Upcoming Event HIGHLIGHTS

Because our Events listing draws directly (and chronologically) from our events calendar, there are a few upcoming items that you’ll want to see coming,  mark your own calendar, and share.  You will want to know about:

One of the wonderful Interfaith Moral Climate Advocacy workshops, headlined by Justin Wright of Active Neutrals, and in partnership with PennFuture will be held on Presidents’ Day, February 15.  REGISTRATION is open now, FLIERS are available.  Click to learn more and sign up.  Co-sponsored by PA IPL, the Eco-Justice Ministries of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the Creation Care Task Force of the NE PA Synod (Lutherans).

WORLD WIDE: Earth Hour  Saturday, March 19

——RELIGIOUS CALENDARS: Tu b’Shevat and Lent, with resources anyone can use——

Tu B’Shevat
 (the “Jewish new year of the trees”) begins January 24 at sundown (the 15th day of Shevat).  Join all-are-welcome celebrations in BRYN MAWR [POSTPONED due to forecast. New date TBA] or GERMANTOWN 1/24.[POSTPONED due to forecast. New date TBA]  Find resources generously shared by COEJL and the Shalom Center to explore more on your own.  Your RSVP is important to our planning for both of the celebrations linked above.

On the Christian calendar, Lent  begins with Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 10 this year.  It is a time of preparation, reflection and, for many, fasting, so it’s a great time to think about a CARBON FAST or a Lenten text study linked to climate change.  The Ecumenical Carbon Fast designed by the New England Regional Environmental Ministries is excellent, and we see no need to re-invent the wheel!  Anyone may sign up now for 2016 once-a-day Lenten emails.  To get a glimpse at what you’ll be getting, browse the 2015 resources.  Each week has a biblically-linked theme and includes actions to take, both as an individual and with a congregation.   If you are a Christian pastor in a congregation that follows the Common Lectionary, you may find this lectionary-based weekly sermon reflections on the lessons useful, whether you choose to use them during Lent or periodically throughout the year.

People of other faiths may wish to sign up for the Lenten emails (or browse the 2015 materials) in order to mine them for inspiration in connection with periods of fasting and reflection in your own tradition.  Would you like to use the inspiration to craft tailored resources drawing on your own scriptures and traditions?  We’d love to make sure the effort is well-spent by sharing it far and wide.  We’ll even help!

Shrinking your foodprint part 2—habits

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.  Check out this piece from the World Council of Churches about food justice and climate change called COP 21: how climate change affects access to our daily bread

Today, in part 2 of Shrinking Your Foodprint: foodprint-shrinking, efficient habits… (what we eat is coming tomorrow, I promise!)  Want more inspiration?  Refer back to this post for videos where you can listen to smart people talk about food, faith and food justice.

  1. Put the lid on when you’re boiling water.
  2. Only boil as much water as you need.
  3. Cover or contain things in the fridge (moisture makes the compressor work harder, and your food will be less edible sooner, too)
  4. Store food that needs to be eaten in high-visibility places.
  5. Cook whenever possible!  You’ll create less landfill waste, and use fewer take-out containers.
  6. Think of the oven as the SUV of your kitchen.  Use it when it’s the right tool for the job, but don’t leave it running when there’s nothing in it, and try to use all the space when it’s on.  You can also heat once, cook twice to save a little warm-up time.  In the summer: avoid the oven, it’ll heat your house up.  Must use it?  At night, when you can open the windows!   In the winter, when you’re done cooking, leave the door open for a bit (if you can, safely) to let the heat into the house.
  7. Choose a strategy: EITHER make only what you will eat, OR purposely make extra and freeze portion-sizes, pack ready-to-go lunches, or share with a neighbor.   Do you make award winning chili?  If your neighbor has a different quantity-cook specialty, make double and swap — 2 meals for one prep!
  8. Buy things in less packaging.  When you have a choice of heavier or lighter versions of the same food (think canned beans v. bagged beans), or refrigerated or shelf-stable versions (think salad dressing) choose lighter (fewer emissions to transport) or stable (eliminate refrigeration.
  9. Pick a month (January?) and make that the month you clean the coils in the back of your fridge or the vent at the bottom, change any filters, and check for a good seal with no leaks on both fridge and freezer.
  10. There is need to run hot water in the sink to wash your hands —its the soap, water, and friction that get the job done.
  11. Clean-up: Be efficient with your hot water when you’re finished with your meal.  Scrape your plates.  If you’re handwashing use a basin or stop the sink rather than letting the water run. If you use a dishwasher, experiment to figure out if you can skip the rinse, and see if your model lets you air dry instead of heat-drying.

