Three steps to a greener parish

Saving souls will always be the first duty of parish life, which we can do while taking steps to save our corners of creation

You’ll soon be hearing about tools to help the Catholic Church change lifestyles in favor of an integral approach to human and natural ecology, as spelled out by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ and by his predecessors.

But you don’t have to wait. There are a few things we can do now in our parishes to begin our journeys to a better world.

Here are three:

We can look at our energy bills every month and plug away at lowering them by using more efficient lighting and heating and cooling systems. My local utility has programs to help, and so may yours. Even easier, you could audit your own lighting and utility systems to check how long they’ve been in service and how efficient they are. A simple cost-benefit analysis might show that energy savings from new boilers or lighting (for example) will pay for the cost of new systems after a few years, and then you'll continue to save on your monthly bills. At some point, you’ll need professional help with switching to more efficient systems—but then, you may have that expertise already in the pews. Even by making small steps monthly, your energy bills will begin to lower—which means you’ll be using less energy, which means that while you're saving money, you’ll be reducing your use of fossil fuels since that’s the most common source of energy around the world.

Outside, you can assess how many pollutants you’re adding to the local environment from the use of potent pesticides and strong fertilizers, which can sour local streams, rivers, and bays—to say nothing of human health impacts. Check with local master gardeners—again, you may have them in your parish—to look at how can tend and use your land with nature and people in mind. Parish gardens are wonderful ways of providing produce to local families. And done right, they’re great at capturing and purifying soiled rainwater before it runs off into local waterways.

Last, you can spread the good news about your parish while helping parishioners reduce waste with a simple campaign of giving away, or selling, parish-branded reusable shopping bags. Whether it’s merely the name of the parish or the use scripture, reusable shopping bags are a win-win in striking up a conversation about your parish while using less paper and plastic to haul your groceries home.

See? That was easy. The beginnings of a parish eco-team in three easy steps.

Stay tuned for much more here and elsewhere on what we can all do as individuals and at our parishes. But for now, I’m interested in what your parish is doing to live the integral eco-messages of Laudato Si’.

After all, what better way to help steward creation than by helping each other along the way?

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.