Ecological Sustainability Begins at Home
– by Lori Golaszewski

Millions of people the world over planted trees and flowers, picked up litter and trash, and recycled tons of material on Earth Day in April, in an effort to preserve the planet on which all live. The Adrian Dominican Sisters did their part too, planting a flowering pear tree on the Motherhouse campus with assistance from St. Joseph Academy students and offering educational activities focused on ecology.

Earth Day festivities included a tree-planting ceremony with students

Earth Day, however, isn't just a yearly event for the Adrian Dominicans. In reality, every day is Earth Day, as the Vision set forth at General Chapter 2004 calls all Congregation members to "reverence life," especially on the Adrian Dominican campus. Leading the Vision Integration at the Motherhouse is the Campus Ecology Committee, guided by Renee Richie, OP, coordinator, and Kathleen Erard, OP, coordinator of technical advice and research.

Last September, an Ecological Sustainability Policy was adopted, which serves as the basis for all ecological endeavors on campus. The policy's main elements include reverencing and protecting the natural beauty and healing capacities of the campus; honoring our basic partnership with all creation and deepening our commitment to promote both biological and cultural diversity; reverencing air, water and soil as the common and universal basis for all life; and creating a legacy of protecting and restoring Earth community on campus for future generations.

"This is a whole new perspective, a coordinated campus perspective, on how we are going to look at ecology as a context for Adrian Dominican projects and initiatives," Sister Kathy said. "It involves the transformation of our own thinking, and choosing that the Ecological Sustainability Policy directs our thinking."
The policy was introduced last fall at the co-worker development meetings and was part of a general education on ecology. Sisters and co-workers were asked to identify key ecological issues on campus and to provide suggestions on how to make the campus more "green" or sustainable.

Sister Renee discusses
the Campus Ecological Sustainability Policy.

One of the Campus Ecology Committee's first directives was educating employees about recycling and placing more recycling bins around campus, including Weber Center and the Dominican Life Center. Additionally, in response to a suggestion made by co-workers to recycle kitchen waste, composting was introduced in January. The Sister Frances de Chantal Ulrich Compost Center, located next to the pole barn, turns kitchen waste into fertilizer for plants. The results have been tremendous, according to Sister Kathy. "We're getting wonderful participation from sisters and co-workers," she noted. "The compost center may not be large enough, because we've had a lot of enthusiasm." Added Sister Renee, "It's really been joyful. People got into it immediately and started suggesting more places to put containers in dining rooms for apple cores and other fruit waste."

With more than 100 acres on campus to preserve, the Campus Ecology Committee has developed a 10-year landscaping plan for implementing sustainable practices of caring for the air, water and soil. Mindful of eco-friendly alternatives, the committee has studied the types of cleaning agents used by Environmental Services and is in the process of analyzing the herbicides and pesticides used by the Maintenance Department. "We're working with the concept that if you have healthy soil, your lawn will be healthy and thick, which will discourage weeds and different types of molds from growing," Sister Kathy explained. "We also want to focus on water and protect it from being contaminated," Sister Renee noted.

The water supply is by far the most critical and current concern of the Campus Ecology Committee. The major objective is to retain rain water on the property instead of letting it drain into the storm sewers. "We want the rain water to go back into the water table at some point and use it to irrigate the lawns so we don't use as much city water," Sister Kathy explained. To accomplish this, the ring road that connects all the parking lots on campus will be repaved to contribute to the proper containment of rain water. "This is going to be a capital budget initiative," Sister Kathy noted, "so it includes our financial commitment."

Both Sisters Renee and Kathy are passionate about their roles and view them as prime opportunities to educate sisters and co-workers on the interconnectedness of creation and the need for ecological initiatives. Education, they said, is crucial for helping those living and working on campus to understand why certain initiatives are being undertaken.

"As mentioned in our policy, the reverence for life brings attention to what we need to survive – the air, water and soil. That's what we all have in common," Sister Kathy said. "Through the policy and the different areas of concern, we can address the educational process with sisters and co-workers, which adds more meaning and purpose to who we say that we are."

"We know Earth's resources are limited, and with what we consume, we're just using up the very paradise we were given to live in and share," Sister Renee continued. "With both science and theology in our present world, we're realizing the sacredness and interconnectedness of everything. If we can make the connection that everything is sacred and connected, that has huge ramifications for how we live each day with our neighbor and, beyond that, with our world."
The Ecological Sustainability Policy may be found at www.adriandominicans.org under "Our Mission and Vision."