In 2019, workers installed more than 5,000 solar panels on Catholic Charities property in Northeast Washington. The solar array, the largest such project in the District of Columbia, was fully operational by the end of January 2020. (CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Launched Aug. 16, the Archdiocese of Washington’s action plan to promote “an integral ecology” includes practical ways that parishes, Catholic schools and institutions, and individuals and families can care for creation, drawing on environmental science and inspired by Catholic social teaching.

After Pope Francis issued his landmark 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development published a document listing seven ways to implement the encyclical.

The dicastery’s document serves as the framework for the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Laudato Si’: Embarking On A Seven-Year Journey Promoting An Integral Ecology” action plan.

Listed below are the Vatican document’s seven ways to carry out what the encyclical teaches.

Each category includes ideas from the archdiocese’s action plan on how Catholics can bring those markers to life in their personal lives and homes or at their parishes, schools and institutions:

— “Response to the cry of the earth: greater use of clean renewable energy and reduction of fossil fuels in order to achieve carbon neutrality efforts to protect and promote biodiversity guaranteeing access to clean water for all.

Possible actions: sealing or caulking around windows and door frames; turning off light sources when not needed; adjusting temperatures to 70 degrees or lower in winter and 80 degrees or higher in summer; lowering water consumption replacing light bulbs with LED bulbs; creating gardens; developing a facilities plan for parishes or schools and action steps to reduce emissions; introducing storm water and pollution reduction methods; beginning a parish or school composting program; and installing solar panels on property.

— “Response to the cry of the poor”: defense of human life from conception to death and all forms of life on earth, with special attention to vulnerable groups such as Indigenous communities, migrant children at risk through slavery, etc.

Possible actions: volunteering to do a parish clean-up; assisting vulnerable persons; supporting charity programs including Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services; contributing food or financial donations to your parish food pantry; developing or expanding parish emergency funds to help individuals with energy, water and other bills; and volunteering with a local clean the waterways project.

— “Ecological economics”: sustainable production, fair trade, ethical consumption, ethical investments, divestment from fossil fuels and any economic activity harmful to the planet and the people, investment in renewable energy, etc.

Possible actions: reducing food waste; reducing meat-based meals; starting a home garden; composting food scraps; buying locally produced and prepared food; buying fair-trade and sustainably-produced food; and starting a parish garden.

— Adoption of a simple lifestyle: sobriety (intense focus) in the use of resources and energy, avoid single-use plastic, adopt a more plant-based diet and reduce meat consumption, greater use of public transport and avoid polluting modes of transportation, etc.

Possible actions: cutting down or eliminating single-use plastic such as water bottles; buying fewer nonessential items; cutting down or eliminating foam-based food containers; encouraging recycling, wasting less and avoiding throwing away food whenever possible; driving less; and taking time to pray and give thanks.

— Ecological education: rethink and redesign educational curricula and educational institution reform in the spirit of integral ecology to create ecological awareness and action, promoting the ecological vocation of young people, teachers and leaders of education, etc.

Possible actions: organizing local environmental educational trips; finding nature preserves in the area; expanding parish and school libraries with resources promoting the vision of “Laudato Si'”; incorporating church teaching on care for the environment into faith formation programs; and involving parish religious education programs, youth ministries and Catholic schools in living out the teachings of “Laudato Si’.”

— Ecological spirituality: recover a religious vision of God’s creation, encourage greater contact with the natural world in a spirit of wonder, praise, joy, and gratitude, promote creation-centered liturgical celebrations, develop catechesis prayer, retreats, formation, etc.

Possible actions: homilies on pro-life values and integration of Catholic social and moral teaching regarding care for creation; participating in the annual archdiocesan “Green Mass”; bringing in expert speakers for conversations at parish or school events; and offering parish and school events and formation opportunities promoting the church’s teaching on climate change and social, racial and environmental justice.

— Emphasis on community involvement and participatory action: to care for creation at the local, regional, national and international levels (promote advocacy and people’s campaigns, encourage rootedness in local territory and neighborhood ecosystems, etc.)

Possible actions: using parish and Catholic school communications, including social media, to spread the message of “Laudato Si'” and put its teachings into action; form parish social concerns teams that focus on integral ecology; engage ministries and groups in collaborative ecological efforts; connect with other parishes through the Washington archdiocesan Care for Creation Committee; and connect to interfaith groups focusing on environmental advocacy.

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Staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, prepared this story.

In this 2019 photo, then-Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington joins students at St. Mary’s School in Landover Hills, Md., in planting a tree in celebration of the school’s 65th anniversary. On Aug. 16, 2021, the Washington Archdiocese launched an action plan to encourage local Catholics, parishes, schools and other institutions to implement Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si'” encyclical on caring for the environment. (CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard)