"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

Caring for Earth, Caring for You: Celebrating Catholic Sisters Week at Mount St. Joseph

(From left) Sisters Jean Miller and Joyce Brehm are heading up new recycling efforts at Mount St. Joseph with the Cincinnati Recycling and Reuse Hub.

Care for the Earth has long been a concern for both Sisters Jean Miller and Joyce Brehm. The two women, living at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse, are advocates for education and action related to protecting and saving our planet – particularly when it comes to recycling on campus.

Their efforts started years ago. S. Joyce remembers moving to Mount St. Joseph in 2005 and recognizing that more could be accomplished in terms of recycling. With efforts already in place, mostly involving paper and aluminum cans, she joined together with a group of employees and Sisters, including S. Jean, to further prioritize recycling at the Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall. Through the years they’ve added more recycling bins around the campus, educated Sisters and employees on what can be recycled and how to do so, and initiated cloth napkin bins in the dining room, to name a few. Each has stayed current on environmental issues and climate change and has been dedicated to reminding Sisters and employees that even the smallest efforts can make a big impact. But the first step is education.

“We need education,” says S. Jean. “We have a decade to save the planet. We are not doing the kinds of things needed to live differently on a daily basis. Our consumption of beef is an example. Not many people are aware that cows produce methane. By eating a more plant-based diet we can reduce our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Some of their suggestions are small, such as replacing plastic salt and pepper shakers with something that can be reused, or keeping a permanent basket of rags in the dining room to use in the event of spills rather than napkins. Others, like the campus-wide recycling efforts, are larger and require more time and individuals to participate.

While recycling efforts have long been a part of the everyday at the Motherhouse and Mount St. Joseph, during the pandemic those efforts around campus were placed on the backburner. Sisters were eating in their rooms, or asked to quarantine for days, and items like plastic utensils or paper napkins would be thrown away instead of recycled. Now, as we emerge from some of those restrictions, Sisters Joyce and Jean are working to get back on track! In addition to the community’s partnership with Rumpke, the two Sisters have been working with the Cincinnati Recycling and Reuse Hub (CRRH) located on Evans Street in Lower Price Hill. The organization’s mission is to revolutionize how people think about “things” and to provide a place where almost anything can be recycled or reused. CRRH has a long list of items they are able to collect, and the two Sisters are excited to have the opportunity to recycle common household items that they were unable to before.

S. Jean Miller is collecting some of the smaller items in her room in Mother Margaret Hall. Everyday products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes (empty and clean), eating utensils, pens and pencils need only be cleaned and delivered to Sister’s room for future delivery to CRRH. S. Joyce has been working on the recycling of a variety of common household plastics and packaging in the Motherhouse. In the basement of the Marian building are three large trash cans to collect these items for CRRH, which include plastic snack bags with aluminum lining, packaging bubble wrap, Swiffer dusters, Brita water filters (dried) and air freshener cartridges, plugs and containers. By creating this new partnership with CRRH, and through the organization’s simplified one-stop drop-off location, the SC Community is able to offer Sisters more opportunities to keep items out of the landfill.

Sisters Joyce and Jean are quick to point out that their efforts on campus are dependent on the cooperation and assistance of the SC employees. For example employees working in the clinic collect prescription bottles that are then given to members of the Transportation Department who take the collections to recycling centers in the area. Environmental Services remains faithful to emptying bins located throughout the buildings. This community-wide approach is another reason why education is of most importance as it encourages higher understanding and participation and shifts thoughts from disposability toward sustainability.

At the heart of the Sisters of Charity Vision Statement are the words, we “choose to live simply in a complex world committed to the healing of our global home.” Recycling efforts can be time consuming and take a concentrated effort by all, however, Sisters Joyce and Jean say it is so important and we need to be doing more. They will continue to be a voice for our Earth, championing for everyone to do their part – big and small – to recycle, reuse and reduce.

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