LIVONIA, MICH. – Reverence for creation is one of Madonna University’s four Franciscan core values, so Earth day is another day for faculty, staff, and students to celebrate and demonstrate their commitment to living out that value, and protecting Mother Earth.
At a special Earth Day Mass held in a socially-distanced manner in the University Gymnasium, Father Charles Morris, assistant professor of religious studies and philosophy, and sustainability advocate, stressed the call to care for creation that Pope Francis asked for in his encyclical Laudato Si. His homily explained biophilia – human affinity for loving nature and living things. “First we see something, then we get to know it, then we love it, and lastly, we protect it." For Morris, that is what Earth Day and sustainability are about.
He encouraged those present to “unplug, slow down, and let the natural rhythms of the earth connect with you."
Following the Mass, he blessed two pink dogwood trees that were newly planted outside the student lounge.
Across the University’s 103-acre scenic campus, there are ample areas to connect with creation, from the woods to the west, to St. Francis Pond in the center. If one were to combine the Madonna school colors of blue and gold the result would be green, and there are a number of “green” initiatives in place on campus.
The Franciscan Center, which opened in 2009, is Livonia’s first building to be certified at the Gold level for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In 2016, the Felician Sisters of North America, the University’s founders, installed a roof array of 432 solar panels atop the Franciscan Center as part of their solar panel program that totaled 9,162 solar panels that were installed in Buffalo, N.Y.; Lodi, N.J.; Chicago, and Coraopolis and Beaver Falls, Pa. In the first year, the panels produced enough energy to offset the use of 12,000 gallons of gas, and avoid 83 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That energy was enough to charge 25.5 million cell phones and 5,750 electric cars. In addition, the solar panel project afforded Madonna students an opportunity to learn about the science of sustainability first-hand in their classes.
Fr. Morris, teaches a sustainability course that covers such topics as energy climate, building materials, food sources, green burial, and advocacy. “The University has continued to take steps that embody care for creation,” said Morris.
Nancy Grandillo, master gardener and wife of Madonna University President Michael Grandillo, has shared her knowledge in leading several campus sustainability initiatives, including the planting of some 2,000 tulip bulbs on campus, and other attractors in the butterfly garden. She said that the plantings around the new residence halls, and the planned landscaping for the Welcome Center, feature “native shrubbery that promotes habitat and food for local pollinators and birds.”
In addition to campus-wide recycling bins, there are initiatives to reuse or repurpose items in order to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Championed by Sr. Janet Stankowski, campus services coordinator and co-founder of Voices for Earth Justice, this effort includes furniture, office supplies, printers, and more. “We are in the throes of a planetary crisis, and each of us has a moral obligation to do our part to protect the earth for future generations, and that includes showing young people how to do that.” Stankowski also works with the residence hall staff to acquire gently used, or refurbished high quality furniture rather than purchasing brand new pieces.
According to Madonna’s Director of Residence Life Evan Owen, the residents who live on campus are encouraged to use the recycle bins, and to help address food insecurity by donating non-perishable items. Owen uses items in this pantry to help students who might find themselves in need of food. “While I can’t offer them a gourmet meal, it’s nice to have some canned goods that can help someone out in a pinch.” Likewise when ordering food to pay staff members who must work over a holiday or break, Owen budgets effectively so that students forced to stay on campus can be invited to share a meal with residence life staff. It ensures no food is wasted, people are fed, and it builds camaraderie.
Even events at Madonna include an element of sustainability in that all table service products are biodegradable. Menus are projected onto screens instead of printing them. The inserts in name badges are recycled, and staff name badges are reused. Table decorations are oftentimes flowers from Nancy Grandillo’s garden, and plants ordered for commencement are used for multiple events.
More ways that Madonna celebrates Earth Day everyday include: an indoor and outdoor LED lighting project that reduces Madonna’s carbon footprint, a geothermal heating and cooling system and electric vehicle charging stations at the Welcome Center (photo above), water bottle filling stations to reduce the use of plastic bottles, and plans to create a bee prairie to attract these valuable pollinators.
“The solar panels, geothermal heating, and electric vehicle charging stations are helping us to make a softer footprint on our good Earth,” said Morris.
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