Mmmmm. Food. Shrinking your foodprint part 1

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.  Check out this piece from the World Council of Churches about food justice and climate change called COP 21: how climate change affects access to our daily bread

There are so many ways to shrink our “foodprints.”  Today, we’ll address the one part of the puzzle most people don’t associate with climate change: avoiding waste

Don’t waste.  Seriously.  Food waste is a huge problem.  Click on the graphic below for lots more info.  In 2013 alone, Americans threw out over 37 million tons—or 74 billion pounds—of food (source).  Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.27.35 PM

Improve together! There is so much generational wisdom to tap into here.  Think about interviewing all the folks in your congregation or community who lived through culturally lean times, and cooked most of their own food.  You’ll find people who know how to make amazing soup stock from not-so-edible remainders.  You’ll find people who know how to plan a series of menus that draw on part of the one before, making something different and new (so it doesn’t feel like leftovers) using some of the same ingredients, so that you can use everything up.  You’ll find people with amazing systems for freezing leftovers that will be the basis of another meal — and finding them when they’re needed.  You will even find people who know how to “put up” backyard garden overflow.    Add to that our much-easier modern access to varied spices and recipes, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a great potluck+PDF recipe or instruction book.

Here’s an excellent demonstration by a guy in England (who uses the Food 52 website based in NY as his resource).  I find that quesadillas or wraps, pizza, omelettes and salad can absorb many small-quantity leftovers.

The rest of his waste-less-food page has lots of tips: I recommend the first video on the page (though I haven’t done it yet).

Pro tip: Sell By, Best By, and Use By dates are all a little different.  Learn more about what you can really eat and when, and remember that if you pop something in the freezer by one of those dates, you can safely eat it long after the date has passed.

Compost.  Food waste in landfills often doesn’t get enough oxygen to break down well, and ends up producing methane, a much stronger greenhouse gas.  Plus, your flowers and veggies will looooove your compost.  If you go for an indoor worm bin, you’ll also get compost tea.  Your houseplants have never looked better.   Tune in soon for a story from St. Martin in the Fields’ Blessing of the Heap.

Waste matters.    Food waste (not including the linked land-use changes) accounts for  About 1/3 of our food waste occurs at the consumer level.  That’s the place where we are totally in control.  Nearly 2/3 is wasted in production and distribution.  Consumers can help with the 2/3 part, too, by asking groceries for special lower-price bins of not-so-beautiful produce for example, or by working with groceries, restaurants, kitchens and food pantries to help with a gleaning program.  (Get a glimpse of the problem and some solutions in this National Geographic article; this partner article is subtitled: producing the food we throw away generates more greenhouse gasses than most entire countries do)

I’ll leave you with this, quoted in an article about a Food and Agriculture Organization report:

“Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land area.”

“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva.”

Foxdale Retirement Community — caring for Creation in shared spaces

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.  News is about faith voices again!  Hear voices directly from the talks in these podcasts.

Tomorrow: some immediate actions for individuals and households!

Foxdale Village Retirement Community, a Quaker-directed community of incredibly busy “retired” people, partners with PA IPL in sponsoring and hosting programs for residents and the greater State College community, as well as in our tangible service project, Weatherization First. Their Foxdale Village Greens group is doing an incredible job of finding ways around apparent roadblocks, and always looking for the next challenge as they continue to shrink their community’s footprint.   They wrote up a number of their efforts for the county Waste Watchers Award, and kindly shared it with us.  They’ve been recognized by Centre County with an Emerald Award.

Foxdale Village has continued its active recycling program, this year recycling over 37 tons of glass, metal, plastic, and paper products, through Centre County recycling (who provided the statistics).  In addition, we recycle batteries, styrofoam, plastic bags, clothing, cardboard, CDs, DVDs, and other items to community sites throughout the area, and continue our twice a year yard sale that enables us to reuse and re direct furniture and “zillions ” of other items we no longer need. We even collect 1-5 gallon buckets that arrive via our food service, cleaning them, and distributing them for reuse.

