Monday, December 10, 2012

Parishioners Efforts to Eliminate Styrofoam Cups in the Church

Recently some members of the St. Philip's community successfully launched a campaign to stop using styrofoam cups at the church. The initiative to replace styrofoam cups with ceramic cups was started by Carol a 50 year veteran of the church and a longtime member of the choir. Carol is a nurse who understands the environmental and health problems associated with styrofoam. This effort was also supported by Rosemary and Steven.

Styrofoam is created from modified petroleum and involves materials like polystyrene. According to Rodale, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, polystyrene is considered to be a “probable carcinogen.” And as explained in a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal, when Styrofoam is heated, chemicals can leach out of the styrofoam and into beverages.

Carol, Steven and Rosemary were prominent participants in the recent Ecology and Spirituality discussion group at the Church. Carol said that through the group she gained a renewed appreciation of the biblical call to stewardship which "gave her a new vocabulary to talk about care for the Earth."

Carol's sensitivity to environmental issues has been part of her life since she was very young. Her grandmother was an important early influence on her eco-sensibilities. In a recent interview, Carol reminisced about how her grandmother shared her knowledge about the natural world while on long walks in the woods.

While camping with the Girl Guides as a child Carol appreciated the practice of "leaving things better than they found it." This is a philosophy that she applies to this day. She also sees the value of being "thrifty" and she strives to use only what is needed and to reuse things as much as possible.

Carol launched the initiative to end styrofoam cups because she knows that in addition to being harmful to human health they are also environmentally destructive. Styrofam does not fully decompose in landfills; according to some estimates the Styrofoam disposed of today will still be present in landfills one million years from now.

It is estimated that Styrofoam waste constitutes up to 30 percent of all landfill space. In Canada, 1.6 billion paper and polystyrene cups are thrown out each year. This translates to 23 lbs of waste per year for everyone who drinks just one cup of coffee or tea each day.

The decision to replace styrofoam cups with ceramic at the church is a great idea whose time had come. Although ceramic cups have an environmental footprint (manufacturing, shipping and washing) according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), after factoring in all the energy and water usage, a ceramic cup is far better than a styrofoam cup for the environment. The EDF estimates that using ceramic cups reduces solid waste by over 80 percent.

This was not the first time that Carol has tried to replace styrofoam cups with ceramic cups at the church. Many years ago she made a similar attempt but the parish was not ready to make the change. Thankfully she patiently persevered and now she has spearheaded a change that everyone in the church can be proud of.

Carol, Steven and Rosemary have succeeded in reducing the church's environmental impact and protecting the health of parishioners all while saving money. Carol said she would like to see more responsible use of electricity in the Church that would translate to savings in both energy and the bottom line.

Carol would also like to see the church continue to move towards better health and more responsible stewardship. Her aspirations include applying her skills to the cultivation of a vegetable garden on church grounds and she would also like to see composting of food waste.

Thanks to Carol, Steven and Rosemary, St. Philip's has taken one small step towards becoming a healthier and more environmentally responsible community.

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