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May 2024

This month’s articles:

Degrowth is the Only Sane Survival Plan (Karen Donahue, RSM)

Argentina and the Government of Hate (Ana Siufi, RSM)

Listening to a Chorus of Voices (Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team)


Degrowth Is the Only Sane Survival Plan

Karen Donahue, RSM

Just last week, two articles published in the Guardian (a British newspaper) highlighted the climate crisis and the failure of the global community to respond in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the situation. The first reported that CO2 levels have reached a new high (421 parts per million), while the second presented the results of a survey of the world’s top climate scientists. Almost 80 percent of the respondents expect global temperatures to rise by 2.5 degrees C or more by the end of this century. This is well above the Paris Climate Accord goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.

In a recent article posted on the TomDispatch website, environmentalist Stan Cox raises some challenging questions about climate change, economic growth and consumption. He notes that as far back as1972, scientists were questioning the viability of an economic model predicated on unlimited growth. They observed that “the excessive consumption of resources… is depleting reserves to the point where the system is no longer sustainable.” Technological advances will not be enough, “the change needed to put us on a different trajectory will also require a change in belief systems, mindsets, and the way we organize our society.”

Stan Cox goes on to explore the concept of degrowth. Degrowth policies include “reducing less-necessary material production and energy consumption, converting to workers’ ownership, shortening working hours, improving and universalizing public services, redistributing economic power, and prioritizing grassroots social and political movements.” He recognizes that such measures may be impossible in our current political climate but holds out hope that more enlightened political leaders might be able to turn the tide and head off disaster.


Argentina and the Government of Hate

Ana Siufi, RSM

In Argentina, these are challenging times of pain and powerlessness for those of us who love our people, our country. When the ultra-right won the presidential elections in December 2023, Milei took office, flying the flag of inequality, violence, cruelty, contempt for the vulnerable, and the surrender of the homeland to powerful local interests and – above all – to the global corporate elite. The president says that he is advised by his dead dog, [and he] is photographed wrapped in the flag of Israel, travels continuously to the United States, and with false reasons makes decisions that go against national interests.

Milei refuses [to have] any dialogue [due to] a messianic and authoritarian attitude, defining himself as an “anarcho-capitalist”. He blindly believes in the free market and deregulation, in the benefits of destroying the state and privatizing everything, in the plundering of our natural resources for export, and the uncontrolled imports that will eliminate national industry. He is also reducing or eliminating taxes on the rich and large multinationals and increasing them on simple citizens. He rigorously pays the illegal foreign debt to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other agencies while denying essential funds for education, health, social spending, etc.

He declared war on all state institutions, which he considers unnecessary or inefficient. Throughout the territory, political, economic, educational, scientific, technological, sanitary, cultural, artistic, environmental, and communication institutions are being eliminated or their roles weakened. In the name of “freedom”, these “institutional disappearances” facilitate the dismemberment of the country, the denial of rights, chaos, and the loss of democracy, instituting an extractivist, neocolonial situation.

It becomes clear that the Executive Power – through decrees or new laws that annul hundreds of previous decrees or laws or contravene our Constitution – wants to concentrate in itself the powers of the legislature and manage the judiciary. This would ensure impunity to impose its anti-national policy, which is already causing the loss of thousands of jobs, the closure of businesses and industries, the paralysis of production and consumption, the destruction of ecosystems, and the unstoppable growth of hunger, poverty, and social inequality.

With the argument that it is the only way and that today’s sacrifice will produce prosperity in 30 years, this economic plan is brutally dynamiting the social fabric, aggravating the shortages and suffering of all vulnerable sectors. Unfortunately, many of his voters still trust his speeches and the measures taken, while another part of the citizenship – very angry – is seeing the damage and protesting the uncontrolled inflation, unemployment, and the low salaries and pensions. You can feel this question in the air: Are we heading towards a social explosion? The choruses in the marches sum it all up: “This is not freedom; this is hate!” “The homeland is not for sale, it is defended!”

