Several years ago, St. Mary’s received an award for our efforts to “go green.” Are we keeping up with our “green” stewardship philosophy?  Seems like we may have slipped a bit. Is it time to reinstate our “green team?” Let’s do it! The Kitchen Angels are trying to be mindful of our paper and plastic usage, and we are asking that Styrofoam cups and plates be avoided, because Styrofoam is not environmentally friendly. The cups we use for coffee hour are made of compostable recycled material.  Some have wondered if we can recycle them. So, we checked with our friends at Waste Management, and here’s the scoop: Believe it or not, cups that are compostable can go in the regular trash, and Waste Management has the ability to identify them and sort them so that they go into the system with other organic material! We could consider an organic container, that would also assist Waste Management in processing our trash.  Maybe that is a good question for the new “green team.” Kudos to our Junior Warden, Robert Daunt, who has been changing out our filters so that our massive heating system can function more efficiently this winter. Thanks, Robert for all you do! Want to get involved? This is a wonderful ministry of stewardship for both Mother Earth and St. Mary’s, two of our favorite women.  Contact Eugene Loh or Jackie Pierce for more info, and be sure to read Eugene’s article, below.

Tell Me Your Carbon Footprint
Eugene Loh

“Climate Change in the American Mind”[1] indicates that most, and increasingly more, Americans believe that they themselves are causing climate change, which in turn will harm them.

But I wonder whether our actions reflect our stated beliefs.  I think about a passage from James 2.[2] It points out that just caring for the poor and hungry does not help them if the caring is not accompanied by action.  Just saying, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed” does nothing. The passage continues that belief in God, without action, is also meaningless; even demons believe in Jesus, and they shudder.  So what good is “belief in climate change” if that belief is not manifest in our actions?

I’m writing in the hope that each of us will take yet one more meaningful step towards reining in our contributions to climate change.

That next step will be different for each of us, but we get more personalized pictures of where to start by using a “carbon calculator.”  I like the one from Carbon Footprint Ltd,[3] since it seems pretty reasonable and it gives me a breakdown of different impacts rather than just one big score.  Keep in mind that some estimates are more accurate than others. It’s pretty clear how much carbon dioxide is emitted from burning a gallon of gasoline, but how about from purchasing a soda or a sofa?

Please share your thoughts and questions with me.[4]  Even tell me your carbon calculator results! I’ll keep them confidential (unless you explicitly give me permission to share), but I hope to share generalizations about where St. Mary’s can focus if there are enough statistics to protect confidentiality.  In any case, I expect hearing from you would encourage me personally.

Epilog:  The Loh-Family Dirty Secrets

I might as well share some of our household’s results.  If you want the details, just ask.

The carbon footprint of our home’s natural gas use is estimated to be three-to-four times that of our electrical usage, even though I thought we didn’t use gas very much.  (The calculator doesn’t know that our electricity has been coming from carbon-free sources since even before the change from PG&E to Monterey Bay Community Power.[5]) The natural gas footprint surprised me; it’s supposed to be a “clean” fossil fuel.  Lizzy and I are now battling over the water heater’s thermostat.

Our family has the reputation of being a “bike” family, but our car is still driven about as much as an “average” American car. That’s because we go on out-of-town trips, like to Los Angeles, though I’m still not sure how the miles add up. (In our defense, that’s one car among four driving-age people.)

And as soon as any of us steps on an airplane, our carbon-footprint numbers “take off.”  (Ha ha, get it?) The air travelers in our family will remain nameless. Stepping onto an airplane is like driving a car for a month.

The carbon footprint of goods and services is really hard to estimate, but it can be significant.  In our case, there are big unknowns associated with food (though we’re basically vegetarians), attending university, owning a vehicle (factoring out how much it’s driven), and, mysteriously, using financial services!

Send me your comments, questions, and carbon scores!


[2]  James 2:14-19


[4]  eugene.y.loh and I’m at gmail