Summer Justice Reading Suggestions

At the last Justice Commission meeting of the year members pitched books as a continuation of our conversations on social justice over the summer. Here is the product of our brainstorm, and I hope you will take the time to indulge in these thought-provoking reads over the next 3 months . Enjoy!

  1. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
  2. Saving Septic Cyril by Sara Alexi
  3. A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota edited by Sun Yung Shin
  4. The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  6. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  7. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  8. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel
  9. Night Flying Woman by Ignatia Broker
  10. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
  11. People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  12. Ostriches, Dung Beetles and Other Spiritual Masters: A Book of Wisdom from the Wild by Janice McLaughlin
  13. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  14. The True Cost of Low Prices: The Violence of Globalization by Vincent A. Gallagher


SDG #5: Gender Equality and the Impact of Pornography

Last March, I attended the UN Commission on the Status of Women and was again deeply impressed by the dedication and concern of women from all over the world regarding the discrimination against and violence toward women.   It is commonly accepted that women are deeply connected to all the Millennium Development Goals, since the greater majority of those in the lowest economic level, worldwide, are women and their children.  The Sustainable Development Goals were intended to continue the work on the elimination of extreme poverty and to build a future that we want for the world.  Every issue that is addressed in these roles directly impact women.

Perhaps the goal that the Commission directly targeted was the Goal 5:  Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.  Achieving this goal would perhaps bring about the achievement of all the goals, since women would be included directly in every peace effort and all decision making bodies.  Women tend to more concerned with the safety and health of their children and families, and would thus insure more effectively that outcomes would benefit both.

I have believed that attending to and changing the root cause of any problem is the most effective way of solving those problems, it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what is the root cause.  I have asked myself continually, why is there such an imbalance among the genders, and when some equality is achieved, why has the cost of doing so been so high?  Another question is why there is so much resistance to bringing about equality, sometimes even from women.   Is it because women tend to want to please and to have a certain peace and security in life that they have bought into their assigned role?  Is it a lack of awareness of what some women in our world are actually going through?

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) delved into some of these issues.  Women from every country gave presentations and reports on the situation of women in their respective countries and what they are doing to bring about greater gender equality.  Part of the solution is becoming aware of the plight of our sisters wherever they may live and listening to their stories and what has worked for them.

One big impression which has stayed with me comes from a workshop on women and pornography.  Many women are trafficked into participating in pornography, which means they are kidnapped or duped and then most often face brutality and drug abuse to prevent their escape.  What pornography does to women, besides the abusive nature, is reduce women to being sex objects.  There is no love here, only lust.

Pornography is harmful to men, as well.  Research is showing that pornography blunts emotions in men for other positive relationships.  The presenters described what they call the culture of pornography that is being developed in the United States.  Young men are introduced to pornography at a very young age and girls are being groomed to pornography in the way they dress and look.  The models used in pornography show beautiful slender women in scant clothing and provocative poses.  These have often become role models for our young girls.  Even advertising often presents poses which are sexually provocative for women as the ideal and for the young men to assume positions of dominance and power, often surrounded by beautiful women.    Hollywood and music stars contribute to this image.

Pornography has grown into a multi-billion industry.  What was once condemned is being held up as ideal.  And for much of this, society is unaware of the harm it is doing.   Some are getting wealthy at the expense of women, girls, boys, and also men, while others are becoming victims.  Perhaps all of society are victims unaware.

Some statistics that blew me away and deeply concerned me are:

  • Porn Sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.  30% of the Internet industry is pornography.
  • The United States is the largest producer and exporter of hard core pornographic DVDs and web material.
  • Mobile Porn was expected to reach $2.8 billion by 2015.
  • Teen Porn more than tripled between 2005-2013.
  • Out of 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression. Perpetrators were usually male; targets of aggression overwhelmingly female.
  • Youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus youth not exposed to x-rated material.
  • Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of young men and one-half (49 percent) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable.
  •  Nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) young men and 1 out of 3 (31 percent) young women report using pornography.
  •  Internet pornography was blamed for a 20 percent increase in sexual attacks by children over three years

(from “Enough is Enough” an organization dedicated to child safety)

Important links:

FBI — Child Pornography Victim Assistance


Written by guest contributor  Mary Ellen Loch, CSJ, from the Congregation of St. Joseph, Wichita Center



Plastic Panic! Ways to better reduce, reuse, and recycle at home & work

Last post I said that I would offer some tried-and-true cleaning solutions, but alas, my fellow St. Joseph Workers and I have not had a chance to experiment…yet. (Expect pictures!)

