As Bellarmine’s Healthy Earth Team, our mission is to inspire the parish through educational efforts, connecting our Catholic faith with the imperative to protect and restore “our common home,” planet Earth. We hope these resources will be useful to all who are participating in the Embracing God’s Creation series over the next year.
Laudato Si’ opens our eyes to a truth: everything is connected. Once we take this to heart, it compels us to change our lives.
We see the perfection of God’s creation and realize how our false interpretation of human dominion has led to ruin for other creatures. We see how environmental degradation weighs most unjustly on the world’s poor. We see how “paving paradise” has impoverished ALL life. We awaken to the crisis we have made for our children and grandchildren.
It is easy to feel defeated. But we live on hope. We understand that indifference to suffering is sinful. Indifference cannot survive in the light of our faith.
And so, each of us might ask: “What am I to do?”
In her recent book Abounding in Kindness, theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ divides actions into three “responses”: the contemplative, the ascetic, and the prophetic.
- Contemplative response: It is said that you will not save what you do not love. Spend time in nature, not using it for recreation or work, but reverencing it and letting it teach you. Be silent. Observe. Listen. Seek to connect an “Earth ethic” with your Catholic faith. Resources abound. Find many in these Healthy Earth Resource Pages.
- Ascetic response: End thoughtless consumption. View all that you use and consume through a new lens. Ask: how do my choices impact the environment? How do they affect other animal species? How do they affect the poor, most harmed by environmental destruction? See the section on Daily Life in these resource pages.
- Prophetic response: Speak up, speak out, let your light shine. You may support environmental causes through donations (local, state, national, international). Join their advocacy initiatives. Vote green. Volunteer (planting trees, anyone?) Or maybe you work up the courage to speak to neighbors about not spraying their lawns with chemicals (even so-called “natural” ones).
We have divided these resources into themes, although they all overlap:
- Family Activities;
- Daily Life (Food, Energy Use, Land Use, Consumption/Waste);
- Advocacy, Volunteering, Financial Support;
- Prayer; and
- Learn and Explore
These resources represent a small fraction of the vast and growing universe of information and opportunities to help us better care for our common home. We hope you will find them helpful, inspiring, and even life-changing.
We welcome your suggestions, corrections, and updates. Please email our Director of Sustainability and Social Mission. Thank you!
“Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”
~Pope Francis, Laudato Sí: On Care for Our Common Home
Green Umbrella – Green Umbrella, Cincinnati’s local environmental non-profit coalition, has collected an excellent list of resources for families to learn and act environmentally despite COVID-19, including links to interactive activities hosted by the Zoo, Imago, Gorman Heritage Farm, and more!
Tri-State Trails – Since forming in 2012, Tri-State Trails and its partners have built more than 30 miles of trails and 63 miles of on-road bikeways to connect our region.
Caring for the Environment – A 3-page guide created by Loyola Press for families interested in integrating Care for Creation into their spiritual life. Submit your email on the link above and receive the PDF.
Creation Justice Ministries – Educational resources for kids and families related to care for creation and the Christian faith. Created by the National Council of Churches.
Earth Day Digital Resources for Families – A list of partner organizations of Earth Day, with a major collection of the resources they have available to help kids be citizen scientists and climate advocates!
Sadlier Printable Resources – This list includes downloadable coloring sheets and activity books that connect our Catholic faith to care for creation.
Local and National Parks – The Healthy Earth Team has visited National, Ohio, Hamilton County, and Cincinnati Parks’ websites to see what is available to you. You can access all of that here.
Daily life – is divided into the following sections: Food; Energy Use; Land Use; Consumption and Waste.
“Changing how we eat will not be enough, on its own, to save the planet, but we cannot save the planet without changing how we eat.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
Stop Food Waste – According to Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (ed. by Paul Hawken), “A fundamental equation is off-kilter: people who need food are not getting it and food that is not consumed is heating up the planet.”
- Food Waste Prevention Information, Resources, and Tips
- Composting: For compost geeks with a yard, this is great fun, but apartment dwellers can recycle food waste too!
- EPA Composting at Home
- Food scrap drop off sites and composting services
Reduce or eliminate meat consumption – One of the most effective things you can do to address climate change. Check out this resource from Dr. John Sniegocki of the Xavier Theology Department on vegetarianism and our faith. Consider ordering vegetarian from a list of locally owned vegetarian restaurants or find recipes on the CRS website.
Support a CSA – CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture and means you pay a farmer up front and receive a box of local, organic produce each week. There are several in our area that you might consider supporting, including Coop Cincy’s Our Harvest Cooperative Farm, Moriah Pie/Mustard Seed Farms, and Eden Urban Gardens.
Buy local, eat local – CORV – your guide to local growers and markets in the Ohio Valley.