Sisters Ana Siufi, Estela Gomez, & Moira Flynn protest in front of Congress in Buenos Aires

Faced with this process, the defeated opposition parties show divisions, disorientation, or complicit silences, and few politicians, trade unionists, social leaders, religious leaders, or independent journalists come out to denounce with force and conviction so much destruction, proposing alternative policies focused on the common good and real democracy. Those who do not submit but resist this misgovernment with denunciations, strikes, and street protests are threatened by police repression, outrageous judicial processes, and incessant smear campaigns in the media and social networks, including insults and mockery by the president.

More than ever, in these difficult times, we need our Martyrs – who have given their lives for a more just country – to inspire and sustain us; to be boldly present alongside the victims of this inhumane system, accompanying the struggle with hope, the strength of union, the love that seeks equity, and the power of non-violence; to defend the dignified life, rights, brotherhood, and sovereignty of our nation.

No longer shall violence be heard of in your land, or plunder and ruin within your boundaries… He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” (Is. 60:18; 61:1).


Listening to a chorus of voices

Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team

I had the privilege of accompanying Nelly Del Cid, a Honduran Mercy Associate, during the first two stops on her recent 10-day, U.S. speaking tour. I also hosted her webinar during that span. (Watch the webinar here.) Time with Nelly, and another recent experience, has me thinking about the voices we listen to.

The week after Nelly’s webinar, I was interviewed by a friend with whom I have engaged in local anti-racism work. A’Jamal was interested in talking to me about what it is like to address racism and racial equity as a white person. In the lead up to our discussion, I sent him a link to Nelly’s webinar, which he attended. Though I knew he had been present, I was still surprised when the first question A’Jamal posed to me was “why did you host a webinar and speaking tour with Nelly Del Cid?” There are a lot of answers to that question.

Nelly is a Mercy Associate. She engages with Sisters of Mercy in Honduras doing work that embodies the Mercy Charism, the spirit of Mercy. The efforts and the struggles of Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates in places like Honduras are of interest to the greater Mercy Community. From my experience, I believe Nelly to be a wise woman. Being a practitioner of nonviolence, a human rights advocate, and someone who works unceasingly for the empowerment of women, Nelly has a wide array of experiences to share, and she shares them through the lens of a native Honduran. Hers is a voice underrepresented in the chorus that most of us hear every day. As I have reflected on this time, I have realized that this type of underrepresentation is not unique.

During my conversation with A’Jamal, we talked about diversity: in workplaces, on campuses, in leadership groups and politics. We talked about the importance of diverse perspectives being raised up across all levels of society, not just among workers, student bodies, and constituencies, but also among directors, board members, elected officials, and other decision-makers. I recognize that the prevailing societal norms in the U.S. are typically those held by white people. As the demographic majority and the occupiers of most positions of power, white voices make the rules in this country. But our influence is not confined within our borders. Our U.S. wealth, military strength, and political standing are extensively used to influence and control the actions of other countries.

Over the course of her tour, Nelly addressed numerous topics. Among them was the 2009 coup in Honduras. Supported by military leaders trained at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA, the coup was not officially labeled as such by the Obama administration. As a result, our government continued to send military and police aid (i.e., weapons) to Honduras. Corruption following the coup led to increased activity by well-armed cartels and gangs and state violence against citizens, including internationally known environmental activist Berta Caceres.

Crime from gangs and cartels creates situations where some families have no place to go. Turning to migration, they end up at our border only to be treated as invaders when, in reality, they are fleeing from situations we have helped to create through our individual action and inaction and our U.S. policies.

Nelly also talked about the exploitation of Honduran resources by foreign companies. Mining and agricultural companies have been able to make deals with corrupt government officials and extract rich profits while native and indigenous citizens receive little benefit and must cope with environmental devastation and displacement. The fruit of this commerce often results in cheap products for people in countries like ours but results in the exploitation of workers and citizens who live elsewhere.