Instead, this week I offer some thoughts on one of the banes of modern existence: plastic. It sits in our landfills, it clogs our water, it absolutely refuses to break down. And those little tiny numbers that are supposed to tell you if it’s recyclable or not—what do those even mean?

Fear not, servants of sustainability, for I have scoured the internet and bring to you both knowledge and power!  First up:


Plastics by the Numbers


Here are the seven standard classifications for plastics, and the recycling and reuse information for each type:

#1 – PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

PET is one of the most commonly used plastics in consumer products, and is found in most water and pop bottles, and some packaging. It is intended for single use applications; repeated use increases the risk of leaching and bacterial growth. PET plastic is difficult to decontaminate, and proper cleaning requires harmful chemicals. Polyethylene terephthalates may leach carcinogens.

Products made of #1 (PET) plastic should be recycled but not reused.

#2 – HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

HDPE plastic is the stiff plastic used to make milk jugs, detergent and oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic. It is a relatively simple and cost-effective process to recycle HDPE plastic for secondary use.

Products made of HDPE are reusable and recyclable.

#3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC is a soft, flexible plastic used to make clear plastic food wrapping, cooking oil bottles, teething rings, children’s and pets’ toys, and blister packaging, the sheathing material for computer cables, to make plastic pipes, window frames, garden hoses, arbors, raised beds and trellises.

PVC is dubbed the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle. Almost all products using PVC require virgin material for their construction; less than 1% of PVC material is recycled.

Products made using PVC plastic are not recyclable. While some PCV products can be repurposed, PVC products should not be reused for applications with food or for children’s use.

#4 – LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)

LDPE is often found in shrink wraps, dry cleaner garment bags, squeezable bottles, and the type of plastic bags used to package bread. The plastic grocery bags used in most stores today are made using LDPE plastic. Some clothing and furniture also uses this type of plastic.

Products made using LDPE plastic are reusable, but not always recyclable. You need to check with your local collection service to see if they are accepting LDPE plastic items for recycling.

#5 – PP (Polypropylene)

Polypropylene plastic is tough and lightweight, and has excellent heat-resistance qualities. It serves as a barrier against moisture, grease and chemicals. When you try to open the thin plastic liner in a cereal box, it is polypropylene. PP is also commonly used for disposable diapers, pails, plastic bottle tops, margarine and yogurt containers, potato chip bags, straws, packing tape and rope.

PP is considered safe for reuse. To recycle products made from PP, check with your local curbside program to see if they are now accepting this material.

#6 – PS (Polystyrene)

Polystyrene is most often used to make disposable styrofoam, plastic picnic cutlery, foam packaging and “peanut” foam chips. Polystyrene is also widely used to make rigid foam insulation and underlay sheeting for laminate flooring used in home construction.

Because polystyrene is structurally weak and ultra-lightweight, it breaks up easily and is dispersed readily throughout the natural environment. Beaches all over the world have bits of polystyrene lapping at the shores, and an untold number of marine species have ingested this plastic with immeasurable consequences to their health. Polystyrene may leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen, into food products (especially when heated in a microwave). Chemicals present in polystyrene have been linked with human health and reproductive system dysfunction.

Recycling is not widely available for polystyrene products. Most curbside collection services will not accept polystyrene, which is why this material accounts for about 35% of US landfill material. While it is difficult to find a recycler for PS, some businesses like Mailboxes Etc. which provide shipping services are happy to receive foam packing chips for reuse. Polystyrene should be avoided where possible.

#7 – Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN)

The #7 category was designed as a catch-all for polycarbonate (PC) and “other” plastics, so reuse and recycling protocols are not standardized within this category.

Number 7 plastics are used to make baby bottles, sippy cups, water cooler bottles and car parts. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic food containers often marked on the bottom with the letters “PC” by the recycling label #7.

