Jay Vanice and Bruce Shaw of Lights There discuss the switch to LED at Central Catholic with administrator Mike Pinder. (Michelle MacKinnon/Catholic Sentinel)
Jay Vanice and Bruce Shaw of Lights There discuss the switch to LED at Central Catholic with administrator Mike Pinder. (Michelle MacKinnon/Catholic Sentinel)
" Through a focus on local realities and on the diversity of the region, the Church is strengthened in its opposition to the globalization of indifference. " – Pope Francis in Laudato Si’
In Laudato Si’, a 2015 encyclical on the environment and humans, Pope Francis writes that the problem of volatile climate shifts and dwindling natural resources is difficult to dismiss in light of the fact that only 1 in 100 scientists rejects the consensus of human-caused global warming. Still, the question of cause arises in the public forum through discourse marked by maelstrom. Culprit aside, earth’s malady is far from healed, so better questions might be: Where do we begin? What feels right in your community?

On any given school day, you can find garden specialist Marc Boucher-Colbert approaching the solution with what he calls “natural logic.” Each week a rotating crop of students joins Boucher-Colbert to plant and tend the thriving organic gardens on the 10-acre Southeast Portland campus of Franciscan Montessori Earth School. Before long, students harvest, cook, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Franciscan Montessori donates surplus produce to nearby St. Joseph the Worker Parish. To complete the cycle, food scraps return to the garden as compost.

Parents looking for ways to foster environmental consciousness can let their children’s taste buds be their guide. Boucher-Colbert believes one can start to heal the earth by undoing some of the self-harm caused by consuming processed and out of season foods. Something as simple as the taste of a fresh in-season tomato can be a good start. Students recently planted tomato starts. When it’s time to feast on the vine ripened harvest, Boucher-Colbert invites the young stewards to consider what a real tomato tastes like. According to Boucher-Colbert, once students get a taste of season appropriate sustenance, they no longer want lackluster off-season crops. Therein lies the magic as winter-grown tomatoes and out-of-season agriculture at large is environmentally unsustainable and harmful to our common home. With 16-years as organic micro-farm to table program specialist for pre-K through middle school, Boucher-Colbert’s natural logic is grounded by practical wisdom. “If you grow it and love it, you’ll want to protect it. You’ll want it around you and your kids.”

“The developed countries ought to help pay their ecological debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy.” – Laudito Si’

Meanwhile, across town at Central Catholic High School, facilities director Mike Pinder continues work on another bright solution to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. Following-up on pre-pandemic plans, Pinder is working with LED solutions company Lights There. The company’s Bruce Shaw and Jay Vanice recently visited one of the school’s gyms to discuss a major progressive switch. Pinder says the plan to replace fluorescent lighting with LED fixtures is moving forward. According to Shaw, the students and staff soon will bask in the glow of 40-60 % less energy consumption. At least 100 fluorescents hang in the school’s two gyms alone. Shaw eyes each 54-watt fluorescent for retirement in favor of motion-sensing 26-watt LED fixtures.

“LEDs are pretty adaptable. It’s the future,” he says.

For Pinder, going green is not only a matter of good housekeeping but smart business too. “The project will pay for itself in a little less than five years. By upgrading our gyms it will be the equivalent of removing one car or 10-tons of CO2 from the environment. When we finish the whole school, it will be the equivalent of 10 cars or 67-tons of CO2,” he says.

Energy Trust of Oregon will contribute more than $10,000 against the total cost as incentive. Not to be outshined, Pinder and team are already looking ahead to further combat the rising costs of energy with solar power. Though ideological support is there, short of a massive grant award, the school may need to fundraise for the project, estimated at half a million dollars, but the upside according to Pinder is priceless. “At some point in the not-too-distant future, we could reduce or possibly eliminate our dependency on the power grid,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

Pinder is no stranger to conservation initiatives. He follows a legacy of green-action minded families, including his own at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northeast Portland. Bereft of substantial recycling opportunities in the 1970s, the Pinder family collaborated on a tin and newspaper recycling program with little more than 55-gallon bins on-site. Parish members dropped-off their tuna cans, which were exchanged at the metal recyclers, now known as Metro Metal, and proceeds were donated to the church. It seems that while it’s not always easy being green, it is a way of thinking that can easily transfer to all corners of life.

For those who are looking for green ways to save money, Pinder has the scoop there too. Portland’s Bottle Drop includes a Plus program which offers a 20% bonus to those who apply the card balance of $50 or more at select grocers.