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Archdiocese of Montreal commits to a greener workplace

Brian McDonough (left) of the Social Action Office and Mary Jane Doherty of the printing shop, who was one of the pioneers of the greening movement at diocesan headquarters. (Photo: IERACI)The Archdiocese of Montreal has decided to do its part in creating a greener work environment and signed up as a member of the Green Church Program.

Having embraced several green practices since the late 1990s, the diocesan head office, located at 2000 Sherbrooke St. West, decided to take a more definitive step this year.

The Green Church  Program is a national, ecumenical initiative, run by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, which helps church organizations reduce their carbon footprint.

Montreal is the first archdiocese in Canada to join Green Church. In 2008, however, the Diocese of Nicolet set up a pastoral project in collaboration with Green Church to help raise awareness about environmental concerns in its territory.

Brian McDonough, director of the Social Action Office for the Archdiocese of Montreal, says the environmental awareness initiative at headquarters is a grassroots movement.

"Many of us (employees) have been aware of the need to change our lifestyle because it's destroying the Earth," says McDonough.

Greening efforts at the downtown head office began in the 1990s by recycling paper, opting for non-toxic paint and brewing only fair-trade coffee.

CREATING A GREENER WORKPLACE

Within the last six years, the organization has doubled its efforts and cruised a long way in its recycling to add batteries, ink cartridges and computer equipment to the usual tin, plastic, glass and aluminum items.

The maintenance crew shifted to biodegradable cleaning products. The use of Styrofoam cups and plastic water bottles is progressively being eliminated; water pitchers are now on hand to discourage the use of plastic water bottles.

The result of these practices has been evident in the amount of trash the head office has been putting out each week. Trash has been reduced from 30 bags to eight, and about four containers of recycling are collected weekly.

Every department has done its share in establishing a greener workplace, mainly by trying to reduce the use of paper, says McDonough, who chairs the in-house seven-member Comité virage vert set up this year.

However, it was the printing and housekeeping departments that spearheaded the movement and have been at the lead for the past 15 years or so, he emphasizes.

"Many things in the building come through us. We saw what was getting thrown out and we thought we could do something about it," says Luc Pilotte, head of maintenance. "There is also our personal conviction in all of this. This is an important movement and we have to get on board. And, well, someone had to take charge."

Last year, with a grant from Hydro Quebec, Pilotte replaced five per cent of the light fixtures to more energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs. The replacement of all of the light fixtures will be progressive, he says. Pilotte also had the old gas-fired furnace replaced with a thermal efficiency boiler in 2006. 

McDonough says the greening project at the diocesan head office is still in the early stages but hopes this decision will rub off on parishes. To date, 16 of Montreal's 207 parishes have made a definitive commitment to the environment as members of the Green Church Program.

SUPPORT FROM HIERARCHY

The employee initiative has been well-received and supported by the hierarchy.

"We are happy to take our Christian mission as stewards of creation seriously. It's the dignity of this divine creation that calls us to respect the environment," says Msgr. André Tiphance, vicar general.

"If we want ecological practices to become more widespread, it seems important for us to develop an educational approach. Far be it from us to impose changes for the collective well-being," he said. "There is no 'green policy' at the diocesan head office... just lots of collective goodwill."

In addition to developing a greater awareness among colleagues, the Comité virage vert has already identified greening actions for the near future:  installing motion-sensor lights in the restrooms, encouraging employees to switch off office lights during the lunch period, purchasing environmentally friendly disposable dishware for large gatherings, and installing a bike rack in an effort to encourage employees to cycle rather than drive to work.

 

Jennifer De Freitas and Laura Ieraci

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