Left: Sisters Ricca Dimalibot and Kim-Phuong Tran sort trash to identify opportunities to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills. Right: Sister Mary McHale sorts trash during the Waste Audit to identify opportunities to obtain zero waste at Villa de Matel.

On March 7, Zero Waste Strategies of Austin guided the Sisters through a waste audit at Villa de Matel. It involved discovering the type and quantity of waste generated on the Villa de Matel grounds. The audit’s purpose is to identify opportunities for waste reduction which leads to institutional change that promotes sustainable practices and reduces financial and material resources.

Zero waste encourages the redesign of disposing items for reuse and is diverting 90% of waste. The goal is for the minimum amount of trash to be sent to landfills. Zero Waste also emphasizes waste prevention as opposed to waste management. The audit is part of the Sisters of Charity’s implementation of its Corporate Stance on the Environment, adopted in 2018.

On Wednesday, March 6, the company conducted focus group interviews about the practices of the employees and Sisters at the Villa. They also shared information on the waste audit process. On March 7, the audit process took place with the help of Sisters and employees who volunteered to sort trash. Employees from the Villa’s nursing, dietary and housekeeping departments participated and provided insight into opportunities to reduce or discontinue single-use items on the campus. Zero Waste Strategies provided training, safety gear and all the equipment to conduct the audit.

When asked how she was feeling during the audit as she sorted trash, Sister Ricca Dimalibot said, “What was going through my mind at that time was how humbled I felt by digging through trash, by the smell, by the ickiness of the task especially because I am part of what made that heap of trash.

There are parts of the world, like the Philippines where I’m originally from, where there are people who make a living scavenging through trash and forced to do that because of abject poverty. It calls me to look into what personal sacrifice I can make every day as a small expression of caring for the earth and its people. I believe that this audit provides me with that opportunity and more.”

Left: Sr. Kim-Phuong Tran and Monica Hatcher, Director of Social Concerns, sort trash during the Waste Audit. Right: Villa Associates Herbert James and Jim Kubin of the maintenance department sort trash in the Waste Audit.

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