Care of creation is a priority for the Springfield Dominicans. Energy efficiency and environmental responsibility are at the top of the list whenever we are researching a piece of new equipment or a construction or renovation proposal. In addition, in 2011 the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois as a corporate entity became a member of the Green Business Network of Springfield (GBNS). GBNS is a network of firms and organizations within the Springfield area working together to develop a community of excellence and sustainability. Working with GBNS will enable us to assess how "green" we are, provide steps to become greener, track the environmental benefits of our actions, and eventually certify us based on steps we've taken to improve.
For most members of GBNS, going green is seen as a good business decision. For us, it is a good way to learn more about the "greening process,"' and to do something concretely to live more sustainably here at our Motherhouse. This is in keeping with the direction statement from our Chapter of 2009, which reads, in part:
"As vowed Dominican women....we embrace as a moral imperative the need to help restore wholeness to creation...we commit ourselves to choose and practice specific actions on a local level so as to live more sustainably."
Prior to joining GBNS, the Motherhouse community had already put several sustainable practices in place: recycling; using CFL's; purchasing more eco-friendly paper products and cleaning supplies; and encouraging use of cold water for washing clothes.
Recently, through our connections with GBNS, we have been able to add alkaline batteries to our list of recyclables. In addition several outlets have been identified for recycling used electronics (including computers and accessories, cell phones, TVs, etc.) and small home appliances (coffee makers, toasters, hair dryers, etc.) All recyclers have a no landfill policy on recyclable materials.
In the kitchen we have installed a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle in the area of the dishwasher. With less water flowing at a higher velocity, fewer gallons can be used to achieve the same goal: this enables us to both save money and conserve water.
Early in 2011, we engaged a consulting firm to do a comprehensive energy audit of the entire Motherhouse complex. The audit revealed the 1965 vintage boiler system operating at less that 60% efficiency, unstable temperature control in many areas, and energy losses due to inefficient use of lighting. We made a major overhaul of our heating/cooling system and the domestic hot water system. We made temperature control upgrades and installed occupancy sensors throughout the complex. These measures made financial savings as well as annual energy savings equivalent to 992 metric tons of CO2 (comparable to the emissions from 194.3 cars per year).
Another new project was brought about with the help of Abby Walden, a student at UIS. Abby wanted to gain some hands-on experience while working on her master project in environmental studies. Since we had been unable to send our compost material to Jubilee Farm for quite some time, Abby encouraged us to do our own composting on the Motherhouse grounds. Our landscaping director, Philip Galloway, is very interested in vermiculture (worm composting). Because of their efforts, we now have six compost tumblers and a worm factory. The motherhouse community proudly proclaim to live out their commitment to "choose and practice specific actions on a local level so as to live more sustainably."