New this year, with the help of county resources, we’ve expanded our composting,  giving any resident who wishes the opportunity to compost food and yard waste.  As far as we know we are the first (and maybe only) multiple-residence community to do this. As a result, our compost figures have grown significantly. In less than a year, we have contributed over 30 tons of food and yard waste to local composting.

This year Foxdale Village Greens have broadened their activities to partner with others in our community. 

  • This spring, we participated in the Sustainable Communities Collaborative partnership between PSU and the State College Borough. Two teams of students from Communication 420: Research Methods in Advertising and Public Relations Class came to Foxdale, conducting a survey and holding focus groups to help us take a deeper look into our recycling program and helping us to understand “The Motivation to be Green” in our community. The research produced good, useable information. In addition, the two student groups earned top honors at the Borough presentation at the end of the semester. 
  • This summer Foxdale was able to participate in the zero waste program at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. We were able to obtain large compostable bags that  enabled the environmental safe collection of food and compostable materials at the festival.
  •  EileenFlanaganHeadShotResized_miniWe have partnered with PSU’s Rock Ethics Institute, PA Interfaith Power & Light, and local churches in bringing two programs to the community. 
    •  In the spring we joined in bringing Eileen Flanagan, Quaker author, speaker & activist to Pasquerilla Spiritual Center for an, open to the public, talk and discussion of her newest book, Renewable.
    • This fall we co-sponsored and hosted an interactive talk covering the main points of Po12000841_10156255009660105_7046955859817689565_ope Francis’s encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’ on climate change, led by PA IPL’s Executive Director, Alison Cornish. The event was held in Foxdale’s auditorium the week before Pope Francis’s visit to the US and Philadelphia, and was well attended.
  • Residents in our workshop and members of our maintenance staff have participated in PA IPL’s community winterization program, Weatherization First. They have created insulating window panels and completed energy saving house repairs for folks who are not able to do their own.   
  • September 24, as a part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we hosted Business After Hours in the auditorium. We provided composting etc.. and had signs on all tables announcing that the event was a zero waste event and suggested that they should all adopt zero waste in their businesses. It was also announced, and a couple of us were there as resource folks. We have been members of the Chamber for 25 years also. It was well attended and we had a lot of interest.

We continue to look for ways to improve and expand our sustainable practices both with our Foxdale family and with the broader community.

We truly appreciate being part of the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority’s Green Partnership.  

A prayer for the midpoint of the Paris talks.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.

YairaThis prayer was written by Yaira Robinson of Texas IPL.  She wrote it for her home congregation to use on the Shabbat before the climate talks began.  Today is not Shabbat.  It is the midpoint of the climate talks.  It is the second Sunday of Advent (Christian), and the first night of Hanukkah (Jewish).  It is 2 days before Rohatsu, and we are all readying for the return of our Northern Hemisphere light beginning on the Solstice.

Tonight is a great time to settle in for a prayer that links us to the depths of our own faith traditions, that asks for help, and hope, a way forward through fear, rooted in deep conviction; asks for forgiveness, and for strength for us all, leaders and regular people alike.

Yaira’s beautiful prayer is below; her original post can be found here.  Do click through on the images to learn more about the art and artists.

We have some links to Paris COP background and more Abrahamic resources prepared in connection with the Harrisburg and Philadelphia vigils. Looking for resources from non-Abrahamic faiths?  Find the links you want on this page of encyclical-linked resources.

A Prayer for Paris Climate Talks

Adonai Eloheinu, v’Elohei Avoteinu v’Imoteinu—
Lord our God and God of our Ancestors—

God who separated the light from the darkness,
upper waters from lower waters,
and seas from land.

"Burning Bush" Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik Image Source

“Burning Bush” Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik Image Source

God who appears in a whirlwind,
in a burning bush, and
as strangers standing at an open tent.

Do You remember?
You freed us from that Narrow Place and
guided us through the wilderness,
appearing as a pillar of cloud by day,
and as a pillar of fire by night.

