Parishes, schools stress recycling during Lent

Two Omaha-area parishes and their elementary schools are taking action to help parishioners and students change their habits and protect the environment.

As a Lenten challenge, members of St. Columbkille Parish and School in Papillion and Sacred Heart Parish and School in Omaha are learning about the harm pollution causes and ways to care for the environment, and adults are pledging to reduce their use of plastics and use cloth bags at grocery stores instead of plastic bags.

Leading the effort at St. Columbkille is the Creation Care Team, a parish-based group affiliated with the Catholic Climate Covenant, an organization co-founded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help the faithful respond to the church’s call to care for creation and the poor.

Parishioners are asked to cut back on plastic bags and plastic bottles during Lent and beyond, said Sister Jean Marie Faltus, a member of the parish’s adult formation team and organizer of the effort. "We’re hoping that if they do it for 40 days, it will become a habit."

And Trish Fuller, a member of Sacred Heart’s Green Team who also has ties to the St. Columbkille group, said her parish is conducting a similar program, including a "Give up Plastics" pledge and distribution of reusable grocery bags.

Fuller also handed out cloth grocery bags and spoke to the students at Sacred Heart School about how plastic pollution is harming wildlife.

Students at St. Columbkille School received similar messages when the "Bag Monster" came to a school assembly March 3 to teach about environmental care.

The costumed character – played by David Corbin, a retired professor from the University of Nebraska at Omaha – is draped with 500 plastic bags, the average number of bags each American uses per year.

St. Columbkille School also is collecting used plastic utensils from the cafeteria for recycling by a company that turns them into plastic decking, picnic tables and hard hats, said Brandi Redburn, assistant principal.

At Sacred Heart, the parish has replaced all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs in the church, rectory and parish office, and is limiting the use of Styrofoam products.

St. Columbkille’s parish bulletins include facts about pollution – for example, plastic bottles on average degrade in 450 years and some take as long as 1,000 years – and a list of recycling sites in Sarpy County with the types of materials they accept, Sister Faltus said.

"Only 5 percent of the plastics we use get recycled," she said, "so it’s filling up the landfills and gets into waterways where it affects wildlife."

"Environmental care ties in to the pro-life issue," Sister Faltus said. "If we are a pro-life people, we also have to be concerned about the aspects of the environment that affect life."

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