Since the implementation of the sustainability committee at Avila University, significant strides have been made to educate the student body on the current state of the environment. The Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence recently hosted Revered John Dear, a Catholic priests and multi-Nobel prize nominee. The lecture given by Reverend Dear is titled, “They Will Inherit the Earth,” which is based off his book They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace and Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change.
Arica Maurer, coordinator for the Buchanon Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence, explained how “peacebuilding is not only about relationships between people but about humankind’s relationship with the earth. We have invited Reverend Dear to speak because we believe it is important for the Avila community to hear his message about the environmental aspect of peacebuilding as well as to learn from his example of nonviolent, civil disobedience in pursuit of justice and peace.”
For more details on this lecture, visit Avila news.
Congratulations to Loyola University New Orleans! They were one of only fifty institutions nationwide to win the 2017 Coca-Cola/Keep America Beautiful Public Space Recycling Grant. The funds from this grant will be “used to purchase 30 new recycling bins to be placed in all five residence halls.” This initiative is expected to recycle an additional 45,000 gallons of waste per year.
The grant is thanks in part to the Student Government Association who wrote and won the grant as part of its sustainability initiative titled “Maroon, Gold, and Green.” Loyola’s SGA is now planning an event on campus “to promote recycling and create awareness of the grant and new bins, which will collect paper, plastic, and aluminum.” The sustainability efforts taken by Loyola have only increased over the years. In addition to the recycling bins, Loyola has implemented solar paneled outdoor charging tables earned them the title of being one of the 2017 “Green Colleges” by Princeton Review.
To read more about Loyola University New Orleans’ initiatives, visit Loyola news.
On Sunday, we celebrate the 48th anniversary of Earth Day! Since the release of Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si, Catholics have been called in a unique way to respond to the “the throwaway culture” and “care for our common home.” Earth Day offers Catholics a time to reflect on the beauty of creation and our role as stewards of creation. The Holy Father urgently appeals to “every living person” to protect one another and the planet. To heed the call, Catholic colleges and universities have been integrating sustainable practices on campuses in small and large ways that both honor the earth and affirm the values of their institutions.
Many universities have incorporated humanity’s call to protect the environment into their mission statements to facilitate the work throughout their campuses. One example can be found at Saint Mary’s College of California. Its mission statement reads, “In fidelity to our educational missions and Catholic principles, Saint Mary’s College is committed to leadership in fostering environmental literacy, modeling a culture of sustainability, and creating an equitable future for all of humankind in harmony with nature.” Having a clear, yet comprehensive mission statement has allowed the campus to make large strides in a short amount of time. In a 2017 Sustainability Report, St. Mary’s stipulated that in order to achieve its objectives, the campus community must be engaged at all levels, take advantage of intellectual resources, have transparent evaluation and planning processes, and ensure that each measure taken is related to its stated goals. Last year, the college was able to do just that. Developments include the addition of mobile solar generators, updated lighting and natural gas systems, and installation of compost bins across campus.
By far, the largest impact came from the compost bins. According to the report, “Landfill [waste] decreased from 655 to 439 tons in the past two years.” St. Mary’s said it was able to make the drastic change through concerted efforts to educate the community on what goes into each recycle bin and provide the right infrastructure and signage within campus grounds. “With those in place, a culture can build.”
Since the inception of its sustainability committee in 2010, John Carroll University has implemented a number of initiatives throughout campus as outlined in its report last year. One of the ways was by integrating “green” measures in campus cafeterias. Changes in its food service facilities began in 2008, with the decision to go tray-less in the Schott Dining Hall. This has reduced food waste and minimized the water and energy that would have been used for tray cleaning. Also, when students want to take food out from the cafeterias, they are given reusable, biodegradable containers rather than foam ones that would eventually occupy a landfill.
Much of John Carroll’s success can be attributed to ongoing collaboration with the Office of Residence Life. The student housing department recently added new wireless thermostats and laundry machines to its residential buildings to improve energy efficiency and reduce water use. In addition, Residence Life regularly hosts informational events to better educate students on sustainability practices.
Currently, senior Economics, Sustainability, and Society (ECOS) majors are preparing for their capstone projects, which they will present at the end of April. Throughout their four years at Xavier, the students have “acquired a comprehensive understanding of sustainable economies, including the study of natural resources, plus ecological and environmental problems. Students also gain an understanding of social justice questions related to the distribution of economic products and resources,” according to the university website. The program allows them to carry their studies beyond the classroom. For example, one senior ECOS capstone project focuses on improving the environmental profile of Xavier University by changing campus behaviors and attitudes. As a Jesuit institution, Xavier is committed to fostering students that are stewards of a healthier earth.
Catholic colleges and universities continue to respond to the call of Pope Francis in Laudato Si by implementing sound sustainability practices. These colleges and universities recognize the importance of seeking full campus participation to be most effective in their missions. And, as we mark Earth Day, let’s take time to reflect on the lifestyle changes we can make for a more just and sustainable world.
Loras College recently hosted a panel discussion on reducing food waste in an effort to become a more sustainable campus. The event was sponsored by the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency (DMASWA) and Green Iowa AmeriCorps and is open to the public. The panel was prompted by the statistic reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that approximately “one third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted.”
The panel conversation focused on ways to “limit the amount of food put in landfills by reducing waste, feeding people in need, providing food for livestock, and compost and renewable energy.”
To read more about this panel hosted by Loras College, visit Loras news.
Congratulations to Saint Joseph’s College for announcing the launch of their Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation! The announcement comes as the institute recently received $4 million in funding from a Public Works Construction Project award from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, and donations from the Hannaford Charitable Foundation, Organic Nutrition, Inc., and several private foundations and individuals.
This project “pursues the College’s long-standing initiatives in sustainability and community engagement, while contributing solutions to Maine’s need to recover manufacturing jobs, develop the state’s food and beverage industry, and meet regional food security goals.” These funds will allow the College to begin the initial phases of development for the institute. The institute will include “a food manufacturing incubator, a hydroponic farm, a traditional crop and livestock farm, an agritourism event center, and an entrepreneurship development and education program offering certificates in areas such as hydroponic farming, food processing, and good merchandising.” The college’s strategic plan seeks to positively affect those in need in the community, those learning from the institute, and the local environment.
Join Catholic Climate Covenant for a webinar to explore international security issues and climate change on Thursday, June 22 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Key questions that will be addressed include:
How are food and water scarcity, extreme weather events, poverty, political instability, and social tensions, exacerbated by climate change, particularly upon the most vulnerable peoples around the world?
How do these impacts affect international security?
How is the Catholic Church seeking to address them?
Catholic college and university presidents have signed an open letter to the international community noting that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris agreement. The letter has been signed by leaders from state and local governments, higher education, and businesses. As of June 13, 20 Catholic higher education leaders had signed the letter.
The statement notes: “It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.”
University of Dayton President Eric Spina is one of the Catholic higher education presidents who signed the statement, noting the connection to Catholic teaching on the environment. “We share the goals of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change with science, innovation and leadership,” Spina said. “Furthermore, in alignment with Pope Francis and our Catholic, Marianist commitment to the common good, we recognize that environmental stewardship is a social justice issue, and that failure to act on climate change disproportionately affects the poor and disadvantaged throughout the world.”
Read more about the statement, including how to sign, here.
Today, June 8, is World Oceans Day, founded in 2002 to celebrate, honor, help protect and conserve the oceans. Events in honor of World Oceans Day will occur across the globe. For some, this holiday prompts reflection on the issues related to oceans, such as sustainability and human trafficking practices in the seafood industry.
Over the past two years, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking has coordinated advocacy efforts to encourage seafood companies to eradicate human trafficking practices. In 2016, the Coalition sponsored a postcard campaign, while in 2017 they focused on encouraging seafood companies who are cleaning up their supply chains to label their products. Read more about this year’s project on their website.
In honor of World Oceans Day, Fair Trade USA has launched a campaign encouraging consumers to purchase seafood that is produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Launched in 2014, their certification of seafood products allows consumers to make purchases that have been shown to meet rigorous standards for workers in the fishing industry. Learn more about their work on their website.
How will your campus celebrate and reflect on World Oceans Day? Let us know!
Inspired by their mission, Catholic colleges and universities serve their local communities in many ways, including building partnerships to work for the common good. Since 2010, ACCU member institutions have partnered with community organizations funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) to collaborate on initiatives that help people in their local communities who are living in poverty. These organizations are dedicated to empowering people to create change in their local community through solidarity and education. Saint Joseph’s University, the University of Dallas, and Marquette University are just a few of the institutions addressing local issues of poverty through these partnerships, providing a concrete way for students to live out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.
At Saint Joseph’s University, students have the opportunity to work with Urban Tree Connection, a non-profit organization funded by CCHD that works with people living in Philadelphia’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods to develop community-based greening and gardening projects. Urban Tree Connection (UTC) empowers members of the local community by training people in farming and other agricultural skills and making fresh produce more widely available. Their projects are created on vacant land to create safe and functional spaces that promote positive human interactions. Saint Joseph’s University’s Sustainability Committee and Institute for Environmental Stewardship work with UTC to provide access to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at UTC to faculty, staff, administrators, and students at the university. Subscribers to the CSA receive vegetables from UTC’s urban farms, supporting their efforts to transform abandoned lots into community gardens.
