the Unitarian Universalist thing to do as well.  

Last year, the Climate Action Team studied George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Hayhoe’s book cites what Mr. Marshall has said on the psychology of climate change and climate change denial. This book is, in a way, a sequel to Mr. Marshall’s book. She references his work and suggests that we discover what we have in common with other people. Listen to them, and talk about what is important to them. Then, work with that. For example, say the other person is a parent (Hayhoe has a young son). She could say, “I am concerned about climate change and the world my son and his children will live in. What do you think about that, for your kids?” Hayhoe seeks to be a uniter, not a divider.

When she looked at her personal carbon footprint, Hayhoe was shocked to discover that most of her carbon emissions came not from her car or her diet or trips to see family, but (ironically) from flying to scientific meetings, conferences, and climate talks. So she decided to address it by transitioning most of her talks to virtual and flying only if she had enough talks scheduled in one place to justify the carbon footprint. Now, 80% of her talks are virtual, and she has assembled as many as two dozen events per plane trip. She describes other ways she reduces her carbon footprint, such as driving a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and giving donations to charities whose work mitigates climate change.

I enjoyed and found Hayhoe’s book meaningful. Like the author, I have found the climate science to be completely convincing. Like her, I try to live my life in a way that mitigates global warming. I like that Hayhoe does not believe in judging others different from herself. Her kindness shines through, as well as her commitment to a way of life that is not always easy. I encourage you to read this compelling, compassionate, and informative book.

The COF: Nothing to sneeze at

The COF: Nothing to sneeze at

Do you love to travel? Now that you are well-vaccinated and feel safer or maybe more adventurous, does the open road beckon or maybe the friendly skies? It is time for a trip! But wait! What about global warming? Travel leaves a significant carbon footprint and what could be done about that? Well… did you know that UUCA has our own Carbon Offset Fund?

It began in 2018 when my husband Gordon and I visited Australia and New Zealand, 10,000 miles away. Now, that was the journey of a lifetime – just look at that New Zealand sunrise in the blog header! Since he was 10, Gordon had wanted to see Ayers Rock (now named Uluru). We saw kangaroos, koalas, cassowaries, kiwis, Sydney’s Opera House, the Outback, Maori in New Zealand, Aboriginal people in Australia, stunning snow-capped mountains, deserts where it had not rained for over a year, and Uluru (photo on right). We flew and sailed and rode buses and vans. Then, we returned to Atlanta.

We were aware of the huge carbon footprint our trip had created, but what to do? What was the best carbon-offset we could give? In the meantime, UUCA had left the old building and was remodeling a new one, on new grounds. The idea of a Carbon Offset Fund was born. The idea was straightforward:  if you travel, you leave a carbon footprint. The bigger the trip, the bigger the footprint. According to a paper in the prestigious journal Science, carbon dioxide emissions per person on a 2500-mile airline flight melt 32 square feet of Arctic sea ice. A cruise adds even more CO2 per mile to the atmosphere, making our planet even warmer.

The fund became a reality and now has over $12,000. A number of congregants have contributed to the fund. One can give using PayPal (PayPal Account, debit, or credit card) or by check. The money will be used for environmental projects at UUCA that lower the congregation’s carbon footprint. Our capital campaign fund will not generate enough money to fund all desirable projects. Since the COF’s inception, other terrific and sometimes surprising sources of funding for projects which mitigate climate change have been secured. Insulation, LED light fixtures, wiring for electric car charger, and more have been funded, thanks to UUCA members Julie Simon, Bert Pearce, Lizanne Moore, DeAnn Peterson, Bryce Thomason, Southface Institute, and Georgia Power. But what about solar panels, crushed rock on our enormous lawn, an energy and water use dashboard? Such dreams and more might be funded by the Carbon Offset Fund.

To donate to the fund, visit www.uuca.org/give, scroll down to “Carbon Offset Fund,” and simply give using a credit card. Or send a check to UUCA, 1190 W. Druid Hills Drive NE, Atlanta, GA, 30329. Make out your check to “UUCA” with “Carbon Offset Fund” in the subject line. If you have traveled and wish to offset your trip’s carbon footprint, wish to reduce global warming, or wish to give to celebrate Earth Day or any other special occasion: all donations are welcome and gratefully received.

Why I Love my PHEV!