At the end of several of her presentations, more than one person asked Nelly how she maintains hope in the face of so many injustices. She told us that she found hope in the people who came to listen to her and in the efforts groups are making to be in solidarity with the people of Honduras. As she implored us to be hopeful, she asked us to consider who benefits if we lose hope. Hearing Nelly explain these issues from a Honduran perspective reminded me how insular daily life in the Midwestern United States can be. Her experience and perspective are gifts that enable me to reframe issues and fuel my work towards social justice. Not unlike my collaborations with A’Jamal and others who work for racial equity, Nelly’s voice helps to clarify for me the fact that so many people face realities much different than my own. Her stories can also help shift the popular narrative in the United States that blames immigrants for being victims of U.S. policies. We would do well to listen and understand.

By Sister Carol Mucha

What have I done to contribute to the sustainability of our good Earth? 

I have made many lifestyle changes, but there are two I would like to share. 

The first has to do with my Toyota Prius Hybrid; I have taken care of it for 11 years, and it has taken care of me. But I decided that I do not need to have a car for my exclusive use. 

So, I looked back at the many years we sisters shared cars and wondered why we could not do the same now. Several of our very generous sisters – four to be exact – volunteered to share their cars with me when needed for errands and other appointments. Now I have four sets of keys and am mindful to ask when I need to use a car. Such kindness is so typical of the Mercy way, and they each are also doing their part caring for Earth.  

I have also traded my plastic food containers for glass ones. They were gifts from my niece who is very conscious of the planet and our need to take care of our common home. I gave the plastic containers to a ministry that serves single mothers who need all sorts of items for their children and homes. So, the items will not be tossed out for a long time. 

By Marianne Comfort, member of the Mercy Justice Team 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle is eating locally grown produce as much as possible. For my husband and me, that can be most of the year, with ample freezer space for storing foods prepared during the height of the season. 

This is a good time for planning how to source local food. Will you tend to your own garden, participate in a community garden, purchase a share from a community supported agriculture farm or commit to visiting farmers’ markets regularly? 

If you have a suitable yard or patio or deck you might want to consider growing your own produce. The Almanac offers a simple guide to starting a vegetable garden from choosing the right location to the types of vegetables and the best time to plant. Farmers’ markets usually sell starter plants early in the season or you can visit a local nursery. Our townhouse sits on a hill, with some woods at the bottom, so it is not ideal for gardening. 

Those itching to get their hands in the dirt but who don’t have suitable space might want to research  community gardens nearby. These are shared gardening spaces divided into small individual plots. A water source is usually provided and sometimes tools and even gardening expertise. You can always learn some tips from other gardeners you’ll be working alongside. The American Community Garden Association has a map that identifies many community gardens; you may also call your county cooperative extension office for information or search online . Our neighborhood doesn’t have a community garden. Since we choose not to own a car, it isn’t convenient to travel back and forth from a plot a mile or so away. In our area, community gardens seem to be more prevalent on park land, on the fringes of apartment parking lots and on vacant urban lots. 

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is quite popular in many parts of the U.S. as a way to have a relationship with and support a particular farm or group of farms. Typically, participants sign up early in the year and pay upfront for all the produce they will receive throughout the designated season. This ensures that farmers and consumers share the benefits and risk of food production. Pickup is usually both on the farm and at sites centrally located to participants.   You can choose the most convenient one that matches with your preferences. Another thing to pay attention to in choosing a CSA is whether you can select what you want at each pickup, or if you get a pre-set mix of whatever is in season. I personally enjoyed the weekly surprise over many previous years as a CSA member; I’d then get home and plan meals based on whatever I received.  

Currently, my favorite way of accessing local produce is by regularly visiting a year-round farmers’ market. It’s set up in a downtown square filled with all kinds of vendors, sellers of a newspaper produced by people who are homeless, and often some musical entertainment. I know from their signs where the farms are located, and I can ask about their growing practices. My husband and I also enjoy finding farmers’ markets when we’re traveling, since they’re places to soak up local culture as well as buy produce. A simple online search is the best way to locate them. 

