CSJ Earth Day is this Saturday from 10am-12pm! On this day we celebrate our home and preservation of her. I wanted to share a poem that is at the heart of my understanding of the human connection to Earth. Peace to you and all of creation — Megan Bender, Justice Office Staff
The sun is out. The air is warm. And as Minnesota begins to resemble a habitable place once more, it is much easier to remember why protecting the Earth is actually a good idea. (Alright, I’m over exaggerating—but isn’t Spring nice?!?)
Earth Day is this week, and while we are bombarded with reasons why and how we should live sustainable lives, sometimes it just seems like so much extra effort. Like any good habit I’ve tried to employ, my green living game tends to be strong for a week or two before I really just want to grab a prepackaged meal of artificial flavors/textures instead of waking up early to make a sandwich. On top of the extra time, the sheer amount of information out there is overwhelming. Why can’t saving the Earth just be easy? Or better yet, fun?
I decided to take a Justice Office approach to the quest for sustainable living; which is why I will be posting opportunities for Education, Action, and Advocacy every Wednesday right here on the Justice Matters blog! Check these weekly updates, which will include my own experiences with different online tools, experiments to search for the best homemade cleaning solution, and legislation to watch out for. I’ll be continuing these updates for the foreseeable future, and it would be great if you could join in! Reply with your own tried-and-true experiments, tips, and tricks so we can share in the wisdom of this community. With these resources, we can use these warm weather months to make a real difference in and for creation!
Education & Action
How much energy do I use? How much do I waste? How much impact does one person—i.e., me—actually have?
To find out the answer, I went on the search for resources that aren’t just informative, but are also interactive. So without further ado, I present this week’s review:
Yousustain is a great catch-all resource. The website includes articles, actions that show their impact in tons of CO2 reduced and amount of money saved annually, and five different calculators for different aspects of your life. Whether you want to calculate your base carbon footprint, see how much your daily biking habits are making a difference, or simply want to see how much money you can save by switching to green living, this site has it all.
Pros: Yousustain is simple and accessible, and its many calculators are a definite plus. In addition, there are community challenges for simple, everyday actions, like using cloth napkins instead of paper for a week.
Cons: Yousustain’s last article was posted in 2012, leading me to doubt the continued veracity of some of its calculations, and the site itself isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as more recent/updated resources.
Now that you’ve calculated your carbon footprint or how much electricity your household uses, the next step is to reduce your impact. There are plenty of challenges on Yousustain to take advantage of, but perhaps you’re looking for some practical advice for long-term action. I’ve found the website eartheasy to be an invaluable resource. After hearing from Ann Bancroft, Liv Arnesen and the Access Water Expedition Team earlier this week, I thought I’d share part of an eartheasy article on water conservation.
25 Ways to Conserve Water in Home and Yard lives up to its name, offering options for people at the beginning of their conservationist journey to those who are already experts. Not only is it a great tool, it includes plenty of information, such as the following:
Water Conservation Summary
In 1990, 30 states in the US reported ‘water-stress’ conditions. In 2000, the number of states reporting water-stress rose to 40. In 2009, the number rose to 45. There is a worsening trend in water supply nationwide. Taking measures at home to conserve water not only saves you money, it also is of benefit to the greater community.
Saving water at home does not require any significant cost outlay. Although there are water-saving appliances and water conservation systems such as rain barrels, drip irrigation and on-demand water heaters which are more expensive, the bulk of water saving methods can be achieved at little cost. For example, 75% of water used indoors is in the bathroom, and 25% of this is for the toilet. The average toilet uses 4 gallons per flush (gpf). You can invest in a ULF (ultra-low flush) toilet which will use only 2 gpf. But you can also install a simple tank bank, costing about $2, which will save .8 gpf. This saves 40% of what you would save with the ULF toilet. Using simple methods like tank banks, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators you can retrofit your home for under $50.
By using water-saving features you can reduce your in-home water use by 35%. This means the average household, which uses 130,000 gallons per year, could save 44,00 gallons of water per year. On a daily basis, the average household, using 350 gallons per day, could save 125 gallons of water per day. The average individual, currently using 70 gallons per day, could save 25 gallons of water per day.
