POMPTON LAKES, N.J. –- St. Mary Church here was featured in a December CBS-TV special on the church’s efforts to “go green” and preserve the environment as part of New Jersey’s GreenFaith organization.
The 30-minute TV special, aired Dec. 21 in the New York area, reported on projects by several churches associated with GreenFaith, an interfaith organization in New Jersey that describes itself as a coalition for the environment.
Big Facility, Small Carbon Footprint
St. Mary, which prides itself on running a large facility with a relatively small carbon footprint, was prominently featured for its environmental stewardship programs. It was no surprise that a Franciscan church was featured in the special, titled “Caring for God’s Creation.”
In a time when some denominations are closing large churches with deferred maintenance and high upkeep costs, the St. Mary community is setting an example for energy efficiency. It runs its five large buildings — a church, school, rectory, offices and Carnevale Center – in the true Franciscan spirit of caring for creation.
Church leaders, including guardian and pastor Kevin Downey, OFM, were filmed on Oct. 1 discussing how the church conserves energy, by switching to the energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs and installing solar panels, among other efforts. Kevin described why it is so important for churches to lead by example in the fight to save the plant. In his interview, he mentioned the Franciscan Order’s founder St. Francis
One of the church’s most interesting and unique programs was also featured, a project that raises environmental awareness among its teens.
Teens Audit the Trash
The church arranged for its teens to conduct a “waste audit,” collecting the facility’s daily garbage and sifting through it. In the special, St. Mary teens are filmed dumping large garbage bags, filled with food and paper trash, onto plastic sheets on the floor. From there, they are seen spreading the garbage into a single layer, and combing through it, picking up pieces and questioning whether the material could be recycled, reused, reduced, or avoided all together.
The teens analyzed the church’s trash, looking for items like Styrofoam cups, plastic plates, and aluminum foil, items that sit in landfills. They also reviewed St Mary’s garbage and reported back to the maintenance staff on ways to cut down on trash.
In the television show, Kevin mentioned that St. Mary’s young people get a “hands-on approach” and he said he recently “took a group of kids south to Nazareth Farm to expose them to the environment. Several high school-aged parishioners — Lauren Griffith and Nicole Morosco — were interviewed in the program.
The parish is also pursuing a GreenFaith designation as a “Green Sanctuary.” GreenFaith did a recent audit of the parish, and made recommendations that St. Mary will pursue.
A recent bulletin of St. Mary’s included an invitation to become a member of the St. Mary’s GreenFaith advisory board.
The TV segment on St. Mary ended with Kevin driving away on a motorcycle, a mode of transportation that he says uses less gas than a car when he is driving locally.
Religious institutions, by greening themselves, will not only make a difference but will influence other people, said Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of Greenfaith.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.