Reducing waste through recycling and composting
Submitted by First Covenant Church of St Paul.
Before the Covid pandemic hit, a small team of First Covenant Church (FCC) members began meeting to discuss how they could help the church better care for creation. We learned from MNIPL about a Ramsey County grant that helps congregations reduce waste through recycling and composting. Through the grant, we applied for compost bins, reusable coffee mugs, and other items that would help us reduce our waste. However, as soon as the grant items arrived…Covid-19 hit! Despite the year-long delay, however, we kept at it. Finally in late 2021, we unveiled our new 3-stream waste bins, which separated waste into recyclable, compostable, and landfill materials.
We worked hard to get our church members and custodians on board with composting – and the final step was to get our church building partners on board. Since we have a large building, many smaller churches and nonprofits use our building, and we wanted to make sure they all understood our new systems. During these conversations, we learned that Fruit of the Vine, a community food shelf that operates in our building, didn’t have enough volunteers to take on the additional work of sorting moldy or unusable food into a compost bin. They also didn’t have the volunteer capacity to break down cardboard boxes so they could be recycled.
After reflecting on ways we could support the food shelf and not add an extra burden on them, we decided to partner with them! Starting in late 2021, a group of 3-5 FCC volunteers have begun showing up at church to help unload food shelf items from delivery trucks. We then help the food shelf volunteers sort out unusable food and put them in the compost. We also break down cardboard boxes and recycle them. This extra step of waste-reduction work wouldn’t have been possible for the food shelf to do with their limited volunteer capacity. Thanks to our help, not only is waste drastically reduced, but the work goes by faster! Until now, food shelf volunteers stayed at church until mid-afternoon on Friday – and now, everyone is finished by noon!
We’re very proud of our work reducing waste at FCC, and of the unexpected partnerships and relationships that have grown from it already. We’ve learned how much creativity and patience can be needed to create long-term change for a healthier planet and healthier communities. And we understand the importance of incentives like county grants to make initiatives like this possible in the first place!
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