A new generation of compostable plastics, made from bio-based polymers like corn starch, is being developed to replace polycarbonates. These are also included in category #7, which can be confusing to the consumer. These compostable plastics have the initials “PLA” on the bottom near the recycling symbol. Some may also say “Compostable.”

#7 plastics are not for reuse, unless they have the PLA compostable coding. When possible it is best to avoid #7 plastics, especially for children’s food. PLA coded plastics should be thrown in the compost and not the recycle bin since PLA compostable plastics are not recyclable.

– See more at:


Recyclebank is another “save the Earth, earn points, win things” websites, similar to the Joulebug app. Its focus is more on education, and you can earn points just by reading articles or watching informational videos on the site. There is a plethora of information, including a place to put in your zip code to find out what’s recyclable in your area and a question & answer area Recyclebank also has its own an online store, and you can use points to get discounts off of products or shipping.

Pros: By far, the most user-friendly and beautifully made website I’ve found so far. Unlike many of the other sustainable sites I’ve reviewed, this one is obviously made for a web browser, not an app. Plus, you can earn/win/buy rewards with your points, including things like magazine subscriptions or the chance to win an Amazon gift card, or you can even donate your points to one of Recyclebank’s listed charities.

Cons: Despite how beautiful the website is (or maybe because of it), Recyclebank feels a lot more serious, rather than fun. Like Eartheasy, there is simply a lot of information to take in, and it can feel overwhelming to know where to start.


If you’re looking for a way to reuse the plastic around your house and you’re not content with simply recycling, then take a look at

Precious Plastic

For all those DIYers out there, this is for you! Precious Plastic is a new venture that shares blueprints for personal plastic recycling centers! The website is fantastic, so I highly recommend checking it out (and sharing it with everyone you know). I, personally, am incredibly excited about the potential of Precious Plastic to help reduce the plastic waste already present in our communities while we work to reduce the amount of plastic we consume overall.

Precious Plastic has six initiatives. From their website:

1. Develop Machines

For the past two years we have been developing machines to recycle plastic waste, locally.

2. Share, for free

The machines are developed using basic tools and materials. We share all the blueprints open source online. This way people around the world can build them.

3. Spread the know-how

In order to build these machines people need to know that the blueprints are available. We need to spread the know-how to every corner of the world.

4. Create

Once the machines are build people can start experimenting, creating and producing new products from their local plastic waste.

5. Clean up

The primary goal is to recycle as much plastic as we possibly can. This would clean up our shared environment, improve living conditions and possibly create financial value!

6. Community

An important aspect of the project is to create a world wide community of like-minded plastic savers. People working for a cleaner future, sharing knowledge, helping each other, and collaborating.

What can you make?


You can make a number of different products with each machine. Lamps, jars, bowls, vases, baskets, and the list goes on. Your creativity is the limit!


You could create tools for you or your community. Making buckets, boxes, handlebars, thread, bricks, and much, much more!

Raw material

The plastic could also be transformed into granulate or filament for 3d printing machines, closing the loop.

For more info, you can watch the video below, or visit

Thanks for your participation in the efforts to reduce the plastic clutter plaguing our Earth!


Written by Elea Ingman, SJW



Live Long and Simplify

The skies may toss and turn between blue and grey, but no one can deny the changing seasons with the number of blossoms popping open in every tree and garden bed (not to mention all of the pollen those blossoms are releasing!)

Next week, I’ll share some DIY cleaning supply recipes (tried and tested by the St. Joseph Workers) to help jumpstart your spring cleaning. But for now, I invite you to take advantage of the warm weather to work on some cleaning of a more spiritual nature.

Education and Action


I’ve been using Joulebug for the last two weeks or so. Joulebug is an app that promotes sustainable living through a girl scout-like system of earning badges. Each time you do an action, such as composting or carpooling, you “buzz” your action. The more you buzz, the more points you rack up, and the closer you come to completing a badge! There is a strong social element as well, inviting you to follow and ‘compete’ against friends and others in your community.

Pros: Joulebug is a great motivator for sustainable living. It gives simple, practical tasks that are easy to implement into your daily routine, as well as more complicated and/or intensive goals such as installing a new showerhead. My favorite part is that when you buzz, the app tells you the yearly impact that action makes. For example, packing reusable silverware instead of disposable for a year has the same impact as charging a cell phone 861 times, baking 4 frozen pizzas, or charging 769 AA batteries.

