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


From Emerson to Earth

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

Nature III

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

She is gamesome and good,

But of mutable mood,–

No dreary repeater now and again,

She will be all things to all men.

She who is old, but nowise feeble,

Pours her power into the people,

Merry and manifold without bar,

Makes and moulds them what they are,

And what they call their city way

Is not their way, but hers,

And what they say they made to-day,

They learned of the oaks and firs.

She spawneth men as mallows fresh,

Hero and maiden, flesh of her flesh;

She drugs her water and her wheat

With the flavors she finds meet,

And gives them what to drink and eat;

And having thus their bread and growth,

They do her bidding, nothing loath.

What’s most theirs is not their own,

But borrowed in atoms from iron and stone,

And in their vaunted works of Art

The master-stroke is still her part.







Remember Friday is Earth Day! Do something nice for your Mother Earth.

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?!?)

Ahhh. Goose-feeding season.

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.



You don’t have to go this far to conserve water.

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.

You can find the whole article at:

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.


Click here to read the article

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!


Written by Elea Ingman, SJW
Justice Office Program Assistant









Haiti Now and Beyond

In February, members of the Federation and Mission Haiti made our way to Haiti to visit Annunciation School, teachers, and students haiti_blog_1that 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.

haiti_blog_2We 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.haiti_blog_4

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 earthquakehaiti_blog_6 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.

haiti_blog_5Through 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 directlyhaiti_blog_8 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, haiti_blog_7another 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!



Written by Mary Ellen Gondeck from the Congregation of St. Joseph



An American House

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

Mutuality/Allyship, Grounding for Justice

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.

Please join us on Saturday, April 16th from 9am-noon and get to know us! For more information follow,


Written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate