I can hardly believe that I am sitting down to write my farewells. This year has been an incredible experience, and I have learned more than I ever thought possible. Each season brought its own opportunities and challenges; and now, as we head back into summer, I would like to take a little space to reflect on all this year has meant and to thank all of you for part in making this community such a welcoming and inspiring place.
Working in the Justice Office has brought me deeper understanding of the lessons I began learning as an undergrad at St. Kate’s: to value women’s leadership, to explore and grow in my spirituality and love of God, to seek solidarity in community, and to live in a way that is both simple and sustainable. It’s no coincidence that these are also the pillars of the St. Joseph Worker program!
Over the year, I learned what I can do to help break the impasse in our politics through the wise words of Sr. Simone Campbell and Dr. Fatma Reda. Workshops taught me about the “CSJ Way” of Community, Spirituality, and Justice. I met Sisters of St. Joseph, Consociates/Associates, and Partners in Mission from all across the U.S. and beyond at the Congregation and Federation meetings in New York. Perhaps most striking of all, I found an amazing friend and mentor in Megan Bender, who continuously amazed me with her dedication, hard work, and creativity in/for the work of justice.
In August, I’ll be heading to Berkeley to start my masters in Biblical studies at the Graduate Theological Union. It will be a big change, and I’m going to miss all of the friends I’ve made this year. I am comforted to know that throughout all the newness of this transition, I will have the strength, courage, love, and brilliance of the CSJ community to guide and support me.
It has been a joy and a privilege to work within the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet & Consociates. Thank you all, and God bless!
A statement from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul, regarding the Orlando shooting:
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province, express deep sadness at the news of the killings of so many individuals during the tragic shooting in the Orlando nightclub.
We join Pope Francis, President Obama and church and civil leaders worldwide in expressing “the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.” (Vatican Spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi)
We extend prayers and heartfelt sorrow to the families of all those who were killed and injured as well as to all involved first responders and medical personnel and to the people of Orlando.
We weep with you and mourn with you and join the network of those praying with and for you around our country and world. We realize ever more deeply the need to acknowledge the need for stricter gun control and the need to confront bigotry in any form among the people of God.
May the God of love, mercy and grace comfort all who mourn and grieve. May our faith strengthen us and our hope give us new resolve to work untiringly to bring the justice, peace, freedom, equality and non-violence for which our Redeemer died.
“Lord, make me a means of your peace.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet
St. Paul Province
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:
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
The plastic could also be transformed into granulate or filament for 3d printing machines, closing the loop.
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!
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
Tragedy provokes us. It lifts us from the places where we no longer can sit within complacency; it forces us to reassess our direction in life. We have heard, a million times, that tragedy brings people together. From my writing research, trying to resolve conflicts between characters, I have learned this togetherness often comes with the recognition of a common enemy, one which is greater than previous divisions. Now, in the light of the violence this past Holy week, I would like to ask: who is the ‘common enemy,’ and how should we respond to them?
Christians are called to live out these instructions in Heb. 13:1-3:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.
There are no stipulations on this reading. Paul does not say “remember those who are imprisoned unjustly,” or “only show hospitality to those strangers who look and act like you and cause you no discomfort.” This is a difficult reading in theory, and it is even more difficult in practice. How can we truly love our enemies? On a global scale, is it possible to despise the systems that encourage radicalization without despising radical groups and individuals? More simply put, can we hate terrorism without hating terrorists? How can we love God and the dear neighbor without distinction when others seem determined to do the distinguishing for us?
I have to admit that I raise these questions without having a single answer to them – except, maybe, to have faith. By this I do not mean to prescribe inaction, or the assumption that God will take care of things so that we do not have to. On the contrary, it is only through us that God can work. One of the beautiful things about God is that God is the ultimate spin doctor. I think we can pretty well agree that not everything that happens in this world is good. And it is pretty well established in theological studies that God does not simply cause bad things to happen as a part of some ineffable plan to punish the wicked and save the righteous (Job, anyone?) Not everything happens for a reason. But we can trust that God will create reason for everything that happens.
A small scale example: A few years ago I lost my job. Now, I absolutely do not believe that God caused me to lose my job, or that losing my job was part of some divine plan to put me on a different track. Similarly, I do not believe that God causes death and destruction in order to bring about some greater glory. But after the fact, God can be found in the midst of the mess, tools in hand, saying “we can make something good out of this.” God’s agency is known when we move from the point of tragedy, no matter how large or small, to trust that something good can be made from the ashes of what was.
We are an Easter people, a people of resurrection. By the reality of our rising, all divisions between us cease. A common enemy brings us together only long enough to define who is “us” and who is “them.” God brings us together when our common factor is love, not hate. Together, we can make all things new.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were established to achieve a wide variety of targets by 2030 by providing access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
As Megan Bender, Justice Associate wrote in her December 4, 2015 blogpost, “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals highlight the unmet needs of our time, and the steps to take in achieving them.”
The charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph calls us to be “moving always toward profound love of God and neighbor without distinction” while SDG #16 Target 7 calls us to “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.”
Since 1999, the Legislative Advocacy Partners Working Group of the Justice Commission, the Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity at St. Catherine University and NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby have partnered to offer BREAKING THE IMPASSE with Sister Simone Campbell.
February 23, 7:00 -9:00 p.m. we will present BREAKING THE IMPASSE VII: Call to Bridge the Divide featuring Sister Simone and Dr. Fatma Reda, a member of the executive board of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). Dr. Reda speaks widely on Islam and is a third level Mureedah (female seeker) in the Naqshabandi Sufi order.
I have long held the belief that in order for us to succeed locally, nationally and globally we need to be able to deeply and respectfully listen to each other, then, recognizing that it takes all of us to find the best possible solution, work together for a more just world today.
From my perspective SDG#16 is a “call to bridge the divides.