By Mike Poulin, Justice Resource Manager

Trees are magical, multipurpose creations. They filter air and water, sequester carbon, provide housing for creatures and critters and shade for people and property. Some trees mark the passage of time with new buds in spring, full leafy branches through summer, a cascade of colors in fall and dormant branches in winter. Others greet us with greenery year-round. 

Trees can be an investment. Shade trees can cool your home in the summer while evergreens can provide a break from cold winter winds. Studies have shown that trees on a property can increase the value by as much as 15 percent. 

When you are ready to plant a tree, choose a variety native to your region, because as Marianne told us back in February, “Native plants generally require less maintenance — including the use of pesticides, herbicides and water – since they are adapted to the local climate.” 

So, what are you waiting for? Make plans to plant a tree! 

By Sister Karen Donahue 

Where does our food come from? We sometimes hear terms like “farm fresh” or “straight from farm to table” in food advertisements. However, the iconic family farm as it existed for decades in the U.S. has all but disappeared. Today, only 1.3 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in farming and ranching, and the number of farms has decreased from about seven million in 1935 to about two million in 2019. 

Globally, about 26 percent of the world’s population is engaged in agriculture. Most food today is produced on large factory farms. This industrial agriculture has fundamentally changed our relationship to food and the natural world from which it comes.  

Two examples:  

  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) can house more than a thousand animals in a relatively small area. These operations often feature cruel treatment of animals and over-use of antibiotics, which can contribute to the development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. CAFOs also have serious environmental impacts, with massive volumes of animal waste that is often stored in open lagoons. During storms, these lagoons can overflow onto croplands where the runoff pollutes streams and rivers.  
  • Large factory farms where one crop (monoculture) is planted on thousands of acres also presents new challenges. To assure uniformity, seeds are genetically modified by altering their DNA or introducing genetic material from another species to produce desired characteristics such as resistance to a specific herbicide. Nevertheless, some weeds develop a resistance to a cancer-causing chemical called glyphosate, so that even greater concentrations have to be sprayed on crops. This poses a threat to human health and to other species like Monarch butterflies.  

Green Tip 

Visit a local farmers market and talk with some of the farmers about how they grow their produce and raise their livestock, or read about their practices on their websites. Identify how you might adjust your food budget to purchase some of your food from smaller-scale operations that use practices that align with your values. 

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director

There are many ways that your laundry can have negative impacts on our environment: your laundry detergent’s plastic container, the emissions created during washing and drying, and the chemicals released into the water during the process. 

According to a recent study, the U.S. residential sector contributes about 20% of total national carbon emissions (Goldstein et al. 2020), a large percentage of which comes from activities related to doing laundry. Water heating, for example, was found to consume about 16% of the total energy used during a laundry cycle (Golden et al. 2010).  

In addition to energy use, another area of concern relates to the chemicals present in the detergent. These chemicals can come into direct contact with our skin, eventually making their way into our bodies. They are also released into the environment through the water used for washing. Therefore, a laundry detergent that minimizes the number and amount of harmful chemicals is preferred.  

A great option for comparing the safety and environmental friendliness of various cleaning and household products is the non-profit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG provides a rating system that is based on a number of factors including asthma, skin allergies, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and the environment. Ratings range from the highest rating of “verified” down to an “F”.    

Green Tip 

Go to the EWG website to determine the environmental and health grade given to the laundry detergent, sheets, pods or tablets that you use. In addition to using cold water to wash your clothes, please consider changing to a non-plastic product that has been given a “Verified” or “A” grade. 

By Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team 

Last week, Marianne challenged readers to use the Season of Creation as a time to develop a green habit and to tell us about your new practice. I want to challenge you to do one more thing: share our tips and how you are using them on social media,via email or in conversation with family and friends. Encouraging others to make a change with you expands the impact of our efforts. 

 If you follow Sisters of Mercy of the Americas on Facebook, or mercysisters on Instagram, don’t just ‘like’ our Mercy Tip to Care for the Earth; click ‘Share’ and help spread the word. If you’re not on social media, send an email with a link to our Mercy Tips to Care for the Earth page. Together we can grow the community of individuals who are taking active steps to live more sustainably. 