Grow a Garden – Growing a garden can be a great way to eat healthy, organic food, and it can increase pollinators in your area too! There is no end to educational resources. Here is a sampling:
- Growing Vegetables for Beginners (The National Gardening Association)
- Attracting Pollinators to the Garden (Ohio State University)
- Growing Garden Vegetables (University of Maryland)
- Growing Vegetables in Containers (University of Texas)
- Farmer’s Almanac
- Soul Fire Farm – “Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.” The site includes links to gardening how-to videos
- Gardening channels on YouTube
- Top 60 gardening podcasts
Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati – a hub for education and community engagement through gardening
“In burning fossil fuels, we have partly undone the millennial work of our planet in burying carbon…When we treat the air as a dump…the invisible tides of garbage do not just go away.” – William Bryant Logan
Carbon Footprint Calculator – Many carbon footprint calculators help measure the total amount of carbon you are creating in a given year, drawing comparisons to others nationally and globally. Two of the best are from the Global Footprint Network and the Environmental Protection Agency. The process of filling out the calculator helps you assess where you might reduce your footprint!
Renewable Energy Sources and Energy Efficiency at Home – Just four of many resources:
- Green Living Basics – TheSpruce.com
- Energize Ohio – The Ohio State University Extension
- Sustainergy Cooperative
- Clean Fuels Ohio
Drive electric – Drive Electric Ohio offers a primer on electric cars – what, why, and how – to get you started if you are considering a switch. Why drive electric is a resource from the city of Cincinnati Office of Environment and Sustainability
“Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth.” – Chief Seattle (Seathl)
Go Wild! – The typical lawn offers almost nothing for bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators. But if you plant native trees, shrubs, and perennials that provide food, add a water feature such as a birdbath, and mount nesting boxes for birds, bats, and bees, they will come! Why not try for recognition by the National Wildlife Federation? Your yard can become a Certified Wildlife Habitat if you supply four essentials for wildlife: food, water, cover, places to raise young. (It goes without saying you would also eliminate chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers). Homeowner associations and neighbors often insist on the golf course look, but these attitudes are beginning to soften, and there are ways to support Mother Nature without offending your neighbors. Learn more:
- Cincinnati Zoo – Build a Better Home for Wildlife
- Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy
- The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife by Nancy Lawson
- Saint Kateri Conservation Center – “Catholics conserving creation for 21 years.”
- Pollinator Quick guide: What You Can Do to Help Pollinators
- Planting Pollinator-Friendly Gardens
- Native Plants for Pollinators
- OPN Seed – Ohio source for native grass and wildflower seed
Lawn alternatives: low-maintenance groundcovers, low and no-mow grass mixes, and so-called eco lawns. See also The Wild Lawn Handbook by Stevie Daniels.
“Simplicity of living, deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life…an appreciation for the condition of the rest of the world.” – Duane Elgin
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – That’s a mantra we hear. We tend to focus on recycling, perhaps because it’s the easiest to do in our throwaway culture. It makes us feel that we’re doing something to help the environment.
But the most important action is to reduce our consumption of everything and eliminate our consumption of some most harmful things. Consumer movements do change the way businesses operate and the products they offer. We have choices and power.
- Hamilton County Solid Waste District – To see a list of options for safe disposal and recycling, enter the name of what you want to get rid of.
- Cincinnati Recycling and Reuse Hub – a new service taking items, including all #1- 7 plastics that don’t go in your Rumpke bin.
- Simply Zero – a new spot in OTR offering re-usable and re-fillable household and personal care products.
- 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, by Kathryn Kellogg
- Do you really need new clothes? Probably not, but if so, try searching for ethically-produced, long-lasting items made from earth-friendly materials. Avoid “fast fashion,” which ends up in landfills and as microbead plastics washed up on beaches.
Speak out against the powerful political and economic forces that exploit the environment, animals, the land, and poor people as a source of profit.
The City of Cincinnati has an Office of Environment and Sustainability. “The Green Cincinnati Plan presents a comprehensive set of recommendations to advance the sustainability, equity, and resilience of our city. The plan will help map Cincinnati’s path to 100% renewable energy, starting with a proposal to build the largest city-owned solar array in the country. A Steering Committee developed a plan composed of government, corporate, academic, non-profit, faith, and community organizations appointed by the Mayor.” You can find the Green Cincinnati Plan here.
Advocacy opportunities include:
- Pledge to Vote Earth – Sign the pledge to vote for candidates committed to responding to climate change.
- Sierra Club – Has a local chapter involved in many local, statewide, and national efforts to reduce our reliance on carbon and protect the environment.
- Friends of the Earth – Doing substantive national-level advocacy on many issues.
- The Nature Conservancy – Also has an Ohio chapter focused on conserving wildlife.
- Sunrise Movement – A movement of young people to stop climate change, pivotal in the recent Climate Strikes happening around the world.
- Jesuit Office of Justice and Ecology – Represents the faith perspective in advocating for environmental justice.
- Earth Hour – A global movement committed to building awareness of the human impacts upon nature.
- 350.org — “An international movement working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.”