No matter how you choose to source food locally, you’ll find satisfaction in developing a relationship with the land or local farmers and eating with the seasons. You’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint by avoiding purchases of food transported from great distances. 

These are some of the ways in which the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas will more fully live Laudato Si’ in 2024. To see the second year action plan click here.


Responding to the Cry of the Earth

  • The climate sustainability director will:
    • Collect utility usage data for smaller residences (i.e., apartments and houses) located throughout the United States. 
    • Expand community solar subscriptions to many of our houses and apartments for which such programs are available. 
    • Continue the electric vehicle (EV) pilot project at Merion, PA, with the purchase of an additional vehicle and the installation of additional EV chargers.  One other location will be selected to house an EV. Official guidance regarding the use, maintenance, and charging of EVs, along with concerns regarding metal mining, will be developed and implemented. 
    • Finalize guidance regarding the use of various sustainable and compostable alternatives to single-use plastic products.  A pilot location will be selected to test the overall process for implementing various parts of the guidance and determining what is needed (in addition to the installation of water-filling stations) in order to make the elimination of certain plastic products practical.  Complete the pilot solar project on the Belmont, NC, campus by the end of 2024.
  • Mercy Focus on Haiti aims to support the construction of 10 cisterns per month in the Gros Marne region, for the collection of rain water, using locally available materials. Cistern beneficiaries will receive training in the fundamentals of vegetable gardening, tree planting and reforestation, supporting both food production and the opportunity to sell surplus at market.

Responding to the Cry of the Poor

  • The Justice Team will deepen education and advocacy about the harms of extractivism to communities and the environment through: 
    • Mapping of extractivism near locations where the Institute has a significant presence; 
    • Educating the wider Mercy community about the experiences of communities most harmed by extractivism; 
    • Sharing more widely the statement on extractivism distributed among Chapter participants; 
    • Expanding our knowledge of extractivism to include practices such as agribusiness extracting nutrients from the land and the tourism industry dredging ports for cruise ships; and  
    • Solidarity and accompaniment of communities most harmed by extractivism
  • Sisters will continue participating in ecclesial networks (ie, in Meso-America and the regions of El Gran Chaco y el Acuífero Guaraní in South America) and will educate the rest of the congregation about how the Church is accompanying communities in these critical eco-systems.   
  • The Justice Team will participate in the “we are going to change the history of the climate and the planet!” campaign with the peoples of the Amazon in advance of international climate talks (COP30) in Belem, Brazil, in 2025.
  • Mercy Volunteer Corps has placed a volunteer yet again at Sanctuary Farm in Philadelphia and will offer short-term volunteer experiences at Mercy Ecological Center in Vermont.
  • Mercy Investment Services will expand and deepen the integration of environmental, social and governance investment strategies by:
    • Actively allocating capital to address diversity gaps amongst decision-makers and financial access within the Inclusive Opportunities Fund;  
    • Expanding the emerging managers program supporting firms owned or products managed by people with diverse or underrepresented backgrounds;  
    • Deepening Mercy Partnership Fund’s continued dedication to racial and gender equity as well as those that emphasize international opportunities; and  
    • Using our shareholder voice to explicitly call on companies to mitigate their impacts on people of color and to increase equity for disadvantaged communities.
  • Mercy Focus on Haiti will complete the fourth cohort of its poverty eradication program for women, and raise funds and set the stage for the fifth cohort. Participants from the first cohort will be able to create Village Savings and Loan Associations, which was offered to later cohorts as safe places to save money and access small loans. The first cohort participants also will be offered a tablet-based training program to develop the basics of finance and business skills.   Mercy Focus on Haiti will arrange for a physician member from the U.S. to make virtual visits with residents and walk-throughs of Bon Maison Samaritain, a house for persons who are elderly and infirm or mentally ill. Deteriorating conditions in Haiti have prevented in-person visits from the U.S.

