By Mike Poulin, Justice Resource Manager

Advent is nearly upon us, and with it all the preparations for celebrating Christmas with loved ones. As you make your Christmas preparations, I invite you to revisit resources that we published the past two years: 

A More Sustainable Christmas and Wishing You a Sustainable Christmas. 

May the ideas in these articles give you inspiration for balancing celebration and sustainability. 

Advent blessings! 

By Marianne Comfort, member of the Mercy Justice Team

Last week, we looked at national nutrition guidelines and how they can steer us toward healthier eating for people and planet. 

But how do households keep that “healthy plate” in mind when meal planning and food shopping? Eating only plant-based foods, commonly known as a vegan diet, is the ideal. But the next-best options are cutting way back on beef, lamb and dairy.  A 2022 New York Times article breaks it all down, ranking everything from seafood to non-dairy milks by measures such as carbon emissions and land and water use. 

Green Tip 

Consider the options in the article and make a commitment to change one part of your diet. If you decide to eat less meat, you’ll find some tasty recipes in our Mercy Meatless Mondays booklet. This latest version of the guide includes “recipe notes” to help you consider what other sustainable choices you can incorporate into each meal. 

By Marianne Comfort, member of the Mercy Justice Team

Many countries issue nutrition guidelines to encourage residents to eat a healthy diet. Recently, some of those guidelines began to take sustainability into account. 

In the U.S. for example, the iconic food pyramid promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1992 through 2005 recommended two to three daily servings of dairy and two to three servings of other protein. The shift to My Plate provided a different visualization but recommended similar portions of dairy and protein. It was critiqued for being influenced by the food industry and agriculture lobbyists. 

Harvard University then came out with its Healthy Eating Plate that recommends water over dairy beverages; whole grains over other starches and “healthy proteins” like fish, poultry, beans; and nuts over red meat and processed meat. 

Meanwhile, national guidelines elsewhere are starting to include sustainability practices. A study published in December 2022 found that of 83 countries assessed, 37 included environmental sustainability considerations; that was up from just four countries in 2016. Sweden was the first, recommending that people avoid bottled water and eat locally produced food. Denmark recommends “eat less meat, choose legumes and fish.” 

An earlier study by Oxford University in 2020 found that nutritional guidance in China, the United Kingdom and the U.S. were all “incompatible with the climate change, land use, freshwater, and nitrogen targets.”  

Green Tip 

Create your own healthy and environmentally sustainable nutrition guidance based on the Healthy Eating Plate and what you’ve learned from our Mercy Tips to Care for Earth. That may include eating less meat, reducing plastic in your kitchen, buying more local foods or being mindful of palm oil in products. Any of these changes could be healthy for both you and the planet. 

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director

Mike’s tip to watch The Letter, which I also highly recommend, led me to consider the carbon emissions that result from watching movies online and listening to music online. We can help reduce these streaming emissions through a few simple actions. According the The Shift Project, which is a French carbon transition think tank, watching online movies and videos accounts for about 60% of global internet traffic. It is by far the highest compared to any other category, equaling about 1% of total global emissions. This is due to two major factors: the emissions due to the energy that your device (e.g., TV, computer, phone) is consuming and the emissions due to the servers and networks (e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Sling, YouTube) that are storing and distributing the content you are watching.  

Another consideration includes the type of online content that is contributing to these emissions. According to the BBC, in 2020 the types of content emitting the most carbon emissions were on-demand video services such as Netflix and Amazon videos on social media including YouTube. To put this in context, the BBC article mentioned that in 2020 the total energy consumed by Netflix in one year could power nearly 37,000 homes.  

Rather than giving up streaming media entirely, here are a few tips for cutting down on these kinds of emissions: 

  1. Avoid falling asleep while watching or listening to online content. Many platforms automatically play the next episode. On some streaming services, this setting can be changed.  
  2. Always select SD (standard definition) over HD (high definition) or UHD (ultra-high definition) when renting a movie or show. SD streaming emits less carbon because it requires less power. 
  3. Use your wireless internet rather than your cellular data network when streaming content. Using cellular data causes over twice the emissions than accessing the internet does.  
  4. Use your phone or laptop rather than your TV when possible. Your TV uses much more energy than a smaller device. 
  5. Purchase a physical CD over listening to music online if you plan to listen to a particular song at least 25 times. If you don’t plan to listen to a CD or song more than that, listen online as it is more environmentally friendly than producing or shipping a CD.

By Mike Poulin, Justice Resource Manager

A few weeks ago I encouraged our audience to read Laudate Deum, Pope Francis’ follow up letter to Laudato Si, his encyclical on care for the Earth. Today, I want to recommend another resource related to Laudato Si

The Letter is a full-length documentary film that follows the journey of five individuals from around the globe as they prepare to meet with Pope Francis to discuss their efforts on behalf of the Earth. These protagonists include: an Amazonian tribal chief who represents the voice of indigenous peoples; a young climate activist from India who represents the voice of youth; a young adult from Senegal who represents the voice of the poor; and a married couple who are scientists in Hawaii and represent the voice of nature. 

The Letter is emotionally moving and visually stunning as it documents the challenges ahead and the courageous efforts of these individuals. The film crosses cultural, religious and national borders as it presents a challenging, yet hopeful message. The Letter can be viewed free of charge on YouTube

View last year’s grand prize winning video. (*Note: the contest themes have changed for 2024.)

