By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Chicken dinners, deep-fried bratwurst, noodles and summer salads are some of the tempting fare that draws people to Catholic parish picnics summer after summer.
But what happens to the thousands of pounds of aluminum, paper, plastic and cooking oil left over after the last morsel has been washed down by cold drinks?
St. Agnes Church — host to one of the largest summer carnivals in the Archdiocese of Louisville — has directed time and resources toward a solution. The parish, located at 1920 Newburg Road, has been recycling hundreds of pounds of waste from its carnival for the past 12 years.
And for the 12th year in a row, the parish has been recognized for its efforts as an
“Environmental Advocate” by the Kentucky Excellence in Environmental Leadership (Ky Excel) — a voluntary environmental leadership program. Ky Excel is administered by the Kentucky Department for
Environmental Protection, said Corrine Greenberg — a member of the parish who is a certified hazardous materials manager and coordinates the recycling effort.
The carnival, which took place July 20-21, uses the talents of about 1,000 volunteers. They serve 10,000-20,000 patrons over the two nights, said Greenberg, who was instrumental in helping the parish
become a member of Ky Excel.
Caring for Our Common Home
The parish started its recycling efforts years before Pope Francis released “Laudato Si’,” his encyclical on caring for creation, in June of 2015. Members of St. Agnes read, reflected and discussed
“Laudato Si’,” said Greenburg. The Holy Father’s message was “well received. We’re fortunate that the parish community has a strong sense of embracing this,” said Greenberg.
The carnival is St. Agnes’ biggest fundraiser, said Amy Hall, who served as one of the event’s chairpersons this year.
“The money could easily be the first thing that comes to mind,” said Hall during an interview July 27. The parish, however, “made a decision to focus on the people. We have a commitment to ensuring we’re taking care of everybody and everything. The environment is a big part of that.”
The effort, she said, begins with being intentional about preserving things that make the carnival possible. It’s important to treat the grounds with the same dignity with which the patrons are treated, said Hall.
It takes a lot of work, but the results are rewarding, she said.
“Sometimes it’s just easier to trash things, but I saw many people being intentional about putting things where they needed to go,” she said.
How it’s accomplished
After this year’s carnival, the parish recycled 420 pounds of aluminum cans, 370 pounds of plastic bottles, 385 pounds of cooking oil, 450 pounds of cardboard, 810 pounds of sheet iron and composted 138 pounds of food scraps.
The recovered cooking oil goes to a local resident who makes biodiesel and the remainder of the waste is recycled by WestRock Recycling. Recycling receptacles are set up next to every garbage can on the grounds during the carnival. The parish uses biodegradable cardboard plates and flatware from the school’s cafeteria for the dinners and drinks are served in souvenir plastic cups. Volunteers who wash dishes are on hand each night of the carnival, said Greenberg.
Members of St. Agnes’ Boy Scout troop and their troop masters play a significant role in making the recycling effort a success, noted Greenberg. They serve as the “eyes and hands” of the recycling and trash management, she said. During the two-night event, Scouts walk the grounds collecting and separating garbage and recyclable items.
Other Volunteers help accomplish the rest. For example, individuals volunteering in the kitchen make sure food scraps go to the composters, said Greenberg.
St. Agnes Church is the only Catholic parish that belongs to Ky Excel, said Robyn Whitted, coordinator of the program, during a July 30 interview.
Membership in Ky Excel requires one annual voluntary recycling project, said Whitted. St. Agnes’ efforts to recycle its carnival waste serves as that parish’s project.
St. Agnes’ program is more complex than those created by members in the manufacturing sector, said Whitted. The parish keeps expanding and adding a different component to its recycling program each year. “It’s a giant undertaking and they’ve done a phenomenal job.”
The recognition, said Greenberg, is a “badge of honor not to wear on our own sleeves, but to share with others.”
An informal survey of other parishes in the archdiocese showed that some parishes make an effort to recycle cans during their picnics. Several respondents said their parishes have room to improve efforts to care for creation.
Greenberg noted that the cost of the recycling effort is minimal and may even be more cost-effective than the disposal of trash.