St. Francis of Assisi Church’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, which is always looking for ways to care for creation, found new opportunities for “going green” at the parish’s Lenten fish frys.
Tom Herman, a member of the committee, said the initiative targeted recycling and waste reduction. And it was carried out in partnership with the parish Fish Fry Committee.
First, he said, the parish recycled everything possible, including cups, cans and beer bottles. The parish also switched out polystyrene foam plates and carry-out containers with plates and containers made from bagasse — the pulp left over when sugar cane is processed. The plates and containers are compostable.
Herman said they used foam in the past because they are “rigid, easy to use, they seal well and served the purpose. But of course, they go into landfills. We thought we could do better.”
Utensils made from cornstarch-based plastic were also used at the fish fry, and carry-out customers received their food in paper bags rather than plastic ones.
He noted that “going green” at the fish frys was a bit more expensive.
To help defray the cost, members of the Fish Fry Committee had a tip jar with a brief explanation about the endeavor. The jar collected about $150 in tips per fry and covered the expense of the biodegradable products, said Herman.
Scott U’Sellis, a member of the Fish Fry Committee, said the efforts to make the frys more environmentally friendly were welcomed by members of the committee.
“It’s worked very well. It’s been pretty seamless transitioning from foam to biodegradable” products, said U’Sellis. “We hope this is the new normal for us, using biodegradable products where we can and where it makes sense.”
Herman said members of the environmental committee have taken seriously Pope Francis’ call to care for creation.
They’ve read and discussed the pope’s 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” The parish also had an energy efficiency audit and a re-lamping project, replacing old light bulbs around the campus with energy-efficient bulbs.
“We continue to be motivated by the encyclical,” Herman said, noting that members of the committee continue to learn and seek ways to care for the environment.
They’ve visited the landfill to see for themselves how waste impacts the environment. They recently watched the film “The Letter,” in which the pope invited leaders of environmental change to Rome to discuss the Laudato Si’, he said.
The Environmental Stewardship Committee members have their sights set on solar panels in the future, he said.
Herman said he’d like to see funds from the fish frys’ tip jar, which he called a “green collection,” invested in solar panels.
“We can offset a quarter of all the electricity used year-round,” he said. He envisions the first solar panels being placed on the parish’s campus where they would be visible and generate interest. He also envisions a program for parish school students to monitor solar panel energy conservation.
Herman added that everyone can make a difference in caring for creation. His advice to individuals who would like to be more environmentally conscious is this:
“Try to think things through that cause you to use objects or energy, and figure out ways you can use bio sources that are less burdensome on the planet,” he said. “Consider the source it comes from.”