by Sister Mary Ann Garisto
from the Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation
The following is from the Summer 2021 issue of Vision.
In the spirit of Laudato Si’, we may want to consider ways to reduce our carbon footprint and take better care of our common home. The Congregation is putting into practice Laudato Si ’s call to integral ecology and ecological conversion. Since 1995, a significant focus of the Sisters of Charity of New York has been “to reverence creation in a spirit of interconnectedness with all that is, living responsibly.”
Our carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases that go into the production of our everyday consumption and activities. To avoid an unsustainable rise in global temperatures, our average carbon footprint should drop from the estimated annual U.S. average of 16 tons to an amount closer to two tons by 2050.
What follows are a few practical and easy ways to promote a healthier and more balanced relationship with our environment.
• Use a reusable bottle instead of disposable plastic ones. The energy required to produce products we consider “green,” such as a stainless-steel thermos, may be initially high, but its durability makes it a better choice than disposable plastic. In terms of energy, the thermos can replace 100 plastic bottles and last a lifetime. As a result, it will be far less likely to end up in the landfill.
• Be mindful of packaging with food deliveries, takeout orders, and take-home items after dining out. Food containers are often made with single-use materials like polypropylene that cannot be recycled. Plastic containers often wind up in landfills, soil, or water systems, including the ocean. While a percentage of aluminum containers are made with recycled materials, making aluminum involves heavy water use and releases emissions, including greenhouse gases and sulfur dioxide. When ordering takeout for home delivery, request to leave out the plastic utensils, napkins and single-use condiments. Remember— takeout requires a lot of packaging.
• Paper towels can be wasteful, not to mention expensive. Cut down on the use of wasteful paper towels with reusable Swedish dishcloths. Typically made with 70% biodegradable cellulose and 30% cotton, one Swedish dishcloth can replace 17 rolls of paper towels. The dishcloths may be used for absorbing spills, cleaning countertops, scrubbing dishware and cups, and cleaning windows. They air-dry faster than sponges and can be cleaned in the washing machine or dishwasher. After multiple uses, the towels can safely go in the compost.
Watch this space for more suggestions on how to lower your carbon footprint. Have your own suggestion? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sr. Mary Ann Garisto, who holds a master’s degree in biology, taught biology and environmental science on the high school and college levels. She was the Congregation’s first Director of Ecological Concerns and the founding Director of Sisters Hill Farm; she currently serves as Director Emerita of the farm.