As a community of faith, your church likely values good stewardship of the earth. One great stride toward significantly lowering waste production and making more sustainable choices is to reduce the use of plastic. There are a few things church leaders can do to encourage this decision and set themselves up for success.
Support Certification Courses for Volunteers
Reducing plastic essentially means finding alternatives for the convenient disposable items your church is accustomed to using. For example, replace plastic cutlery with reusable knives, forks and spoons. Reusable items that touch food, however, must also be cleaned before they are stored. Before you can make this change, there must be a system in place to ensure that it is done safely.
Your hospitality team is probably already aware of the certifications they need to host meals on the church property. As you get ready to eliminate single-use plastics, there may be additional courses they would find helpful. Providing the opportunity for these valuable resources is a good way to communicate that the church's commitment to action is real and not just lip service.
Update the Recycling Program
One of the most difficult changes for churches to make is reducing or eliminating the use of plastic garbage bags. You can start by choosing greener options, of course, but ultimately success will depend on your ability to significantly reduce the amount of trash you produce overall. Start by updating your recycling program. If you don't already have a creation care or recycling team, consider forming one to focus on this issue. The team can both encourage the congregation to be more mindful about what items they throw in the trash that could easily be recycled and also take responsibility for maintaining the bins. There are several initiatives they can start to educate members:
- Composting containers in restrooms for paper towel disposal
- Programs on single-stream vs. sorted recycling
- More conveniently located bins throughout the facility
- Revision suggestions for supply purchases to minimize plastic choices
Collect Reusable Options
Reusable grocery bags are a simple adjustment to make. Designate a storage space in the church kitchen for bags that can be used instead of plastic options when the hospitality team needs to do a grocery run. Chances are good that many members have an extra bag or two already in their possession that they would be happy to donate to the church. It probably won't take more than a week or two to have more than enough reusable bags so that you never have to use plastic ones again.
The same concept can be applied to other items. Instead of buying single-use storage bags or containers, invest in a reusable collection. Use beeswax wrap instead of plastic covering for dishes. Remind guests to bring their own reusable cups to events rather than handing out plastic water bottles. Every little change can make a difference.
Buy in Bulk
There are several benefits to buying in bulk for items that you use often. Not only do you typically get a better price per unit, but you can also reduce packaging materials, many of which are plastic. Some product options even eliminate plastic packaging altogether. For example, there are several companies that sell bamboo toilet paper for your facility. You can set the size and frequency of your order and have it shipped directly to the church. You can probably find an option for many products that significantly lower or replace plastic packaging simply by purchasing in bulk.
Sustainable choices should not only be encouraged but also empowered by church leadership. Learning how to reduce or eliminate plastic usage helps your whole congregation better understand how to be good stewards of natural resources.