Can you believe it has been 50 years this April 22, 2020 that we have been celebrating Earth Day? That means I have been alive for all of its 50 years, and yet I can only remember that I’ve really been conscious of its existence for maybe 25 of those 50 years. Where was I or where was my awareness during the first 25 years? It really wasn’t until my religious community made environmental issues a priority during one of our Chapters (community meetings) that we, with the help of some of our own members, began to study about the environment and what was happening with the amount of pollution taking place that was literally choking the environment and “killing” the earth, which of course includes us.
We spent several years during our community-wide meetings in the fall and spring learning about the harm being done to the planet by our use of materials even in our homes and on our campus in Sylvania. We were contributing to the problem rather than helping to solve the issues. It took years of convincing folks to recycle paper, decades to almost rid ourselves of the use of Styrofoam products, finding chemicals that are eco-friendly when applied inside and outside. We still struggle with the issue of composting food waste and the cost of trying to be good stewards of what God has given for our use.
Here at the workplace, the great St. V’s, I’ve been delighted to see the progress we have made ever since our Creative Care Team was started as a response to Pope Francis’s 2015 letter on the environment, Laudato Si. Efforts had been made previously regarding recycling such things as aluminum cans, paper, and cardboard, but since the committee has been working for the past three years, we have been able to set out bins for recycling cans, glass, plastic, and paper waste; no longer use Styrofoam containers for food in the cafeteria; and compost some of the food waste from the dietary department. There are plans to recycle clean Styrofoam used in packaging and continued awareness of recycling throughout the Medical Center.
The key to success in these efforts has been education, education, education. It certainly helps to have more companies and governments interested in the environment that we can call on to help us with our efforts of recycling, reducing, reusing, and refusing. We look forward to enlarging our environmental awareness efforts as we continue to be inspired by so many grassroots efforts in our area that call us to be concerned about what we will leave for future generations. Because we are people of hope who hope for the future, hope for change, we will be among those who work towards healing our home, for that is what it is. Earth is our home, and we need to leave it in good shape for those who will come after us.
Sister Mary Thill is a Sylvania Franciscan Sister. She is Patient Liaison for Mature Health Connections at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center. She can be reached at 419-251-3600. ❦