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‘Cost of Convenience’ Prompts Changes at School

October 17, 2013

By Sister Joanne L.

Mrs. Coulter and 3 third graders with the compost container used for paper towels

Mrs. Coulter and 3 third graders with the compost container used for paper towels

Composting efforts, energy conservation measures and the recycling of paper towels are among the fruits of a retreat for staff and faculty and staff at Mater Christi School in Burlington, Vermont.

The 35 staff and faculty members of the school, which is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy and has an enrollment of 260 students aged 3 through 8th grade, traditionally have a retreat day to begin the new school year. This year’s theme was based on the “Cost of Convenience,” a short video available through the new initiative Mercy Taking Action.

Although the video is only six minutes long, Monica M., a Mercy Associate, and I easily integrated it into a half-day experience. The retreat began with a Call to Prayer, which consisted of silently reading pollution facts two Vermont senators sent to President Obama.

Following that was a Bible reading with silent reflection, a selection from Catholic Social Teaching, an adaptation of a Native American prayer and finally an invitation to read some statistics silently (with quiet music playing) about the number of plastic and paper cups that are used and thrown away daily. The leaders allowed time for the group to assimilate these facts and then asked the group to share which of the facts “grabbed” them the most. After the sharing, we viewed the “Cost of Convenience,” which encouraged us to consider the impact our choices have on the Earth and on other people.

MCS staff with students displaying new flatware, recyclable milk containers, and lunch cups that can be reused.

MCS staff with students displaying new flatware, recyclable milk containers, and lunch cups that can be reused.

Before ending the experience, one of the leaders did a “show and tell,” exhibiting materials she had brought from home that she uses in her efforts to recycle and re-use.

The faculty and staff then discussed some actions for the school to take in response. These are some of the decisions discussed:

  1. Composting containers will be placed in all classrooms and teachers’ rooms and will be used instead of trash containers. One teacher offered to go to an area trash/recycling company to pick up free compost containers and place them around the school.
  2. Teachers will remind each other and students to shut off lights and unplug machines when not in use.
  3. Reusable mugs will be used at meetings instead of paper cups. (The school community stopped using bottled water several years ago.)
  4. Grants will cover the cost of paper towel recycling containers for the bathrooms.
  5. The hot lunch director has already switched from disposable flatware to silverware, reusable glasses and recyclable milk containers. Recently, she suggested using cloth napkins instead of paper. Her suggestion was presented to the Mercy Associates and after a little more research, the Associates will help obtain money needed to purchase environmentally friendly cloth napkins that will be used on alternate days with paper napkins.

The Mater Christi School faculty and staff trust that their efforts to conserve natural resources will positively effect the respect students show toward others and the plant, both now and in the future.

Mercy Taking Action is a new initiative that builds on the Awakening the Dreamer workshop experienced by many Sisters of Mercy and their lay associates, co-workers, students and volunteers. Mercy Taking Action aims to further the Awakening the Dreamer goals of creating a more environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilled and socially just human presence on Earth.

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