By Marianne Comfort, Mercy Justice Team
Who would have thought that discovering plastic-free ways to wash clothes or wrap up leftover food could bring such joy? But judging from responses to the Mercy Earth Challenge, Mercy sisters, associates, co-workers and friends are thrilled to adopt new lifestyle choices in solidarity with Earth and people around the world burdened by environmental degradation and the climate crisis.
For nearly one year, from Earth Day 2020 through Lent 2021, more than 1,200 people joined the Mercy Justice Team on a journey of re-examining our lifestyles.
We first deepened our understanding of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and then looked at various practices we could change in our personal and communal lives to align with the call to “hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”
We reflected on the sacred gift of water, considered injustices in our food system, adopted more sustainable shopping habits and committed to using less plastic and eating less meat.
“For years now I have tried to reduce my use of plastics. I have been recycling for years but was flabbergasted when I saw that much of the plastics aren’t even recycled!” wrote Providence Sister Sue Orlowski of Spokane, Washington. “When I took the inventory you suggested, I was amazed that just about everything in my bathroom, laundry room and kitchen came in plastic bottles!”
Over the course of the year, participants told us they are now:
- Purchasing laundry strips or boxed clothing detergent (breaking up the powder inside with a knife before using it) to reduce their reliance on plastic bottles
- Re-using plastic containers in their gardens
- Growing herbs and flowers organically on an apartment balcony
- Eating less meat
- Wrapping up leftover food in beeswax rather than plastic
- Purchasing soap and shampoo that don’t come in plastic bottles
- Asking for home-delivered groceries to be packed in paper bags rather than plastic bags
- Trying to get as close to a zero-waste lifestyle as possible
- Joining a group that shares “green” practices
- Reflecting on their habits in light of the “throwaway culture” that Pope Francis warns us about
Sister Genemarie Beegan of Chicago summed up her new approach: “The real success is in using less. We easily remember ‘Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle,’ but often forget the most effective one: Reduce.”
As we now mark the sixth anniversary of the pope’s signature encyclical, consider returning to or visiting for the first time the Mercy Earth Challenge resources. It’s never too late nor too early to embark on this journey of conversion of lifestyles, from wherever you are now.
Please let us know of your new Laudato Si’ commitments by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.