Sisters Launch ‘Refuse to Use’ Campaign
Say No to Single-Use Plastics
Twenty-three congregations of Catholic Sisters serving in Illinois will observe Catholic Sisters Week March 8–14 with a challenge: do not consume beverages from single-use plastic bottles. “We are taking advantage of the annual observance of Catholic Sisters Week to educate, inform, and act to end plastic waste through a Refuse to Use campaign,” said Marcelline Koch, OP, the justice promoter for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.
According to National Geographic, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flow into the oceans every year, nearly half the plastic ever made has been manufactured since 2020, and less than one fifth of all plastic is recycled globally. The impact of plastic in the ocean and in the waste stream is devastating for all life. Its manufacture contributes annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 57 average size coal-fired power plants. “It’s time to rethink what we drink,” said Mila Díaz Solano, OP (Springfield), who convened the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) Region 8 to plan for this event.
The production of polluting waste is only one part of the story. The life cycle of single-use plastic bottles—from the point of manufacture to what they are filled with and how they are disposed of—demonstrates the concerns Catholic Sisters have for three gospel-based challenges facing the world: racism, migration, and climate change.
For example, Coca Cola, the world’s largest seller of soda, often builds its polluting plants in poor neighborhoods most often inhabited by persons of color, engages in unfair labor practices that sometimes take advantage of immigrants; pollutes local waterways; and produces tons of microplastic pollution that harms the oceans, the soil, and our bodies. “When you understand this, you can see how one issue of gospel justice is connected to the next,” said Marcelline. To draw attention to these interlinked global challenges, Catholic Sisters are inviting the public to refuse to use any single-use plastic drink bottles during March 8–14 and beyond.
The “Refuse to Use” campaign is a collaboration among the leadership, global concerns committees, and communicators for the 23 participating religious communities. It will be launched with a graphic of a crushed water bottle superimposed with an image of Earth and the words “The empty bottle will stick around for about 1,000 years after you are done with it. It will outlast your children and their children, and their children, and their children . . .” Sisters encourage sharing the graphic in breakrooms, on beverage dispensing machines, and anywhere possible to build awareness and encourage participation. Participating are members of LCWR Region 8 Illinois and the Adrian (MI) Dominicans, Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa (WI), and School Sisters of Notre Dame Atlantic Midwest Province.