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Caritas members around the world participate on the “greening” of their offices. Credits: Catholic Charities USA

Caritas members around the world participate on the “greening” of their offices.
Credits: Catholic Charities USA

At a recent meeting of the Caritas Internationalis Climate Justice Reference Group there was a lively discussion about the “greening” of our offices. We quickly became aware that we are not only talking about environmental issues and the impact they have on the people we work with but we are also personally trying to do something about it. We each shared the ways our organisations are attempting to be more conscious of our ecological footprint.

The following are some examples of how members are already lightening their footprint:

Caritas Germany is undertaking joint consultations about the greening of their work. They are engaged in a process to find out how to work in ways that are more protective of the environment, in such areas as carpooling and car sharing.

Caritas India is drafting a framework assessing how programme activities can be more environmentally friendly. This will be finalised within the next two months.

Caritas Belgium is looking at their office building; the transport they use to get to and from work; their projects on the ground; and raising awareness within the office. They have requested the assistance of a local organisation to carry these efforts forward. But they are confronted by the financial challenges that go with the changes required. Their experience is to see whether or not this is a necessary exercise.

Caritas Burkina Faso is in the process of raising awareness of where they stand on carbon emission. Can they use the bus more often to go to meetings? In parishes and on the national level, they are looking for the use of alternative energy (solar power) and planting trees. Every strategy ends up turning back to questions around the economic impact of the actions taken.

Caritas MONA has a recycling project in the offices, such as collecting paper, switching off lights and machinery.

In Caritas South Africa they have a slogan: ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. They lead by example to visitors who come to the office.

American Caritas member Catholic Relief Services did an in-house inventory on how they could be better stewards of energy and materials. In the move to the new Global Headquarters in Baltimore CRS committed to be a ‘green’ building. They also recycle, encourage the use of public transportation, and add energy efficient equipment in the building. Internationally, a number of the CRS offices attempt to look at their carbon prints in the offices and in travel.

American caritas member Catholic Charities USA connects climate change with its campaign to reduce poverty, recognizing that the poor suffer the most from environment degradation. They encourage their member organizations to think “green” in their offices and in the services they provide. Among the things that CCUSA has done to green the offices: they use reusable coffee mugs, filtered tap water (no more water bottles), recycled paper, do double-sided printing, and they recycle as much as possible. They also made a commitment to go paperless in the office and to hold conference calls instead of travelling.