The Mercy Justice Team needs you, a Mercy student, to create a short, social media style PSA (public service announcement) video – think Reels or TikTok – that reflects the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concerns. Put those creative ideas and video skills to work and you could win $500!

What does it mean to be a faith filled, values voter?

What is your own immigration story?

What is the immigration story of someone you know?

How can voting with Mercy affect our community, our nation, our world?

To receive information, updates and reminders about this year’s contest, complete this form and we’ll be in touch. Click here to learn rules for entry and how to upload your video.

View the grand prize winning video from 2022. (*Note: the contest format has changed since 2022.)


For this year’s contest we are seeking short, PSA style videos (30 to 90 seconds) that are suitable for sharing on social media platforms such as TikTok or Reels. Video entries must focus on one of these topics:

  • Videos should reflect the Mercy Critical Concerns, especially the Critical Concern for Immigration, but do not need to identify the Critical Concerns specifically.
  • Videos should inspire action to address the injustices that cause people to immigrate or the injustices that immigrants face in their new countries.
  • Videos should explore the ways that faith and Mercy values can influence the choices we make on our ballots.
  • Videos should inspire faithful citizenship and active involvement in elections without promoting partisanship or individual candidates.

Contest Webinar

Watch our 20 minute webinar to learn more about this year’s contest.

Who Can Enter

Any student or group of students, high school age or older, enrolled in Mercy high schools, colleges/universities, or involved in a Mercy-affiliated ministry.

Use this tip-sheet to help you as you begin the process of creating your video.


Read the complete rules

Length: 30 to 90 seconds

Language: English or Spanish

Other Requirements

1. Title. Each video must have a title. The title must be indicated on the submission form. The title does not need to be included in the video itself.

2. Credits. Credits must include the name of those involved in the creation of the video. The credits must also include citations for any images, audio, or text used in the video that is not original. The credits do not need to be included in the video itself, but must be included in the submission form.

The Sisters of Mercy may delete title and credit screens before posting videos on social media.

Entrants are strongly encouraged to use original footage and graphics as much as possible.

Important Note on Rules: In order to honor copyright protections, rules regarding use of images and music were updated for the 2022 contest and remain in effect for 2024. See the complete rules for details.


All entries must be received by April 3, 2024.


A panel of judges will use these criteria to select the winning video. Individual winners will receive financial awards. The Grand Prize Winner receives $500.

Winning entries may be featured on the Sisters of Mercy Institute web site and social media channels. Winners and their winning institution will be formally announced.


If you think you might be interested in entering this contest, fill out this form to receive contest information and updates.

Past Winners

Click here to view all of our past winners.

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director

We have received numerous inquiries regarding the search for sustainable, non-plastic options for disposable cups, cutlery and plates. It can be a challenge to find such items that are certified compostable and sustainable. Vendors will use buzz phrases in an effort to gain your trust:”100% natural, sustainable, and biodegradable,” “made of 100% natural plant-based sustainable materials,” “eco-friendly,” “Earth-conscious” and “plastic-free.” These words mean nothing if the product is not properly certified.  A product that is BPI-certified means that it can be composted back into the soil safely but only at an industrial composting facility. A product (typically paper or bamboo) that is FSC-certified means that it comes from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, economic and social benefits. 

A quick search revealed the following list of companies that provide potentially “sustainable” and “non-plastic” options for disposable cups, plates, and/or cutlery. The list also includes the material the items are made from and whether they are FSC- and/or BPI-certified (only brands with at least one type of certification are listed). 

 Green Tip 

If there is a need for disposal dinnerware, advocate for the purchase of cups, plates, and/or cutlery from the companies listed in the table above. Also, if you know of other companies not mentioned here, please feel free to share the company name and the products they provide. 

By Mike Poulin, Justice Resource Manager

In 2015, Pope Francis addressed his letter Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home to the entire world. It received considerable fanfare and has garnered much attention in the ensuing years. Laudato Si has become a document that supports efforts towards care of the Earth, reducing poverty and rejuvenating spirituality. 

On October 4, 2023 , Pope Francis released a follow up letter, Laudate Deum, to reiterate his concern for the global climate crisis and renew his call for action on the local, national and international levels. While Pope Francis recognizes the sober truths facing our planet, his words also offer hope and inspiration. As you consider your own steps toward living more sustainably, reading the letters that the Pope has written to you can be a tremendous motivation. 

By Marianne Comfort, member of the Mercy Justice Team

Over one-third of the food produced in the United States is never eaten. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this means we are wasting the resources used to produce that food and creating many environmental harms. 

A significant part of the problem is that food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills, where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 14.1 percent of these emissions in 2017, the EPA reports. 

Reducing food waste can reduce our individual and national carbon footprint. 

Decreasing food waste can also lessen the need for new food production, shrinking projected deforestation, biodiversity loss, water pollution, water scarcity and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production. In 2015, the United States announced a goal to halve U.S. food loss and waste by 2030, but the nation has not yet made significant progress.  

Roughly half of food waste occurs at the consumption stage in households, restaurants and other food service sites. Fruits, vegetables, dairy and eggs are the most frequently wasted foods. 

Green Tip 

Make creative use of your freezer. Use it to store leftovers and scraps of food that could be added to soup or smoothies rather than dumped into the garbage. 

Sustainable America offers tips for organizing your freezer to reduce food waste. However, you don’t need to go out and buy another freezer to expand space because that just increases your energy consumption. Consider what you can do with the freezer you already have.