When buying low-flow aerators, be sure to read the label for the actual ‘gpm’ (gallons per minute) rating. Often, the big box retailers promote “low-flow” which are rated at 2.5 gpm, which is at the top of the low-flow spectrum. This may be needed for the kitchen sink, but we find that a 1.5 gpm aerator works fine for the bathroom sink and most water outlets, delivering the same spray force in a comfortable, soft stream. Eartheasy’s online store carries a full range of low-flow aerators and showerheads.
Finally, it should be noted that installing low-flow aerators, showerheads, tank banks and other water-saving devices usually is a very simple operation which can be done by the homeowner and does not even require the use of tools. Water conservation at home is one of the easiest measures to put in place, and saving water should become part of everyday family practice.
Eartheasy includes an online store, and many of their articles will direct you to different products available onsite. As with anything, take this information as you will. If you are looking to patronize local businesses that are as concerned with sustainability, check out the Do it Green! Directory.
If you’re looking for some environmental legislation to get behind this session, there are two bills you should definitely be following.
First, I suggest checking out this article from the House Public Information office for a good overview of some Urban Agriculture bills in both House and Senate, and their potential impact on racism, poverty, and, of course, the Earth.
There are several bills on Urban Ag, several of which are included in the linked article.
HF0153 is another Urban Ag bill to look out for, and its information can be found here. It is currently in the Ag Finance committee. That, and bill HF3300 (the Pollinator bill) were suggested to me by Jennifer Tacheney of Celeste’s Dream – so be sure to check them out!
I’ll be posting updates on where the bills are at next week, but if you want to find out more right now, contact the House Agriculture Finance committee. Ask if they have any information on the Urban Ag bill’s progress by calling Committee Legislative Assistant: Nick Lunneborg 651-296-5998
The Pollinator bill – HF3300 – was last heard by the House Agriculture Policy committee. You can get in touch with them through Committee Legislative Assistant Tyler Webster: 651-296-7881
If you’re interested in contacting the House in regards to the status of these or any other bills, the House Index office is responsible for recording all official House action on legislation, and can give you an update on where bills are in the legislative process of the House. Contact them at: 651-296-2314
Whether you read this whole article (congrats) or simply skimmed through it, thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about what you can do to help the Earth! I’ll be back next week with another (shorter) update!
In February, members of the Federation and Mission Haiti made our way to Haiti to visit Annunciation School, teachers, and students that we support through a grant from the US and Canadian Federations.
This initiative is an amazing example of how connections make good things happen and also how this initiative addresses the recently adopted UN Sustainability Goals:
Goal 2 – to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Goal 4—to (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Goal 5—to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Goal 6 — to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Mission Haiti addresses these 4 goals in the spirit of the connection of all creation. This one project touches all four.
We begin by supporting 10 girls in their education from Grade 1 to completion of Secondary School. This includes tuition, salaries and certification for their teachers, as well as funding some building costs of Couer De Marie, one of the schools destroyed in the earthquake in 2010. We join with The Companions of Jesus, the Haitian Community of Sisters which is involved in several ministries that also touch the students at Annunciation School.
The Village of Jesus, on the property of the school, is home to about 50 abandoned senior women whose families are not able to care for them. They enjoy clean, safe housing and healthy meals while being cared for by a loving staff.
Some of the Sisters live on Bethlehem Farm which provides food for the Sisters, the women, and the students. The acreage is farmed by hired workers who care for the animals (chickens, pigs, and sheep), plant, cultivate and harvest the crops. Sugar cane is also grown and sold providing some income for the Sisters. A Novitiate House is the latest addition to the property as well.
Work is progressing on the installation of a large pump which will draw the water necessary for irrigating the crops. With that kind of investment it will be necessary to complete a wall around the property topped by razor wire for security. The poverty is so great in the country that it is very common for equipment and animals and crops to find their way outside the property.
Guardian Angels School, an elementary school that was badly damaged in the earthquake also has a place on the property. During the last two years the Vatican became interested in education in Haiti and chose to rebuild the school. What a difference!
Rose de Lima elementary school and secondary schools were also destroyed in the earthquake. Two of the Sisters died in earthquake. The government rebuilt the elementary school, but not the secondary school. Mission Haiti has worked with other funders, the largest being Charitas Germany to build the secondary on another piece of property which was purchased in part by our grant.
