Iris Legal and Mariel de Jesus
Young Jesuits in Cambodia and the Philippines are initiating and practicing environmental management within their houses, seriously responding to the call of “getting their act together” so they can be more credible in engaging with broader environmental concerns in society.
Prieb So, Cambodia
Prieb So, translated as the “white dove,” is the residence of Jesuit priests, brothers, and friends in Phnom Penh. Fr Gabriel Je, SJ heads the house, which was built in 2009. Fr Mardi Widayat, SJ was also appointed as house minister at that time and he is responsible for starting the “greening.”
Cultural and sustainable “green” design was integrated in constructing the house. Although the house is made of concrete, Cambodian culture is evident in the architecture, especially the garden pool and bridge, which has lotus and vegetables growing at the side. The wide windows, open hallways, and skylight give opportunities to appreciate nature, and the natural light and ventilation allow for energy conservation and efficiency.
In April 2010, Fr Mardi together with Scholastic Mark Lopez, SJ set up a segregation and compost system. In this system, kitchen wastes are disposed directly into compost bins, while recyclables and non-biodegradable are separated. The system continues now with the whole community participating.
The compost bins have plastic receptacles set up at least one foot above the ground. The receptacles are covered with removable lids to facilitate the decomposition process and keep the compost fly and odour-free. A tap or plug at the bottom of the bin makes it possible to drain off excess liquid. A layer of bedding materials is placed inside the bins in this sequence: stone lining at the bottom, then kitchen wastes such as peelings, leaves, and others, then rice husks on top. The main “ingredients” that help to manage the odour and absorb the excess liquids are the rice husks. The composting bins are strictly “vegetarian” and no cooked food is disposed in these bins.
Thrice a week, the compost is turned over and mixed. After the bin is filled, it is left to decompose becomes compost in six to eight weeks. Fr Mardi religiously monitors these compost bins and collects the liquids from the compost, which he uses to fertilize the plants around the house. Aside from the diluted liquids, he uses the compost to fertilize the plants. Fr Mardi also dries the compost by exposing to sunlight and air, before applying it to the plants.
Such simple gestures may have limited impact. Yet, through these actions, the Jesuit people at Prieb So set an example and make a strong statement: “Yes, we do care and work ecologically, in our backyard, and hopefully, can inspire others.”
Loyola House of Studies (LHS), Philippines
Jesuit scholastics of the LHS community located in the Ateneo de Manila University Campus in Quezon City embarked on a series of environmental initiatives to raise awareness about community lifestyle and house management.
The initiative began with a group of junior philosophers who shared a common interest in the environment. It was not a highly organized project because they were basically new to the field, and the group was largely informal, with projects few and far between. Most of those who were in the group signed up for a summer apostolate, while others were assigned to the Environmental Science for Social Change (a Jesuit research institute in the Philippines) and were previously involved in activities of the institute.
The current group is made up of mostly theologians, with one from the first studies sub-community. Two regents were very active last year, which was when there was renewed interest to address environmental issues. This renewed initiative or “second wind,” was prompted by the mandate of General Congregation (GC) 35, where for the first time, environment and ecology were given more emphasis. GC 35 also encouraged a more proactive engagement with these issues. This was further fuelled by the document “Healing a Broken World,” which serves as a guiding document for activities focused on the environment.
Working from the adage “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” the scholastics are conducting a waste audit for a two-week period. This survey will enable them obtain data on the amount and types of waste generated by the community. They will also include information on the frequency of garbage collection and whether segregation is practiced at the end-point of waste collection.
In line with their solid waste management efforts, they are also undertaking a small-scale composting activity. At present, they are doing “backyard” composting, pending the identification of an appropriate site that will be used for the long-term. Site identification is ongoing, but the scholastics admit that it will take further planning for the composting program to take off.
Aside from the waste management, the scholastics are also focusing on greening activities. They are currently recovering and rehabilitating the seedlings that were planted during the last school year. Due to other summer activities and duties, some of the seedlings perished, but new seedlings are already being germinated. A few years ago, the scholastics conducted a tree-planting activity in San Juan, Batangas. Their rector approved their proposal to revisit that site to conduct another round of tree planting. The scholastics are also implementing small-scale projects, such as seed collection, seed banking, germination, and propagation.
Despite the fact that these environment initiatives are not a mainstream focus of the Philippine Province, it is encouraging to see the fervour and zeal in the young Jesuits. Recently, they put up the first issue of Green Jesuits, an online magazine where they share their initiatives and experiences. This advocacy stems from a true love and concern for the environment, and a commitment to this new dimension of the Jesuit mission.