By Marianne Comfort, Mercy Justice Team 

Pope Francis invites Catholics around the world to celebrate the Season of Creation, September 1 through October 4, with prayer and action. 

This year’s theme is “Let Justice and Peace Flow,” based on a scripture passage from the Book of Amos: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:24). We are called to join the river of justice and peace, to take up climate and ecological justice, and to speak out with and for communities most harmed by climate injustice and the loss of biodiversity.  

Green Tip 

Scientists tell us that it takes 66 days on average to develop a new habit. The Season of Creation, which runs for 34 days, is an excellent time to start this process. Look through the list of Mercy Tips to Care for Earth compiled over the past few months and select one new practice that you want to develop over the next few weeks. Email us at to let us know about your new habit. 

By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director

One common item that has serious environmental and health impacts is the receipt. In a 2019 report provided by Green America, it was estimated that the production of receipts in the United States alone has the following yearly environmental impacts : 

  • consumes 3 million trees
  • uses 9 billion gallons of water 
  • generates 4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide 
  • creates 302 million pounds of solid waste  

In addition to the above concerns, the thermal paper used for receipts contains high levels of BPA (Bisphenol A), which is a chemical commonly found in plastic packaging. Sufficient exposure to BPA can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and the early onset of puberty, and diabetes. As a result, most of us have seen the “BPA Free” label on plastic containers and cans as part of an effort to reduce our exposure. BPA is used as a color developer on heat sensitive or thermal paper like a receipt. Since the BPA is added and not chemically bonded to the paper, it can readily be transferred to your hands when touching a receipt (see this article for more details). 

Additionally, other things commonly found on hands, including sanitizers, creams, sweat or grease, can exacerbate exposure to BPA when touching a receipt. A 2014 Newsweek article highlights a study that found because many commonly used hand sanitizers contain chemicals that enhance dermal (skin) penetration, their application can increase the skin’s absorption of BPA by up to 100 times. This is of particular concern if you touch food shortly after touching a receipt, such as at a restaurant or after leaving a grocery store.  If you end up putting the receipt in your pocket, there is an additional concern that BPA will transfer onto anything that touches the receipt such as your keys, phone, or wallet; this will result in unknowing exposure to BPA when you handle any of these objects.

Green Tip:  

Opt for no receipt at any restaurant or store you visit; an email receipt is also good if given the option. Avoid storing past receipts in your wallet. Instead, store them in a bag or box that minimizes contact with other commonly handled items. 

Thank you for participating in this summer retreat series with us. We hope you were inspired to explore further and encouraged to consider new ideas on Communion in our lives.  

Final reflection questions

What is one thing you learned in this series that you want to bring into your daily life? What are some practical examples of how you plan to do that?

How do you witness Communion in different areas of your life?

Think of some examples of successful and unsuccessful dialogue you have had with others. What can be learned from each?

“In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mysterious beauty of what is unfolding.” (Laudato Si’, paragraph 79) 

Song: Every Step is Holy

Suggestions for further reading

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

On Care for Our Common Home: The Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis

God is the source of communion and the church is the instrument. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways.

A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation

God, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand.
They are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
RESPONSE: Praise be to you!

Through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our mother.
You became part of this Earth, and you gazed upon the world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory.
RESPONSE: Praise be to you!

Holy Spirit, by your light you guide this world towards God’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail.  You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good.
RESPONSE: Praise be to you!

Triune God, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you. Awaken our praise and thankfulness in every being that you have made. Give us grace to feel profoundly joined to everything.
RESPONSE: Praise be to you!

God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures on this Earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.  Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.
RESPONSE: Praise be to you!

The poor and the Earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty.
RESPONSE: Praise be to you! Amen.

A reading from the Laudato Si by Pope Francis

The human person grows more, matures more, and is sanctified more, to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own the Trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted on them when they were created. Everything is interconnected and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of that Trinity. (no.240)  

Song: For the Beauty of the Earth  

Reflection Questions

In what ways are you connected to nature?

