Every green act, however small, has the power to bring sustainability to the earth, according to Pope Francis. These acts raise our consciousness and sense of responsibility and reduce our complicity in degrading the earth as citizens of a developed nation.
Turning off lights when they are not in use is a familiar green act for most of us. We conserve energy (harvest sunlight) when we use natural sunlight rather than turning on lights during daytime hours.
Sister Monica Duong sees turning off unused lights as a small but important act. Intention is important to her. In flipping a switch she takes an action to reduce fossil fuel consumption while standing in solidarity with those who are less fortunate and suffer from climate change.
Each time she turns off a light or heating unit that’s not in use, she says a silent prayer that the money saved through energy conservation will find its way to poor countries where people do not have electricity. For Sr. Monica, going green is prayerful work.
Zero food waste as an act of going green
The Maria Droste Contemplative Community had a conversation recently about the food they eat and the food that is available to the poor. The Sisters are diligent in their prayers for the poor of our world and for those who are suffering from drought and famine. This has led them to be more conscientious in their care of food.
The Sisters make joint decisions about what foods they will eat, and how much they will prepare to minimize leftovers. They also hold themselves responsible for eating the leftovers. This has become an important way for them to enter into solidarity with those who have little or no food.
Sr. Beth Garciano,, Local Leader of the Maria Droste Contemplative Community, returned from a retreat recently with the Wolcott Community in Connecticut, where she witnessed their efforts at preventing food waste. Beth was impressed with their efforts. Both communities are striving for zero-waste of food. This is a significant act of green when you consider that nearly 40 percent of food in the United States never gets eaten. Organic waste is the second highest component of landfills in the U.S. Methane emissions from decomposing food is a key contributor to climate change.
One green act inspires another
My own simple green act of using cloth bags stems from my time living with Sisters Chris Hock and Joan Spiering. They both began using cloth bags decades ago, when they learned that plastic bags were wreaking havoc in our oceans and landfills.
Chris keeps three nylon bags in her purse at all times to ensure she never has to choose between paper or plastic when shopping. The bags compact neatly and take up very little space in her purse. Her other green acts include keeping the heat turned low and eating locally-grown organic food. Eating local reduces the fossil fuels required to transport food across great distances. Because organic crops are not sprayed with synthetic chemicals, they are healthier for people and the environment.
Joan says Oregon passed the Bottle Bill way back, focusing on a deposit for glass bottles in order to keep them out of roads, ditches and landfills. That simple piece of legislation, plus the inherent connection to the land that she grew up with in farm living, are factors that led her to care for the earth since childhood. Joan says the concept of earth as “home” is in her genes.
The more we become aware of how our behavior impacts Earth, animals and those who are poor, the sooner we might change our own attitudes and actions.
I give thanks for the simple acts of merciful solidarity with the Earth and its peoples. They are examples that make a difference and ripple out into the world.