Ecological Economics

  • Mercy Investment Services will:
    • Participate in learning opportunities to deepen our understanding of Catholic investing through documents such as Mensuram Bonam and Laudate Deum; 
    • Increase funding of mission-based environmental, social and governance investment managers and thematic managers in the equity fund;  
    • Originate additional commitments to impact managers in the Environmental Solutions Fund, which invests in renewable energy, energy and water efficiency, materials recycling, green buildings and sustainable agriculture;  
    • Commit additional investments to projects whose primary thematic area is environmental sustainability, impacts from the extractive sector or migration, or that address a just transition to a low‐carbon future in the Mercy Partnership Fund;  
    • Partner with other investors to engage corporations on water stewardship, greenhouse gas emissions, plastics use, biodiversity and other important issues; and  engage with other like-minded impact investors through the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, which is led by Francesco Collaborative, and through continued leadership within the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. 

Sustainable Lifestyles

  • The Justice Team and Climate and Sustainability Director will start exploring possibilities for working with other congregations of women religious to influence practices of dining service companies who serve our convents, retirement centers and other facilities. 
  • The Justice Team and Climate and Sustainability Director will continue the  Mercy Tips to Care for Earth as a monthly feature on the website. 

Ecological Education

  • Mercy Education has planned several activities for 2024:
    • “Generation Mercy,” an online meeting for students who are involved in Earth initiatives/clubs at their school, in the first half of the year; 
    • A commitment to highlight Earth in their newsletter at least 1 issue per month; 
    • Promote Mercy Meatless Mondays for the Lenten season; and 
    • Share some suggestions for Earth challenges for schools (i.e. zero waste meetings) to try to implement before Earth Day in April, then share about these in the newsletter/social media.
  • The Justice Team will organize an immersion trip to a region of western Pennsylvania experiencing an expansion of fracking and petrochemical facilities. 
  • The Justice Team will organize three immersion experiences at the U.S.-Mexico border to expand the number of sisters, associates, companions and co-workers who are educated about immigration policy and the reality at the border. One of these experiences will be solely for staff and board members of Mercy Investment Services.  
  • A Mercy associate in Guyana will develop a guidebook and set of advocacy tools for communities to understand the risks of the growing oil and gas industry in her country, and that will become a template for similar education elsewhere.  

Ecological Spirituality

  • The Justice Team will promote Laudato Si animators’ trainings and create a network of Mercy animators to work together and support one another. 
  • The Institute will participate in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ exploration and implementation of transformative justice work. 

Community Participation and Empowerment

  • The Justice Team will educate our network on the issues and the importance of voting our values in advance of the 2024 elections in the United States. 
  • The Justice Team will participate in a newly forming collaborative of Catholic organizations engaged in environmental and climate justice education, advocacy and practices.  

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director 

An air filter prevents air-borne contaminants (dust, pollen, bacteria and various other allergens) from entering your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system and your indoor air supply. Removing these particles from the air helps improve health and reduces the chances of particles clogging up the HVAC system, thereby increasing its efficiency and lifespan and reducing the chance of a breakdown. An air filter’s efficiency is measured by a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 16; higher numbers mean that the filter is more efficient at catching smaller particles.   

Types and Materials 

There are three major types of air filters that are typically used in an HVAC system: fiberglass, pleated and washable/reusable. 

