Urgent Challenge, Small Steps, Growing a Movement

By Sister Joan Burke, SNDdeN

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2023 issue of Sowing Goodness.

The case for addressing the urgency of climate change can no longer be denied: extreme weather events give compelling evidence. The reality can overwhelm us and make us feel powerless, but for our call to “have hearts as wide as the world.” — St. Julie. As her daughters, the Sisters of the East-West province committed in 2022 to promote the climate change agenda of Pope Francis in his 2015 letter addressed to all the world, “On the Care of our Common Home.”

The most significant actors in this drama playing out across our globe are governments and corporations, but this does not remove our responsibility to do our part. One way we can contribute is through a lifestyle audit. What follows is a description of what the Province Center Community in Belmont, California, is doing.

The Sisters critically examine the products we use daily in our kitchen, laundry, and home environment. We have tried to find alternatives after identifying what does not seem eco-friendly and responsible. Criteria include freeing us from dependence on plastics, wanting to move from recycling to composting and applying the social justice ethic of companies. As part of this review, we look at the environmental impact of products and consider who profits and who is exploited by their production. The small publication Better World Shopping Guide is a helpful tool that poses many relevant questions. Its assessments are not definitive or always the same as ours, but it is a good beginning point.

As a result, we are slowly finding alternative climate-friendly products to replace those we are currently using. Examples include laundry detergent sheets and drying balls for clothes, cleaning products that do not contain toxins and are available in non-plastic containers, compostable plates and cups for large gatherings, and even compostable coffee pods. We hope to build up an inventory we can share among ourselves and others. Partner with us and share your findings at EWLSAP@sndden.org. Here’s a quick link to calculate your carbon footprint: https:// environmental-impact-calculator.climatehero.me.

We stand in solidarity, hoping our collective efforts may help heal our Common Home.

Sister Joan F. Burke, SNDdeN is a coordinator for a seven-year sustainability project that originated with Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical.