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Efforts to care for God’s creation continue in archdiocese

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August 1, 2011

By Mike Dyer

ARCHDIOCESE — Caring for creation continues to remain a focus of the ministry of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office, and the archdiocesan Climate Change Task Force has been educating area Catholics about a variety of related issues.


Climate Change Task Force members visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s 1.56 MW, solar panel canopy. (Courtesy photo)

On July 22 task force members toured the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden to view its solar panel project, which has received national attention. According to zoo officials, the latest project is a 1.56 megawatt array with a 6,400 panels installed on a canopy structure that greets guests in the Vine Street parking lot. It has been referred to as the largest publicly accessible urban solar array in the country.


Tony Stiertiz, director of the Social Action Office, said the Vatican installed solar panels in 2008 to reduce its carbon footprint and to also illustrate how to successfully capture alternative forms of energy. He said the Vatican continues to encourage research for finding effective ways of harnessing the potential of solar energy. The visit to the zoo helped with that understanding for members of the area task force.


While the zoo has helped to lead area efforts in green initiatives, another project that continues to flourish this summer is the archdiocesan recycling initiative, which as of early July, had seen 196 bins distributed to parishes and the archdiocesan Central Offices.


 Through the efforts of the Social Office, Rich Kelly, archdiocesan treasurer and CFO, and Deacon Dave Meyer of St. Cecilia Parish in Oakley, the archdiocese recently received a grant of $14,500 to purchase 230 large recycling bins. The archdiocesan Central Offices recently received eight bins through a new contract with Rumpke to begin regular recycling throughout the building, according to Stieritz.


Parishes began stopping by to pick up the bins the second weekend of May, Stieritz said. Because the grant funds could be stretched more than originally proposed, there were about 30 containers remaining as of July 12.


Meyer, who was a member of the Hamilton County Solid Waste Policy Committee for six years, used his experience to help spearhead the parish recycling initiative and was the “spark” for getting everything started, Stieritz said.


“I think Rich and Tony did a great job putting together the grant application process,” Meyer said.


He said the policy committee has focused on large events in Hamilton County for the past two years and a grant for the bins in time for summer festival season was a natural fit.


“This year, it’s going to be a significant increase” in the effort to recycle in parishes around the area, Meyer added, noting his hope is that recycling efforts won’t stop when the festival season ends. The 55-gallon containers, which should have a lifespan of at least 10 years, according to Meyer, could be used during the school year and for other large parish functions.


Stieritz said he conducted an in-service project at one area school in June and noticed one of the bins prominently displayed in the school library. He said another parish intends to update parishioners periodically in the bulletin about how much waste is being diverted from the landfill through the use of the bins.


“It’s wonderful to see the broad interest for recycling in the Catholic community across the county,” Stieritz said. “Many of the parishes gave us detailed explanations of how they would use the containers as an opportunity for catechesis regarding the church’s teaching on caring for God’s creation.”


Meyer said parishes are also supposed to share containers if there is a large event at one particular location and that cooperation would be beneficial. Recycling is important because since there are limited resources on Earth and individuals can’t afford to waste, according to Meyer. God gave us the world to care for it and help others, and that Catholic message comes through loud and clear with this initiative, he said.


“It makes a very powerful statement when people attend Catholic festivals and people say, ‘wow, they recycle,’” Meyer said. 


A powerful statement about conservation was made recently at two area parishes — St. Antoninus Parish in Covedale and St. Monica-St. George in Clifton. Both parishes received grants from the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA). According to Stieritz, the GCEA was the recipient of federal stimulus funding to provide energy audits and offer grants toward facilities to improve energy efficiency.


Several parishes applied to the program. and Stieritz said the most significant results materialized at St. Antoninus, where the school’s entire boiler system was replaced. At St. Monica-St. George, the lighting in the parish center and offices was replaced. The GCEA grants were about 25 percent of the total project costs at each parish.


Some of the environmental statistics were eye opening for those involved the projects. St. Monica-St. George parishioners Steve and Nell Wulff said they were told by the engineering company that the updated lighting project will prevent emissions of 43,724 pounds of carbon dioxide annually the equivalent of planting four acres of trees annually or removing three cars from the road each year.


Steffany Reid, business manager at St. Antoninus, said from January to March this year, the parish saved about $8,000 on heating costs compared to 2010 because of the new boilers. It was about a 37 percent savings from last year, she said.


“For parishes where this has worked, it seems to be a win-win: it both saves on utility bills, (which is) a plus for any parish’s bottom line, and lowers our carbon footprint, a goal encouraged by the Holy Father and our bishops,” Stieritz said.



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