Think of someone much different from you. Can you think of some unexpected things you have in common?

Do you have a spiritual practice that connects you to your environment?

What decisions or changes have you made in your life to align your actions for the common good?  

“We have to be better, we have to love more and hate less. Listen more and talk less. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
-Megan Rapinoe, American professional soccer player

Song: Canticle of the Sun  

A community must be more than the sum of its members; there needs to be dialogue to agree on common tasks and ways to respond, as a community, to the challenges of our times. The growth process from isolation to communion is promoted by dialogue. Communication is basic to community. It is a two-way street, and no one is so poor that they have nothing to offer.

Opening prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, creator of all things, come visit our hearts with your power.
Fill with grace, friendly guest, the hearts which You have created.
You are called the Consoler, gift from the hand of God, source of life, light, love, and flame, highest good.
You are the pledge of the sevenfold grace, finger of God’s hand, promised us by God, and You make our tongues speak the truth.
Cast light on our senses, pour love into our hearts.
Grant our weak bodies strength that they may never grow weary of doing good.

Reading 1: Luke 4, 16-19

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Jesus stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The spirit of God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Song: As I Have Done for You

Reading 2: Acts 2: 42-47

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common. They would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.  They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

A community is composed of highly communicative persons who interact, having a diversity of gifts and talents, have a common vision and share common objectives assumed by all.

We are all created in the image of God with diverse gifts and talents. Each person throughout life discovers gifts to place at the service of the community. It is preferable that many do a little than that a few do a lot.

Reflection Questions

What is dialogue and how is it different than communication?

How can I say with clarity and charity what I think and feel?

How can I use all of my senses to listen attentively to the needs of others?

 Song: Land of the Living

By Sister Suzanne Gallagher, Mercy Justice Team  

A few Christmas seasons ago, I gifted my sister with a new set of plastic storage containers. The gift made me smile for a variety of reasons: the gift was practical, which is a must for my gift-giving practices; many of my sister’s storage containers made their way into my take-away bag at the end of  previous holidays and now I had a good collection of her containers; and she was using her containers until they lost their lids or were looking shabby. But they are so convenient! 

Becoming more aware of the profusive use of plastics helped me to realize how plastic was still my go-to option for so many things, including storing food. I decided to make the switch to using glass containers for storage  whenever I could. The benefits are numerous and eco-friendly.If you are like me, you are cautious about using plastic containers in the microwave. We know that plastic is porous and prone to leaching dangerous chemicals into food and then into your body; this increases as your plastic containers age or are heated. With glass, there is no chemical interaction between the container and its contents. Glass containers are usually made of natural, sustainable raw materials and can be recycled repeatedly. Plastics can often be recycled, however, they degrade with each event, referred to as “downcycling.”  Using glass is more sustainable for our earth and a healthier option for our bodies. 

The downside to using glass storage containers is that glass can break. We need to be careful about handling them. Also, glass containers are more expensive. Taking all the pros and cons into consideration, it is a false economy not to make the switch. I am building my collection of glass containers slowly and looking at spaghetti sauce and jelly jars differently.  

By Marianne Comfort, Mercy Justice Team 

Transportation is now the largest cause of greenhouse gasses in the U.S., accounting for 33% of all emissions. Most of that is due to suburban sprawl and the country’s car culture. 

Public transportation produces significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than private vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. For instance, a bus with 28% of its seats occupied emits one-third less greenhouse gas per passenger mile than the average single-occupancy vehicle; when the bus is full, it saves 82% of emissions compared to a private car. 

Green Tip 

Check the internet for the bus schedule in your community. You will most likely find routes and timetables there, as well as a “trip planner tool” that you can use to find out how to get from Point A to Point B at a given time. It might look something like this: 

Under “more options,” you can indicate what time you want to leave your departure point or to arrive at your destination. 

See what options you have for getting to work, to church or to other frequent destinations, and invite a friend or family member to join you on an outing to try it out.