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Composting at diocesan headquarters

Employees of the Diocese of Burlington have been pitching in to reduce the amount of trash sent to Vermont’s only landfill by recycling, and now staff at the Joy Drive diocesan headquarters in South Burlington is separating compostables from trash there.
 
Instead of putting apple cores, banana peels, pizza crusts and other food waste into the trash, it all goes into compost barrels that will be picked up and used for compost. Used paper towels, paper napkins and uncoated paper cups and plates are also dropped into composting receptacles.
 
The beefed up trash reduction effort began in January in the building that houses the chancery and such offices as those for evangelization and catechesis, safe environments, worship, communications, human resources, vocations and youth and young adult ministry.
 
In “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis quotes St. John Paul II’s “Centesimus Annus,” saying, "Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in 'lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.'"
 
“Learning about waste reduction and putting what we learn into practice here at 55 Joy Drive is one small way to put effort into these changes,” said Stephanie Clary, mission outreach and communication coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington. “Managing materials in this way is how we best cooperate with natural processes of decomposition and regeneration and, therefore, respect patterns inscribed in creation by the Creator—it is a miraculous design!”
 
Before the effort began, Michele Morris, assistant waste reduction manager and business outreach coordinator for Chittenden Solid Waste District in Williston, gave a presentation to employees about reducing, reusing and recycling, with a special emphasis on separating items from the trash that can be composted.
 
The diocese is partnering with the solid waste district to reduce, reuse and recycle during the Year of Creation called for by Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne.
 
“The best way to start is education,” said Steve Ticehurst, director of maintenance at the Joy Drive office building. “What can we do to help reduce our [carbon] footprint and green up our building and save our planet?”
 
Morris had some answers.
 
Sending trash to the Coventry landfill is costly – not just to put it there but to truck it there. For example, more than 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel are used a year taking trash there from Chittenden County.
 
She suggested that reducing trash begins with reducing acquiring. “Identify needs versus wants,” she said.
 
Other ways of reducing the amount of things brought into the home include buying in bulk and repackaging and instead of buying items for gifts, give gifts of time, experiences and connections.
 
Reuse options are limitless, Morris said. All it takes is some creativity to make a trivet out of wine corks or tote bags out of plastic grocery bags.
 
In discussing recycling, she said it is important to know what can and cannot be recycled and to ensure what is recycled is clean.
 
Her presentation emphasized the importance of getting food scraps out of trash by having better strategies for purchasing and storing food so it is not wasted and by donating excess food to people in need. Some food can be given to farmers for animal feed.
 
Food that gets into the landfill creates harmful methane gas and leachate -- water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents.
 
Removing food from trash can save money. For example, Morris noted that fees facilities charge to dump trash are about $129 per ton while it costs $45 a ton for food scraps and $21 a ton for recycling. “When you look at the comparison, there’s no comparison,” she said.
 
Ticehurst said he would be collecting information on cost savings for the diocese as the trash reduction program gets underway.
 
In addition, staff at other diocesan buildings are learning about/preparing to better manage the disposal of their materials.
 
“We have been encouraged by so many of the wonderful initiatives, organizations and people in Vermont who are committed to living sustainably,” Clary said. “Our hope is to join and support those efforts as we learn about and begin practicing specific, attainable strategies to care for our common home and all those with which it is shared.”
 
“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us,” Pope Francis said in his encyclical. These efforts “reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.”

Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
 
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