Cons: The app depends on the idea that you will remember to buzz right away when you complete an action. As far as I could tell, there isn’t a penalty for putting in a day’s worth of actions all at once unless you’re in a challenge. (Too many actions at once and joulebug will temporarily suspend your challenge points.)

Overall, I found joulebug to be a useful resource, and it’s fun to see the impact you’re making with very simple actions. In the past two weeks, using the app on and off, my estimated impact totals are 280 lbs of CO2, 65 gallons of water, and 31 lbs of waste saved!

Download the app here


Tips and Tricks for Simplifying Life

Do you ever try to live more simply, only to find that your methods of simple living just seem to complicate things? I’ve gone through an article from Eartheasy to bring you some ways of simplifying life that don’t feel like an additional chore.

From the eartheasy article Simplify and thrive! 

In our efforts to live the ‘good life’, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed by seemingly endless choices, decisions and activities. Here are a few ways to help slow down, and give ourselves time to remember who we are and what’s really important in our lives. And as we simplify, the environment also benefits.

Start by Stopping

Each new day is a blank canvas which we fill with a checklist of tasks. But every minute need not be structured and scheduled. Try stopping from time to time, and make conscious contact with your inner self. Let go of the need for maximum daily achievement and become comfortable doing nothing, if only for a short while. Take the time to lay down on a blanket outside and watch the clouds. Bring some crumbs for the birds and watch them enjoy. Or check out the stars for a few minutes before going to sleep. An occasional dose of non-doing lets you slow down to appreciate the pleasures of the moment, however simple, and gain a fresh perspective on how your time is spent each day.

Daily Meditation

Meditation does not require incense, mandalas, mantras or the perfect lotus position. It only requires you to be comfortable, quiet and to try to clear your mind. A few tips:

  • Try to meditate every day, even if only for a few minutes. The benefits are cumulative.

  • Focus on your breathing to help clear your mind and relax your body.

  • Try not to think. Listen to your heart, feel the energy in your body, let an empty breeze flow through your mind. Above all, try not to organize your day or problem solve.

  • Lower your expectations. The benefits of meditation are substantial, but subtle. Don’t look for results – they’ll find you.

Reduce Clutter; De-Consume

  • Reduce visual clutter. Try putting things you can live without in boxes and put the boxes in the attic or basement for six months. Then re-open the boxes and keep what you missed…..give the rest away as gifts, or hold a garage sale. Then try this formula – for every new thing that comes in, one old thing goes out.

  • Junk Mail: Write to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd St., NY, NY. 10017. They will stop your name from being sold to most large mailing list companies. Or put “Return to Sender” and put back in the mailbox. You can also contact the Stop Junk Mail Association at (800) 827-5549. Or order the booklet “Stop Junk Mail Forever” from the Simple Living Network at (800) 318-5725.

  • Telemarketers: In the US, the FTC has launched a website so consumers can register online. This is a free service. By adding your number to the list, intrusive calls from telemarketers should be reduced. Sign up online at or call 1-888-382-1222. Registration is in effect for five years, unless you remove your number from the registry or your number is disconnected.

  • Save emails or receipts on your computer. Print-outs use paper and ink, and require filing and storing. Save the information and delete when no longer needed.

Reduce Housecleaning

Most of the dirt in your home is brought in on shoes. Save time and cleaning expenses by starting a no-shoes policy. Keep slippers at the door for guests to use.

Next time you’re at the library, look for “Confessions of an Organized Homemaker” by Denice Schofield. This book offers ways to simplify, organize and schedule household systems in order to help reduce the need for housecleaning.


Try to put some silence into each day. Our ears are not designed for the constant stimulation of noise, which is an unfortunate by-product of modern life. There are very few loud sounds in nature. Studies have shown that stress hormones rise in response to noise. Concentration and energy levels are reduced, and the rates of hearing loss among young people has risen dramatically in recent years.

Simply being aware of the effects of noise is a good start. Turn off the TV and stereo if you’re not paying full attention to them. Silence helps us stay focused and centered, and provides a welcome oasis in a sea of overstimulation.

The rest of the article can be found here.




This post was written by Elea Ingman, SJW