In addition to promoting the CSA program, students at SJU are also encouraged to work with UTC in their community gardens through the Philadelphia Service Immersion Program and the Magis Program. The Philadelphia Service Immersion Program is an optional early move-in experience for first-year students. This four-day program introduces incoming freshmen to the Jesuit values of social justice, service to those on the margin, moral discernment, and intellectual inquiry through community service learning. This past fall, six students volunteered with UTC through the program. Each evening, the students reflected on what they learned and experienced that day in a small group discussion led by incoming sophomores. Another opportunity available to connect students to UTC is the Magis Program, a semester-long service and social justice program for first-year students. Students meet weekly in small groups for community service, social justice education, and reflection. UTC is one of the sites where students can serve for the semester as part of the Magis Program.
Like St. Joseph’s, other Catholic campuses are finding that partnerships with CCHD-funded groups provide mutual benefits for all the partners. For example, the University of Dallas partnered with the local diocesan CCHD staff to educate students about the reality of poverty in the United States. Working with students and staff, together they created the Journey to Justice Retreat (J2J) to teach students about the issue of poverty in the local area and throughout the country. Using resources from CCHD such as Poverty USA, participants learned about the effects of poverty on people all over the country.
The J2J Retreat featured a focus on the CCHD-funded group Texas Tenant Union (TTU). TTU is a community organizing group dedicated to securing more and higher quality low-income housing by advocating for legislation, providing free legal counsel for low-income tenants, and offering rights education and counseling for tenants. Former diocesan CCHD intern Colleen McInerney, an alumna of the University of Dallas, says the retreat showed students the importance of CCHD in that TTU “wouldn’t have been able to do nearly as much without the CCHD resources” available to it, which inspired many students to get involved with anti-poverty organizations. The retreat was well-received and students hope that the university will be able to host the retreat again in the future.
In addition to hosting service opportunities and working together on educational programming, Catholic colleges and universities can partner with CCHD-funded organizations to learn more about advocacy within the nation’s political system. Marquette University offers students a way to become involved in advocacy through courses that incorporate service learning and through an internship. Project Return assists men and women who have experienced incarceration in making a positive reentry to the community. Each academic year, students work at Project Return for ten hours a week , helping clients find jobs and housing, work through personal issues, and celebrate accomplishments. They learn about the process of reentry by visiting a prison, meeting parole officers, and witnessing a reentry court run by a federal judge. In addition to learning more about the issue, students most recently advocated with community leaders, canvassed neighborhoods on issues surrounding criminal justice reform, and organized a community mental health day.
The project also enables Marquette student interns to work with a mentor on a variety of tasks and to incorporate their own academic interests into the internship. One student intern during the past year worked to launch a mental health initiative to accommodate clients in need of psychological services. Ed de St. Aubin, Ph.D., the director of the internship program, commented, “The social justice mission of our Jesuit university is completely aligned with the mission of Project Return.” De St. Aubin noticed how the experience opened students up to more growth than a classroom could have afforded, exposing them to numerous human factors connected to criminal justice reform, such as race relations, ethnic disparities, and faith development. Recently, de St. Aubin, as well as interns Max Hughes-Zahner and Alex Krouth, were guests on RiverWest Radio Milwaukee’s show, Expo: Ex-Prisoners Organizing. Hughes-Zahner, a junior at Marquette, noted on the show that this internship “was very important for me to experience it from that side because previous to that I had really only experienced classroom learning about incarceration and prison.”
Saint Joseph’s University, the University of Dallas, and Marquette University are working with local organizations to create community-based solutions to issues of poverty and inequality. Their partnerships with CCHD-funded groups enable them to live the values of Catholic Social Teaching and have a visible effect on the surrounding neighborhoods. Students are able to work alongside those living the issues they are working to resolve, giving them an experience of solidarity. Through a partnership with an organization funded by CCHD, Catholic universities make a difference in their communities and give students experience in what it means to have a faith that does justice.
Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
The Chaplains for Earth initiative is a collaboration of Deans and Directors of college and university religious and spiritual life departments in the United States. They are working to gather signatures on an open letter to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and EPA Administrator Pruitt calling them to honor U.S. commitments made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris. The goal for the letter is to have signatures representing all 50 states by April 22. The letter will be released in time for Earth Day.
The letter quotes the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions Interfaith Call to Action on Climate Change: “The damaging impacts of climate change are already extensive…If human behavior does not change, these impacts will become far more extreme, resulting in turmoil and suffering on an enormous scale with immense harm to both humans and other forms of life. People affected are, and will be, disproportionately the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable, including women and children—those who have done least to create this crisis. This is a massive injustice.”