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Sisters Learn of Campus Sustainability Accomplishments
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February 26, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Even during this year’s mild winter in Michigan, work in the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ permaculture area and in other areas of sustainability continue to grow and blossom. Sisters and Associates heard about these efforts – and were encouraged to do their part – during the Winter Sustainability Update recently offered by Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Sustainability Office; Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist; and Joel Henricks, Director of Facilities and Grounds.

Sister Corinne set the tone by reminding the Sisters and Associates of the Congregation’s 2016 General Chapter Enactment on Sustainability, to “sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.”

“We look at that [Enactment] through certain lenses, certain areas,” including energy, food, purchasing, transportation, waste, and land care, Sister Corinne explained. “We’re trying to continue to find ways to change our behavior for the positive.” She cited a Sister who spoke of the “million little things” that can be done to preserve the environment, such as using cloth rather than paper napkins. In that vein, Sister Corinne encouraged the Sisters and Associates to ask themselves, “What are the little things that matter, that we can do?” and to take those little actions.


The greenhouse at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse Campus will soon be renovated to include a heated seed bed.

Jared focused his presentation on answering a common question: What does he do during the winter? He pointed to the many projects taking place in the Congregation’s permaculture area, including: 

  • Renovating the greenhouse with the addition of heated seed beds to allow him to grow more plants from seed.
  • Constructing a second worm bin to house the worms that work to compost campus organic waste, eventually bringing the combined population of the Congregation’s vermiculture worms to a quarter of a million.
  • Learning about beekeeping under the mentorship of a local beekeeper.
  • Revamping of Permaculture’s social media presence through a new Instagram account with the help of Social Media Specialist Ashley LaVigne.

Looking ahead, Jared noted that Barry University and Siena Heights University students participating in the Environmental Leadership Experience in May will build a rain garden of native plants near the Weber Retreat and Conference Center parking lot to address an erosion problem. Also in the works, he said, are workable test kitchens to discover ways to prepare the novel fruits and vegetables grown in the permaculture area.

Energy Consumption

Ice storage tanks allow the Congregation to create ice during off-peak hours to cool buildings during the day.

Joel reviewed some of the ways that the Adrian Dominican Congregation is reducing its energy consumption on the Motherhouse Campus. 

Efforts have included replacing conventional lighting with LED lighting; upgrading the chiller so that ice is manufactured during the night – during off-peak usage hours – and sent by day through the pipes to cool campus buildings in the summer; and the use of a stack economizer to divert boiler exhaust and use it to heat water.

Joel also recommended a few ways that people can reduce their energy consumption: relying on natural lighting rather than electricity on sunny days and lowering the heat by one or two degrees during the winter. Cumulatively, he said, if many Sisters lower their thermostats, “you’re talking about a very significant impact” on reducing energy usage.  

Practices and Programs

Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Sustainability Office, speaks on the campus recycling efforts.

Sister Corinne reiterated her focus on the “million little things” that can be done to reduce the damage to our environment. 

“We have to disengage ourselves from the use of plastic,” since few plastic items can be recycled locally, she said. She also encouraged the Sisters and Associates to speak to managers of the grocery stores where they shop, asking them to reduce their use of plastic packaging. 

Sister Corinne also spoke of two returning programs in May: the River Raisin Festival on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, to teach local elementary school students about the local environment, and the Environmental Leadership Experience for Barry University and Siena Heights University students, May 11-21, 2020.

Feature photo: Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, prunes one of the fruit trees in the permaculture site’s edible forest.

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