Saint Ursula Academy is proud to be selected among the five 2020 groups recognized as a “Laudato Si’” community by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, in recognition of efforts to be outstanding stewards of the environment. Each year, The Archdiocese of Cincinnati seeks to support the great work happening in its Catholic schools, parishes, and communities through its Laudato Si’ Communities Project.
Saint Ursula Academy takes its commitment to caring for our environment very seriously. In 2016, the Earth Club and Green Team at Saint Ursula launched a new sustainability effort to reduce the amount of trash from Saint Ursula’s Fresh Market lunch facility by providing a way to compost and recycle materials.
With a grant from the Ursulines of Cincinnati Sisters, Saint Ursula Academy purchased a system allowing them to Reduce and Recycle trash. The grant paid for separate bins for recyclable items, compostable items, and trash. It also allows for an area where students could stack similar items such as plates and cups. This system decreased the volume of trash put into garbage bags and eventually, landfills by nearly 70% in the first year.
Over the course of the first year the students recognized, however, that even though stacking reduces the amount of trash bags filled, it still leads to paper cups, plates, bowls, and forks being sent to a landfill. They knew that they were missing the third “R” in the “Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse” slogan and they began working on a solution allowing students to “reuse” materials in the Fresh Market. Thanks to a grant from the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District, students began the next school year with another effort to dramatically reduce their trash even more by purchasing reusable plates, cups, silverware, and bowls. Silverware was also donated by the Sisters.
Additionally, students contracted with Terracycle, an organization that upcycles granola bar wrappers, chip bags, and clean plastic baggies into new items. These items are sorted into separate bins during lunch and then sent to Terracycle. Terracycle, in turn, offers rewards to Saint Ursula in the form of recyclable/compostable items that are valuable to the school (eco-friendly school supplies, compostable pots, and earth-friendly cleaning solutions).
These efforts, combined with the already implemented sustainability program that includes Fair Trade Uniforms, has reduced the amount of trash from 650 girls in the Fresh Market from 15 bags per day to just two!
In addition, Saint Ursula has installed water bottle filling stations around campus to reduce the number of plastic water bottles being used by encouraging students to refill reusable water bottles.
Saint Ursula was nominated for this Laudato Si’ honor by Mary Ragland, retired Campus Minister and Green Team leader at Saint Ursula Academy. Ragland still spends a great deal of time at school caring for the gardens and landscape around the beautiful Saint Ursula campus. The student Earth Club and Green Team is currently moderated by Science teacher Mark Simcoe.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for the world and its resources, called Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home. To be recognized as a Laudato Si’ Community by the Archdiocese, Catholic institutions must achieve a certain benchmark score on a facility assessment, exhibit environmentally-friendly daily practices, have staff members who have completed personal household assessments, and have hosted a program for its members on Catholic teaching regarding caring for God’s creation.