Do we remember?
You thundered, shook the mountain, and gave us Torah.
We were awestruck. We said:
“We will do and we will hear!”

Help us remember.
God, we’ve kind of messed things up.
We didn’t mean to. It was science and progress,
electricity and cars and plastic!

Chris Jordan "Cellphones #2, Atlanta 2005" from Portraits of American Mass Consumption

Chris Jordan “Cellphones #2, Atlanta 2005” from Portraits of American Mass Consumption

Plastic is amazing, God.
So useful.

But now, we’ve upset the delicate balance of Your Creation—
this beautiful, wildly diverse, interconnected,
pulsing, breathing planet full of life—

The storms are stronger now.
Drought more frequent, more severe.
Ice is melting, seas are rising, crops are shifting.

Hunger and disease, disaster and thirst
lead to suffering
and strife
and people—so many people—
having to leave home
in search of a safe place to live.

We didn’t mean for this to happen.
But now we know.
And now that we know, we are responsible—
we must act.

Please help us, God.
We need to make some changes, and fast—
but it’s hard.
We can do it—but it’s going to require a lot of work,
and we’ve never had to cooperate quite like this before—
all of us, all your diverse peoples, all over the world.

Climate change is a big challenge.
We’re going to have to work together,

But it’s really, really hard.

Leaders from 196 countries are about to meet in Paris
to try to agree on a way forward.

God, please help them.
Give them wisdom, and the courage to do what’s right—
rather than what’s politically expedient.

God, please help us.
Global warming is scary.
Change is hard.
Give us strength, imagination, and hope.
There’s so much we can do, right here at home.
Help us meet new challenges with hearts that are open
and attuned to You.

the "tree" of the Lena Delta wilderness in Russia. Image Source

the “tree” of the Lena Delta wilderness in Russia. Image Source

For this little blue planet,
gift of water and breath and life amazing—
Thank you, God.

Please be with us.
Guide us.
Help us mend our ways,
and repair—

And let us say: amen.


Invite everyone, but don’t wait, Part 2.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.

Today’s post shows how a small group can act meaningfully within a congregation before the whole congregation is fully and enthusiastically engaged, and how that engaged action can grow the “choir”.  It is a story that originates in my parents’ Friends Meeting (Quaker) in Western Massachusetts.  The idea is spreading quickly among New England Quakers, is being used by a Unitarians congregation in Virginia, and there is active interest from some groups here in Pennsylvania.   Want to try?

2. Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness


A few of the original members of Mt. Toby’s Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group.

Since we are a multi-faith group here at PA IPL, before I turn this over to the Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group of Mt. Toby Meeting,  I’ll note that Quakers often use the word witness to indicate that they are making a choice to live out their faith.  It’s a way of saying “This isn’t just a thing I am doing.  It is a thing I am doing because of my Quakerism.”  Similar ideas are called “carbon tithes” in some circles.

The basic idea is this:

  1. A group of interested people agrees to “tax” themselves a percentage of their spending on fossil fuels for their vehicles, their electricity (if applicable), their home heating, and their air travel.  Each makes their own commitment.  Names, but not amounts are publicized.
  2. They send their fees in to a dedicated sub account at their congregation.
  3. They decide quarterly where to gift those fees, giving to climate-related causes (emissions reduction projects, climate justice, adaptation projects, response efforts and more).
  4. They share their results with their congregation and beyond.

Members of this group have spoken about how meaningful it is to join together for this witness,  how heartening it is to see the amounts donated grow as the group grows— and sometimes shrink as people are able to reduce the amount of  fossil fuel they are using.

They encourage everyone to start at a low amount of voluntary tax, and then to revisit the amount and consider raising it.   The group has grown steadily in size, and conversation around climate justice and climate action at fellowship time occur more often and draw in more people.   Participants also talk about how much more aware they are of their fuel use now, but how that awareness is accompanied by a sense of empowerment and hope, rather than a sense of paralyzing guilt.

Check out their very helpful Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness page, with sample forms, a list of where they have made their quarterly donations.

Listen to Alan Eccleston of Mt. Toby describe the program, in context, in under 5 minutes, at the meeting of New England Yearly Meeting.