Master gardener Regina Blakeslee demonstrates composting with Chef Anthony George
Over the past several months, staff of the Dominican Sisters of Hope have participated in seminars and lively discussions about putting Laudato Si’ into action. Recently our focus turned to the workplace, and how to advance our commitment to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform goals in our offices and grounds at Mariandale. Each department brainstormed organizational actions to promote Care of Earth and the Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles.
As a result, we’ve recommitted to eliminating single-use plastic in the dining room and using recycled paper in printers and copiers. These decisions build on longstanding commitments to sustainability which had taken a backseat during the pandemic. Then taking advantage of new technology, we replaced plastic water dispensers with hydration filling stations and chose energy-efficient office machines to replace older models.
Most recently, after learning about the devasting environmental impact of oil and gas-powered leaf blowers, the Maintenance Team chose electric battery-powered lawn tools to replace their old equipment.
Leaf blowers produce “staggering” pollution, according to environmental reports. Operating a gas-powered commercial leaf blower for one hour is equivalent to driving a gas-powered car more than 1,000 miles! The equipment uses a “long-obsolete” two-stroke engine, in which fuel mixes with oil. Gases released cause public health problems and chronic disease. Making the switch to electric-powered lawn equipment is a critical environmental justice issue, as lawn-care companies often employ poor people and people of color who suffer from health disparities and often lack access to health care.
Expanding composting at Mariandale is our next initiative. At the first meeting of a recently-formed staff Laudato Si’ Committee, master gardener Regina Blakeslee taught committee members “why” and “how” to compost. Food composting has previously been limited to vegetable scraps produced by the kitchen staff, which is combined with grass and other cuttings for use in the garden. Additional bins will be placed in the kitchenettes and retreat center dining room, to collect raw vegetable matter from the meals eaten by sisters, staff, and guests. Shredded paper from our offices will also be composted. We are looking into the possibility of “commercial composting” in 2024, which would enable the recovery of 100% of Mariandale’s food waste, including meat, dairy, and anything cooked.
Staff members have expressed a desire for more training and an eagerness to continue the discussion. As one staff member said, “there’s alot we can do as a ‘company’ and as individual departments.”