Survey sees ‘substantive’ conservation efforts

Trinity High School’s Floersh Hall, built in 1957, has been outfitted with energy-efficient windows. The school in St. Matthews plans to replace additional windows — that date to 1974 — this summer. (Photo Special to The Record)

Record Assistant Editor

Trinity High School will be honored tonight by Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light (KIPL) for efforts to conserve energy and reduce waste around its campus in St. Matthews.  Assumption High School was honored last year by that same organization, which aims to help religious organizations take better care of the earth.

Trinity’s and Assumption’s efforts — which range from major building projects to student-led recycling programs — are just the sort of things that Catholic Charities of Louisville wants to see in more parishes, schools and agencies throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Sister of Mercy Mary Schmuck, who coordinates Catholic Charities’ Bardstown, Ky., office, is keeping track of these efforts around the archdiocese. She’s taken a survey annually for the last three years asking 189 entities in the Archdiocese of Louisville what they do to care for creation. This year she hasn’t heard from as many organizations as she usually does — only about one third have responded.
While response has been small, the efforts she has heard about are substantial, Sister Schmuck said during a recent interview.

“The schools are the creative groups. Of course, that’s their job, to stir things up,” she noted. “Motherhouses do the most determined work. And parishes are practical.

“None of it is earth-shaking,” she said. “But it is substantial.”

Catholic Charities itself, an archdiocesan agency, has helped to make it easier for people to recycle electronic devices by organizing recycling drop-off days at parishes around the archdiocese. The next one will be held in the parking lot of St. Joseph School in Bardstown, Ky., on June 2 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

St. Joseph Children’s Home, which is building cottages for the children living on the Frankfort Avenue campus, reported efforts to make the residences energy efficient.

Several churches reported efforts to conserve and protect creation in various ways, including energy-efficient construction at St. Peter the Apostle Church; highway clean-up around St. Ann Church in Howardstown, Ky.; and changing the way the parish bulletin is printed at St. Ignatius Church.

The Passionist community and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are replacing their vehicles with energy-efficient cars, Sister Schmuck said.

St. Joseph School in Bardstown, Ky., also has adopted a “no idle zone” in the carpool line to reduce emissions, a project led by the school’s eighth-graders. Each grade at the school also has a garden, said Sister Schmuck.

Nativity Academy at St. Boniface reported that students helped to clean up a park. And St. Xavier High School has done a “very determined job of reducing lunchroom trash,” she said.

In addition, she noted that students from St. Xavier and Presentation Academy are involved in a student-led movement called OurEarthNow that aims to raise awareness about these issues.

Assumption High School — which has developed a “green building” at its sports complex — reported this year that its week-long “mission week” centered on care for creation. Students attended workshops, offered service hours and presented a play on the subject.

Spalding University reported a project to distribute reusable bottles on its campus, Sister Schmuck said. And Bellarmine University has started a student-led environmental group.

St. Catharine College “has done all sorts of things on that campus” near Springfield, Ky., she said. “It’s just phenomenal.”

The school reported that it is building with energy efficiency in mind and has formed a partnership with the Berry Center to offer a degree in agriculture.

Trinity High School has made strides large and small to help care for creation, said Sister Schmuck, noting that these efforts led to the award from KIPL.

The organization is honoring Trinity for a variety of efforts, said Tim Darst, the executive director.

“The boilers, the cooling units are very new and they’re energy efficient,” he noted. “They use compact fluorescent bulbs. They’ve put light coloring on the roofs and insulated them. Windows are sealed. Low-flow commodes to conserve water” have been installed.

“They have an environmental club that recycles paper every week,” he added. “They also do cardboard recycling, computer recycling, battery disposal and printer cartridge recycling over there.”
Trinity’s efforts to help care for creation also extend to curriculum, he noted.

“They’ve been teaching it from the science side as well as the religion side,” he said. “They have had environmental science on the curriculum for a while. And they teach Catholic social teaching — which has seven points — and one of them is care for creation.

Dr. Rob Mullen, president of Trinity High School, said the school’s focus on care for creation is both practical and a matter of good stewardship.

“Stewardship is a fundamental — whether it’s facilities we’ve been handed or care for creation — we need to be good stewards,” he said.

“We’re trying to pay more attention to what we use and throw away,” he noted. “That saves money and is a good example for the students.”

He noted that this summer the school plans to replace some windows that date to 1974. They’ll be replaced “with a standard that makes sense today,” he said.

The award from KIPL, he said, is “something that makes us very proud and spurs us to continue these efforts.”

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