Classes have been held in the temporary school for two years. It is being replaced by a permanent building made of poured concrete instead of blocks making it much more stable. After the earthquake and before the temporary classrooms, students were in large UN tents.
Through the generosity of Change for Global Change , a grant fund of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and the COSJ Generous Promise Grant Fund, handwashing stations and water towers have also been installed in three locations.
We were able to visit all of these places during our time in Leogane. What an inspiration to see the commitment of the Sisters and their many supporters! The Haitian people do not give up even in most difficult situations. Their creativity overcomes huge barriers.
Though these next initiatives are not directly connected
with Mission Haiti, they are certainly connected to the rebuilding of Haiti. We visited Croix de Bouquet, a metal work village where artisans transform metal oil drums into beautiful pieces of art which they sell for their own livelihood.
A trip to the mountains brought us to Jane Wynn Farm, another example of creativity and determination. Jane is a Haitian woman who learned very well from her father how to care for Earth and bring forth her abundance. She now shares all her experience through her education center on the mountain where she plants a large variety of bamboo, herbs, vegetables and flowers.
We are in the time of Resurrection and the hope that accompanies it. That hope was made live for us during our time in that beautiful country as we saw the progress of many hands in the recovery from the horrible earthquake. These efforts were indeed answering the call of the UN Sustainability Goals. There is so much to yet be done, but the base is in place for much more progress. What a gift to be part of this place for even a few days!
On Wednesday, April 13th from 6:30-8pm we are blessed to be hosting a collaboration with St. Catherine University (SCU)’s Multicultural and International Programs and Services Office and Campus Ministry to bring the film An American House to Minnesota. The event will be held in Jeanne D’Arc Auditorium in Whitby Hall at SCU. Filmmaker, Chris Trani will also be journeying from Chicago to offer a unique commentary as one of the originators of the project, alongside our very own Immigration Task Group member, Amanda Steepleton. Amanda is featured in the film and eloquently speaks to her work at Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas. Their wisdom is not to be missed.
The film documents the work of Annunciation House and its guests. In the life-giving spirit of solidarity, Annunciation House accompanies the migrant, homeless, and economically vulnerable peoples of the border region through hospitality, advocacy and education. In the trailer, the Director of Annunciation House, Ruben Garcia urges that:
“How we resolve the immigration issue is going to define us as a people and as a country.”
Through the raw materials of the lives we live, we are reminded that the metaphorical and even quite physical shelters we build to welcome the dear neighbor are an act of compassion that transcends borders. Please join us in community to learn more about the work of Annunciation House, and from justice-makers on how we can continue to work for just and human immigration reform.
This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate
In the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s 2007 Acts of Chapter it is declared that “we act for justice and equality for all by moving always toward profound love of God and neighbor without distinction”. Not only is this charism the anchor of my spirituality, it also informs my understanding daily of the complexity of working for systemic change. Moving always suggests flexibility, fluidity and anticipation for the next steps that must be taken. I envision moving always to be a sacred dance in communion with our partners. When I look back on the past year in the Justice Office, I see the many ways in which we are responding to the unmet needs of our time in the spirit of mutuality.
Mutuality is defined as,
And this definition has proven to be most certainly at the heart of our call to justice. With our dear partners over at Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, for example, we certainly have shared feelings, actions, and have developed a working relationship toward systemic change through the legislative process. However, we are moving toward a different understanding of mutuality when we begin to examine the language of “allyship”. According to the Anti-Oppression Network definition, “allyship is not an identity as ally is—instead, allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. Allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with”.
We have worked in allyship for many years with OutFront Minnesota through the remarkable work of the LGBTQ Connections Task Group, and as co-sponsors of the LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit. The beauty of using a term such as allyship has become to us that it simply isn’t possible to claim it as one, but rather it is a continuous endeavor to be recognized and affirmed by those we work with. Our partners define us, and we are accountable to our work together.
As I write this, I would like to be clear that this is a definition we are consistently making meaning around. We are particularly proud our partners from Joint Religious Legislative Coalition and OutFront Minnesota will be joining us at the CSJ Way this year. Together we hope to discuss our grounding for justice and how allyship has shaped its growth over the years.