Congregations of Catholic sisters serving all around the globe will observe Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14, with a challenge: do not consume beverages from single-use plastic bottles.
“We are taking advantage of the annual observance of Catholic Sisters Week to educate, inform, and act to end plastic waste through a ‘Refuse to Use’ campaign,” said Sister Marcelline Koch, the justice promoter for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.
Locally, the Sisters of St. Francis will be unveiling a daily social media campaign on their Facebook page in response to their commitment to the “Refuse to Use” challenge. They are encouraging the public to participate in the challenge as well. “The world is a beautiful place to live in and we need to do our best to keep it plastic-free. Let’s vow to put an end to plastics,” said Clinton Franciscan Sister Marilyn Huegerich. You can follow their social media campaign at www.facebook.com/SistersOfStFrancisClintonIa.
The Sisters of St. Francis have been assessing their use of all single-use plastics as part of their Laudato Si’ Action Plan goal. “We encouraged our Sisters, Sojourners, and Associates to pay attention to what they were using for one or two weeks, and jot down on a form what they used. We assessed our neighborhoods and common areas at The Canticle as well and devised a plan for each area on ways to reduce usage,” explains Huegerich.
According to National Geographic, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year. Nearly half the plastic ever made has been manufactured since 2020, and at the same time, less than one fifth of all plastic is recycled globally. The impact of plastic in the ocean and in the waste stream is devastating for all life. Its manufacture contributes annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 57 average size coal-fired power plants.
The production of polluting waste is only one part of the story. The life cycle of single-use plastic bottles—from the point of manufacture to what they are filled with and how they are disposed of—demonstrates the concerns Catholic sisters have for three Gospel-based challenges facing the world: racism, migration, and climate change.
For example, Coca Cola, the world’s largest seller of soda, often builds its production plants in poor neighborhoods most often inhabited by persons of color, engages in unfair labor practices that sometimes take advantage of immigrants, pollutes local waterways, and produces tons of microplastic pollution that harms the oceans, the soil, and our bodies. “When you understand this, you can see how one issue of Gospel justice is connected to the next,” said Koch.
The “Refuse to Use” campaign is a collaboration among the leadership, global concerns committees, and communicators from religious communities representing Region 8 of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Catholic Sisters Week is a project of Communicators for Women Religious, a professional organization of communicators within religious congregations of women.