EGG HARBOR — Not long after Pope Francis issued his encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” Stella Maris Parish began nibbling at its contents.
This past February, after a lot of research, discussion and collaboration with other faith communities, the parish officially adopted a “green purchase policy.” In addition to taking steps to care for the earth, as outlined by Pope Francis, the parish also sees the policy as a significant step toward instilling a “green ethos of daily living for parish members, visitors and the community at-large.”
Since Stella Maris Parish includes five sites throughout northern Door County, which attracts many visitors, they say the policy could have a big impact. Even further, they see this environmental effort as having a possible peripheral effect: encouraging young people to take a closer look at the church that is dealing with issues they care about.
“Back in the beginning, four years or so ago, we had a men’s Bible study group and the discussion one day was about how we as grandfathers were going to keep our grandchildren in the church,” said Wayne Kudick, chairperson of the parish’s On Care for Our Common Home Committee. “It was brought out that our young folks are very interested in the survival of this planet.”
This was proven to Becky Nash by her own son.
“He told me he read ‘Laudato Si’ when it came out — even before I had,” said Nash, the parish’s pastoral associate. “I couldn’t believe he actually read the pope’s encyclical. And that was a connecting point for the two of us.”
Other people wanted to read the encyclical, too, so it was introduced as the book club selection for the parish. That created more discussion.
Kudick appeared as a one-man committee before the parish’s Living Justice Commission. From there, more people volunteered to be part of these new efforts. They worked with the Door County Climate Change Coalition and put together an interfaith workshop with the United Methodist Church in 2016.
“We brought in — I’m not kidding you — Nobel Prize winners, and other world-class academicians from other states, to speak about the subject,” Kudick said. “They gave us ideas for how we might approach this whole subject in our congregations.”
Nash found information from the World Faith Organization’s environmental declaration, and took it to a meeting of the northern Door clergy. A number of them signed on and, with their individual logos, took out a half-page ad in the local newspaper, declaring their intent to educate and move forward to deal with environmental issues.
Much of what Stella Maris has done so far has been to increase awareness — such as the bulletin inserts they do now and then giving parishioners helpful hints for becoming “green Christians.” They’ve made small changes, such as increasing the number of recycle bins at the parish sites, not just in the kitchen, but throughout the buildings. When it was time to replace the roof at the Baileys Harbor church, they chose a roofer who is able to recycle the tiles on the current roof.
However, while recycling is good, it’s better to eliminate the things that need recycling right from the start, Kudick said, so they came up with the green purchase policy.
The policy, which they’ve barely begun to implement, says, “Whenever feasible, environmentally preferable products and services that are of comparable quality and price to their standard counterparts should receive purchasing preference. …”
They have a list of 15 guidelines for choosing products considered environmentally preferable, including things like buying products with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content and those that have minimal packaging, using durable as opposed to single-use or disposal kitchen items, and buying from local vendors to reduce the distance products have to travel.
The next step for the parish is for Nash to meet with the people responsible for making purchases at the five sites. Vendors will be told green products are preferred, and it will be their responsibility to come up with options.
“We do have to be practical,” admitted Pat Glen, a member of the committee. “Our purchasing plans have to be doable financially.” But she said that green products are already becoming more popular, and when that happens, the prices go down. The more the parish and other faith communities can raise awareness in their congregations, the more the demand for green products will flow into the community in general, Glen said.
“Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek now uses paper straws,” Kudick said. “And the (Northern Door) YMCA now uses recyclable cups for their coffee because people complained about the Styrofoam cups.”
During the county’s Earth Day Every Day celebration April 26-28, Glen and a village board member will be conducting a workshop on reducing the use of plastics.
“Plastic is just about banned in our house,” she said. She will also provide information on green purchase policies and how they can work.
Nash said the parish hopes to do a periodic “green report” in the bulletin so parishioners can watch the progress of this initiative, and they will do an occasional assessment to see whether revisions need to be made to the policy and its implementation.
While environmental concerns are found in all strata of society, Kudick said, care for the earth, for God’s creation, is part of the church’s social justice teachings because it demands that resources be used in a way that ensures their availability for future generations.
“If the world is thinking about it, we (as church) need to be in the forefront. We need to help bring about systemic changes. We need to ask people to do a little more so that all people can survive,” he said.