Going Green

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

March 15, 2007


            Our parish is going green.

            Not just for St. Patrick’s Day. Not just for spring. We are going green for good.

            This Lent we took on a new spiritual discipline. In addition to the usual disciplines, we are trying to become better stewards of God’s creation.

            It is something that is long overdue, for the Church and for our society.

            This year our parish council set up a committee to look at all aspect of our parish life and the environment. I had read about a parish in Michigan which set up a similar committee. It even started producing wind power and using solar panels to heat water.

            We are an average size Catholic parish, with 1100 families (about 3300 people).We are not “Big Foot” in our environmental impact, but we are nonetheless significant.  

            Our activities generate a lot of trash. We fill a dumpster every week. We use hundreds of Styrofoam cups and plates every week.

            Our five buildings use thousands of dollars worth of electricity and heating fuel every month. Sometimes we over heat and air-condition.

            We have run-off from our parking lots, lawns and fields that pollute the local watershed. We could cut down on fertilizer.

            We have a lot of land in forest and wet lands (over 60 acres). We could plant more trees and protect the ones we already have.

            I don’t think we are major polluters, but we are typical Americans. And being typical Americans means that we use more of the earth’s resources than most people

            It is time for us to do something.  

            So we put together a committee of parishioners who have a concern for the environment and real expertise. The chairman, Dr. Bob Ulanowicz, is a well known biologist.

            We gave them a commission that includes some short term and long term tasks.

            They are to look into ways to reduce our energy consumption and thereby our carbon “footprint” (including our vehicles).

            They are to address recycling of paper and other waste and explore ways to avoid generating non-biodegradable waste.

            They are looking for alternatives to chemical fertilizers and ways to preserve our wet lands and forest lands.

            In the long term they will recommend changes to our heating and cooling plants. We might even put in solar panels to heat water and exhaust vents to cool buildings.

            We will look at ways to educate the parish to be better stewards of the environment. One suggest ion we have heard is to sell canvas tote bags to parishioners, so we don’t have to use so many plastic bags at the store.

            Why should a Catholic Church do this? 

            Our theology has tells us about our relationship to nature. While Genesis says that we should “fill the earth and subdue it”, we do not have a license to ruin it. Each of us is just “passing through” this earth. Our true home is in the next life. That makes us the “stewards” (temporary custodians) of the environment, not the “masters” (owners) of creation.  

            So we are trying our best to go green.

            Some folks are disturbed by this, but not many. Most parishioners see the wisdom and the necessity of being better stewards.

            One happy bonus of going green is that it we will save some green. Just adjusting our thermostats and replacing incandescent light bulbs with cool florescent bulbs will save a few thousand dollars in the fist year.

            So this St. Patrick’s Day and from now on, our parish is wearing green.