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Eco-Justice Team - December 2023

We are entering a time of contemplating and celebrating; of receiving and giving; of waiting and seeing hopes fulfilled. By focusing on all that is important, we can avoid the stress of overconsumption and endless striving. We all have accumulated lists of easy ways to sustainably simplify dining, giving, wrapping, and any other expectation preventing us from peace. Now is the time to employ them.

As we come to the end of a year filled with many kinds of disasters, most of us have learned to more fully appreciate our place in God’s universe. The fullness of life offered to us far outweighs any pleasure brought by a wasteful and thoughtless lifestyle. Just look at the new spirit among us with our Matthew 25 commitment and RIP Medical Debt project!

And here’s some cheerful news to welcome in the New Year! Many businesses, from new start-ups to big corporations, are exploring innovative ways to mitigate or slow the dangers of climate change. is a Chinese online food provider, similar to DoorDash or UberEats, which found success with a “green nudge.” By simply asking, “Do you want utensils with that,” they found that no-cutlery orders increased by 648%. Here in the US, a Vermont utility, Green Mountain Power, has petitioned its regulatory agency for permission to install back-up batteries in customers’ homes. Customers would lease the batteries, which would be programmed to soak up power from wind and solar sources, then release it when needed. The company believes it would be cheaper than the cost of repairing or installing power lines. And finally, coffee-loving scientists at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have been experimenting with adding charred coffee grounds to concrete. The resulting building material is 30% stronger, and presumably longer lasting. No word yet on how it smells in the Australian sun.

And so, “God bless us, everyone!”

Eco Justice Committee reports on a field trip . . . .

In October a group of church members visited the Penn Forest Natural Burial Park to learn more about green burial. What is "green burial" exactly? Also called natural burial, green burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. Its main requirement are that caskets or burial shrouds must be biodegradable. Toxic embalming fluids are prohibited and burial vaults are not used. Grave markers, if desire, are made from local stone or wood and placed flat to the ground.

Penn Forest, the only exclusively green cemetery in Western Pennsylvania, is located on 35 acres in Penn Hills, and is both a natural area and a cemetery. Trails meander through the forest and naturalists restore the site by planting native meadow grasses, wildflowers, and trees. In fact, a "treemation" is even a possibility, wherein a deceased loved one's ashes are used to help nurture a new tree as it is planted.

Next door, Returning Home Farm is home to goats, ducks, sheep and a mule on land owned by the nonprofit cemetery. Other features of the land include a scattering garden, for spreading cremated remains, if desired, along with an awareness tree for those who have experienced pregnancy loss. A meditation hut has been built on the cemetery grounds and provides space to look over the forest and reflect. Laura Fassel is the manager of the cemetery and was our host. She would be glad to answer any questions individuals may have about green burial.

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