  1. Fiberglass filters are made from glass-fiber reinforced plastic and encased in a cardboard frame.  These filters tend to be relatively inexpensive but need to be replaced every 30 days.  MERV ratings for fiberglass filters are generally lower, making them less capable of removing smaller particles.   
  1. Pleated filters are made from either polyester, paper or cotton and folded into an accordion style to create more surface area on which air-borne particles can be captured.  Pleated filters are generally more expensive than fiberglass but last longer. It is generally recommended that they be replaced every three months. These filters have MERV ratings ranging from 5 to 13, with the higher-rated filters able to effectively capture dirt, fine dust, pollen and even the smallest bacteria.  Many pleated filters are also electrostatically charged, which enables them to attract and capture an even greater number of small particles.  
  1. Washable/reusable filters are made from either synthetic fiber, aluminum mesh or both.  Though reusable filters tend to cost the most ($25 to $75 per filter), they can last up to 10 years.  MERV ratings for reusable filters typically do not exceed 8; therefore, they are not as good at removing smaller particles as a pleated filter.  These filters do require additional labor for cleaning; it is generally recommended that be cleaned every three months, a process that consists of shaking off or vacuuming loose debris and rinsing with water.    

All filter types are available in a wide range of sizes, although reusable filters cannot be customized to unique sizes based on a particular location’s needs.   

From an environmental standpoint, reusable filters are the best option.  Fiberglass and pleated filters must be disposed of after being replaced; as such, reusable filters reduce your overall carbon footprint as well as the amount of material (including plastic) being disposed.  The main drawbacks are the increased amount of labor that is needed to clean the filters and limitations on the range of sizes; this is especially an issue at larger properties that require more filters.   

Objective 

If you are responsible for changing the air filters at your residence, consider getting a reusable filter. These can be easily purchased online.  If you are not responsible for changing your air filters, consult with your maintenance manager to see if it would be possible to switch to reusable filters given your location’s particular size limitations and labor requirements. 

By Mike Poulin, Justice Resource Manager

When I was a kid, I loved to check the mailbox even though it was rare that I received something like a letter, a postcard or even a magazine. My parents never seemed very excited about checking the mail. As an adult I understand why: bills, statements, ads. Exciting mail is still a rarity. If the mail carrier still delivers business correspondence to your mailbox regularly, there are ways to reduce the amount of mail you receive. There are environmental benefits to doing so. 

Bills and statements 

Credit card bills, utility bills, statements from financial institutions and even some medical bills can be received electronically rather than in the mail. Companies may even be inviting you to switch to electronic billing and statements by printing the sign-up link right on the envelopes you are receiving in the mail. Some companies offer an incentive to switch to electronic billing and statements, while others have implemented fees for customers who continue to receive paper correspondence. In addition to the environmental advantages of electronic bills , paying bills and receiving correspondence online is more secure and can be more convenient than paying by mail. 

Ads 

I can’t think of a time when I received an advertisement in the mail that resulted in my purchasing a product or a service, but the continued presence of junk mail makes me think it must be an effective business strategy. The Federal Trade Commission recommends two tools for opting out of junk mail: 

  1. DMAchoice is a nonprofit organization that helps reduce promotional mail offers from companies or organizations with which you do not have a business relationship. Signing up for the service requires a $5 fee and lasts for 10 years. It won’t affect mail sent from companies you have purchased from in the past.  
  1. Credit card and insurance offers are regulated separately by the major credit bureaus. You can opt out of these ads for five years or permanently at optoutscreen.com. This service is free. 

I experienced a significant decrease in the amount of mail I received after taking these steps. There are still advertisements that arrive in my mailbox, but most of it comes from companies I have purchased from in the past. Stopping those mailings requires contacting the individual companies and asking to be removed from their lists. 

The junk mail that does make it through ends up in the recycling bin. I used to think that was a good solution for all of the mail I didn’t want, but even though paper recycling is prevalent (up to 68% of paper is recycled annually in the US) and easy (94% of Americans have access to paper recycling programs), reducing the amount of paper we receive via mail can have a variety of positive impacts. 

Environmental benefits 

While a significant percentage of trees used in the paper industry are grown for that purpose and replanted, the harvesting and production of paper have impacts on the environment. The use of fossil fuels for harvesting and transporting wood and the water and chemicals used for paper production have a carbon footprint and result in air and water pollution. Even as responsible paper producers take steps to achieve more sustainable production, our steps to reduce the demand for paper are beneficial. 

The production and delivery of the mail that comes to your home has an environmental impact as well. Consumables such as ink and toner, the operation of durable goods like printers and copy machines, and the fuel and maintenance requirements of delivery vehicles all contribute to the environmental impact of the postal deliveries we receive. 

While getting mail was exciting when I was a kid, now I’m grateful for days when I don’t receive anything in the mail. 


By Marianne Comfort, Mercy Justice Team  

If you live someplace that gets lots of ice and snow each winter, you’re used to seeing trucks spreading salt on roads and highways to reduce hazardous conditions for cars. You might even have a bucket of salt for your sidewalks and driveway. 

While salt (technically, sodium chloride) is the most effective and least costly method for de-icing outdoor surfaces, it comes with an environmental cost. An estimated 20 million tons of salt is scattered on U.S. roads annually—about 123 pounds for every American. All that salt eventually makes its way into streams, lakes and groundwater, causing harm to plants, fish and other aquatic life. Animals such as moose and deer like to lick salt, and when they wander close to salty roads, that increases the chances for accidents and roadkill.  

Staff at the University of Minnesota Extension know about both ice and the effects of using salt to minimize walking and driving hazards. Their recommendations to eliminate or reduce salt use include: 

  • Shovel, scrape and sweep snow often to remove as much as possible. This prevents ice buildup and reveals more of the dark surfaces that absorb the sun’s radiation and promote melting.  
  • Avoid dumping your shoveled snow onto nearby shrubs as it may contain salt or break branches. 
  • If it’s a warm day, just let the sun melt any remaining ice and snow. 
  • Read product labels and apply salt sparingly to critical areas only. A coffee mug of salt (about 12 oz.) is all that is needed for about 1,000 sq. ft., approximately the area of a 20-ft driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. 
  • Spread salt evenly leaving about 3 inches between salt grains. Avoid spilling piles of salt. 
  • Sweep up any salt grains you see on dry surfaces to prevent it from washing or blowing into plantings and waterways. Save it to reapply later in the season. 

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director 

There was a new addition at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, which took place from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai.  Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, inaugurated the first Faith Pavilion to offer a place where anyone from any faith could go for meditation, prayer and hope. Because Pope Francis was unable to attend the event, he sent the following video to introduce this new concept.

The importance of the Faith Pavilion as part of international talks on climate change did not go unnoticed by national media outlets.

Establishing a venue through which individuals of different faiths can come together and focus on their similarities (e.g., caring for the Earth) rather than their differences represents an important step toward effectively addressing concerns related to climate change and sustainability.   

Mercy Tip:  During this time of year when Christians of various denominations come together to celebrate Christmas, try to also engage your non-Christian neighbors by learning how their own faith traditions view and act upon concerns for the Earth related to climate change and sustainability. 

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director 

Last week Sister Rose Marie Tresp discussed how the surge in online ordering and home deliveries has led to increased traffic congestion, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and packaging waste.  This trend also contributes to plastic pollution due to packaging and due to the delivery vehicle itself.   

One of the major contributors to plastic pollution in our water is secondary microplastic, or plastic that breaks off larger pieces of plastic. As one example, the tires of an automobile represent a significant source of microplastics due to the enormous number of vehicles on the roads today. A large portion of tires is made from synthetic materials. When pieces of a tire break off or tire dust is created from normal wear and tear, these synthetic materials are released in the form of microplastics (NOAA Marine Debris Program Office of Response and Restoration). Once released into the environment, these particles can easily enter a nearby river or stream when it rains.  Microplastics are small enough to elude most water filtration systems and can eventually enter our drinking water.   

Mercy Tip:  As research is still being done on suitable and more environmentally friendly options for tires, try to reduce your driving, particularly if you are driving alone. Eliminate unnecessary trips or carpool as much as possible.