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June 24, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – In their quarterly update on sustainability and permaculture efforts at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse, Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Joel Henricks, and Jared Aslakson spoke of the progress on summertime projects at the Adrian campus.
In the fifth year of living out the Congregation’s 2016 General Chapter Enactment on Sustainability, the focus is on changing beliefs about Earth and our relationships to creation. “This leads to changed practices,” said Sister Corinne, Director of the Office of Sustainability.
Sister Corinne reviewed sustainability practices in six sectors: food, transportation, waste, energy, and land relationships. “If we can reduce our waste, we’re assisting Earth to heal and restore herself,” she said.
Sister Corinne recommended periodically conducting a waste audit. “Pay attention to what’s coming into your house, what you can’t put into your recycling bin, and how you can replace it,” she said. For example, some people have started to use shampoo and soap bars rather than buying shampoo and soap in plastic bottles. “We don’t have to be perfect, but try to lower how much plastic you use,” she said.
Joel, Director of Facilities and Grounds, gave an update on the restoration of the storm water retention pond on the Motherhouse grounds. The project has involved installing pipes so that the water can be drained slowly, then removing the muck and deepening the pond. The purpose of this project, Joel said in an earlier update, is to restore the pond and bring it back to a healthy ecosystem.
The summer projects also include installing a solar array in the field behind the Motherhouse to produce energy for the campus. That project has begun with removing certain trees around the perimeter of the field. “For every tree we cut down we’ll plant another tree on campus,” Joel said. “We’re really committed to not causing more harm.” Hopes are for the project to be completed by the end of July, he said.
Jared, Permaculture Specialist, spoke of a number of projects that he is undertaking in the summer, including work on the trees in the orchard to keep them free of insects; planting oats and rye seed in the vegetable garden to keep nutrients in the soil and prevent erosion; and planting a new pollinator garden.
Jared also reported on new beehives in the Permaculture section. “At any given time, we have 50,000 to 60,000 bees, constantly refreshed,” he said. “Our bees are very healthy, harvesting a lot of nectar.”
With all the many projects he has undertaken in the Permaculture area, Jared said he has learned an important lesson. “Absolutely nothing will happen in the right time,” he said. “You just roll with it because that’s all you can do. It’s been fun. It’s been definitely a learning experience.”
Watch the entire video below.
March 18, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – While the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped many activities around the world, it has not put a stop to the efforts to move forward in sustainability and the permaculture practices at the Motherhouse Campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, and Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of Sustainability, gave an update of their efforts during a March 10, 2021 presentation.
Permaculture is an “ethical design system for human habitations and land use that emphasizes sustainability, integration, and cooperation with – as opposed to domination of – natural systems.” Jared spoke of big and small changes in the Congregation’s permaculture site:
While the permaculture site’s system of composting through the use of worms has been successful, Jared will begin a system of orchard composting to benefit the trees and shrubs on the site. This system uses ground leaves, wood chips, hay, and similar organic matter. “I’m looking for composting by fungi – slower, steadier, and more stable,” he explained.
In April, Jared said, he will take on “60,000 busy interns” as the Permaculture site acquires two bee hives.
With the approval of the Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Jared hopes to conduct small controlled burns in the rain gardens and pollinator gardens. “This is a very efficient way” to maintain the health of the gardens, he said.
In her update on sustainability, Sister Corinne noted the Congregation’s continued efforts to reduce the use of energy on the Motherhouse Campus. “During the COVID time we’ve had to take a step back from implementing a lot of our sustainable practices, but we’ve been able to keep on track in the LED light replacement program.” The project of replacing the more traditional lighting system with LED lights – which are more energy efficient – is about 80 percent complete, Sister Corinne said.
Sister Corinne also noted that global climate change is still a threat to the planet. “There’s really no time for complacency,” she said. “Each day, each decision counts as we find new ways to lighten our usage of fossil fuels.” Consumer choices make a difference including, among other ways, reducing the use of plastics. Corinne said she has found particular bar soaps that can be used as shampoo – to replace the shampoo that comes in plastic bottles.
On a larger scale, Sister Corinne spoke to the Sowing Hope for the Planet initiative of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) – an organization of the primary elected leaders of the congregations of Catholic women religious around the world – in collaboration with the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Through this initiative, Catholic Sisters around the world can upload information about their own sustainability efforts and initiatives. This allows congregations such as the Adrian Dominican Sisters to “partner with other like-minded organizations to find ways to meet the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor,” Corinne said.
See the complete presentation by watching the video below.
Feature photo (top): Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, uses a scythe to work on the permaculture land at the Adrian Dominican Sister Motherhouse.