Why I Love my PHEV!

What, you may wonder, is a PHEV?  Glad you asked. A PHEV is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.  In my case, it is a 2019 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid.  That’s the first thing I want you to know.  The second thing is, it is overwhelmingly an electric car.  I imagine that, often people think, a plug-in hybrid.  That’s a little bit different from a hybrid.  Maybe half the time you run on electricity, and half the time, on gas, some people think.  Something like that.  My car officially has a range of only 25 miles on electricity; actually, when fully charged, it will run 30 miles before switching to gas.  I don’t often drive long distances; my driving is mostly around town, so I seldom run out of charge before my trip is through.  For me, this car is an electric car with gas engine backup.

Previously, I had a Toyota Prius Hybrid (not plug-in).  It was very gas efficient, and I filled up about once a month.  That’s pretty good, right?  With the Prius Prime, I have not gotten gas in over a year, yet the gas tank is still 3/8 full.  About once a month, my car switches to the gas motor.  They talk about how high the price of gas is on television, and how everyone is so upset about it, but it has no relevance to me.  I barely know what they mean.

Several trips to Gibbs Gardens used gas; that accounts for most of my car’s gas usage.  Last time we went, my husband and I drove about ten miles farther to Jasper.  An app on my phone called PlugShare locates charging stations around the country, and there was a Level 3 charger, which was free, in front of the Atlantic Coast Conservatory.  I plugged my empty car into the charger and went off to lunch.  When we got back, two hours later, the car was fully charged.  We thanked the people at the conservatory.  They said they were happy to provide this service for free, to benefit other people and the planet.  (I think this would be a great thing for UUCA to do!)  I drove home and the charge was not totally empty by the time I got home two hours later.  In a situation like this, on the highway, there is an HV/EV setting which uses some gas and some electricity for maximum efficiency.  It takes six hours, when the car is charging in the home garage, for it to go from empty to fully charged.

Why not just get an all-electric car?  Good question.  It is the dreaded range anxiety.  With an electric car, you can just totally run out of electricity and end up stranded.  The manufacturer that best addresses this is Tesla.  Their vehicles have a range of about 300 miles and a national network of charging stations, just for Teslas.  But Teslas are expensive, more expensive than my car.  In time to come, there should be many more charging stations curtesy of the federal Infrastructure Bill.  Then hopefully all-electric cars will be far more user-friendly.

What do I love about my car?  The number one thing is:  I feel I am doing the right thing.  Climate change is a real and present danger.  Owning this car, I feel I am doing something about global warming.  That is very important to me.

But there are other things I love.  It is so high-tech, it is a challenge.  It has many safety features, like a back-up camera, all sorts of warnings if you are near the white line on the road or are near another car, and automatic brake protection.  It has the legendary Toyota reliability.  It has hands-free smart phone capability.  It is smarter than me.  I don’t yet use many of the features because it is so high-tech.  It has a steering wheel warmer that is delightful on cold days.  I feel safe when driving this car, even when driving in rain on the expressway.  It has automatic windshield wiper and headlight control; I have finally mastered these.  Also, we got a federal tax benefit when my husband and I bought PHEV’s.

Soon after I got my car, I came to think of it as like a smartphone on wheels, what with its being so smart, and constantly needing recharging.

There are things I don’t like about my car.  It doesn’t have a CD player, so I can’t play my CD’s on it.  There is a high tech way to address this problem but I am not there yet.  Also, the car only seats four.  In the 2020 version and beyond, the Prius Prime seats five.

One thing “Car and Driver” is put off by, with my car, is that it has outrageous futuristic styling, in their opinion.  But I actually like that about the Prius Prime.

My husband and I have exactly the same car, except his is white and mine is blue.  It is helpful to have the same car, as he has learned some things about it, and I know some things.  We conserve a great deal regarding gas emissions, which significantly mitigates climate change.  It has been over a year since either one of us has gotten gas, and we have driven to North Carolina and back in his car.

There are 35 versions of the PHEV on the road today.  Click HERE for more about information. 

Do you have an electric car you love?  Or questions or comments about this article?  Please contact me, Sue Certain, at sccertain@comcast.net  if you do.  Maybe you would like to write about your beloved electric car or PHEV for our CAT blog.  We would consider that.  I’d love to hear from you.  Thank you.