- Catholic Climate Covenant – “Catholic Climate Covenant inspires and equips people and institutions to care for creation and care for the poor. Through our 18 national partners, we guide the U.S. Church’s response to climate change by educating, giving public witness, and offering resources.”
- Global Catholic Climate Movement – “Global Catholic Climate Movement works within the Catholic Church to better care for our common home. Our founding document is Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and ecology, Laudato Si’.” Through this effort, individuals, parishes, and other Catholic organizations pledge to make an “ecological conversion,” resulting in life changes to address the harm to our planet and its people. Bellarmine has made this pledge and was recognized through the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as a Laudato Si parish.
- Interfaith Power and Light – a national organization connecting faith communities around care for creation and reducing climate change.
- Ignatian Solidarity Network – Join them for Livestream talks, advocacy alerts, and practical activities to connect our faith to care for creation.
- Creature Kind – Engaging churches in new ways of thinking about animals and Christian faith, with a focus on farmed animal welfare.
- Creation Justice Ministries – “Justice for God’s planet and God’s people.”
- Many of the other organizations listed throughout these Resource Pages seek advocacy, volunteer help, and financial support to advance their work.
Connect an “Earth ethic” with your Catholic faith to encourage what Pope Francis calls an “ecological conversion.”
- Ecological Examen – an Ignatian examen created by the Jesuits and the Ignatian Solidarity Network, in the spirit of Laudato Si’, with guided images and reflection questions
- Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home – Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter addressing our combined social and ecological crisis. The Prayer for Our Earth at the end is very beautiful.
- USCCB Care for Creation – The U.S. Bishops have collected Bible verses and prayers that can help deepen the connections between care for creation and your prayer life.
- Jesuit Resources from Xavier University – Another excellent compilation of prayers connected to care for creation.
A book with prayers from many faiths: Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems and Invocations from Around the World, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon
Planet Earth II – this amazing 6-part series, narrated by David Attenborough, is available on Netflix and other streaming services. The project includes a podcast, activities for children, a newsletter, and other resources.
In his latest film, Extinction, The Facts, Attenborough explores the extinction of species and its connection to pandemic disease.
Nature on PBS – an excellent ongoing documentary series focused on wildlife and natural history.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – 2017 sequel to Al Gore’s original film, An Inconvenient Truth, focused on our responses to climate change.
The Man Who Planted Trees – won an Academy Award for best animated short film.
Kiss the Ground – This film has become something of a sensation as it shows how regenerating our depleted and disappearing soils offers a path away from the climate crisis. Streams on Netflix or rent for $1 from Vimeo. Free educational versions are now available for schools.
Forks Over Knives – Persuasively examines the health and environmental benefits of plant-based eating.
Eating Animals – An eye-opening look at the food industry, factory farming, and the search for a more ethical future in how and what we eat. Available to rent from Amazon.
NASA – NASA provides cutting-edge science and real-world information about the climate crisis through astounding visuals and graphics.
A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
Desert Solitaire, by Edward Albee
Essays and poetry by Wendell Berry
Poetry collections by Mary Oliver
And many more to be found here on Goodreads
Healing Earth – an online textbook created by Jesuit leaders in ecology from around the world
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming – includes a list of the top 100 measurable ways to reduce and reverse climate change, created by Paul Hawken, with many contributing scientists.
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein – focuses on the connections between climate change and the leading social movements of our day.
Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature by Sallie McFague – focuses on how we can take a long loving look at nature and build genuine relationships with natural entities.
Books by Ileo Delio, OSF– Theology professor at Villanova University. Her 17 books include Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth which won two Catholic Press Association awards.
Books by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theology at Fordham University. Her books include Quest for the Living God; Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love; She Who Is, and Abounding in Kindness.
EarthBeat – a project of the National Catholic Reporter – includes stories of the climate crisis and faith in action.
National Geographic – countless excellent articles and programs on the environment and climate change. Must join to see all. The March 2020 issue of National Geographic includes a cover feature article: The End of Trash: Can We Save the Planet by Reusing All the Stuff We Make? The April 2020 issue (50th anniversary of Earth Day) imagines Earth Day 2070 and offers two views: An Optimist’s Guide (How We Saved the World) and A Pessimist’s Guide (How We Lost the Planet)
Catholic Relief Services – A Catholic Response to Global Warming provides a brief overview of the main reasons caring for creation is a Catholic issue.
Bread for the World – many articles explaining our food systems’ national and worldwide injustices, from production to transport to distribution.
“I am at home in the universe. I carry my house with me. No matter where I go, I cannot be less than at home. The forests are the rooms of the house of my childhood. The winds are my mother’s arms. The sun is my child’s laughter. The caterpillar crawling on my hand is my brother’s hand-thrown over my shoulder.
The children playing in the street of another country are my children. The stranger’s bed encloses me in the sleep of my covers. The earth is my home, and its creatures are my family.”
– Ken Patton (Unitarian/Universalist pastor and author. Died in 1995)