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The Office of the Chaplain is calling for campus ministries to make strides towards a greener Penn.

Credit: Lulu Wang

The Penn Religious Communities Council is teaming up with Penn’s Environmental Sustainability Director Dan Garofalo to discuss ways to make campus ministries be more green.

While the Office of the Chaplain had initially planned to issue a green challenge to the ministries for a duration of two months, it decided instead to encourage the ministries to consult with Garofalo and find ways to save energy that are best suited to their unique situations.

“It’s a half notch less formal than we were making it out to be at first, but we realized that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution because some ministries are housed in their own buildings, but many just meet in a room a couple times a week, and some groups meet and worship off campus,” University Chaplain Chaz Howard said. “We want this to be an open-ended call to be more green, as opposed to a challenge that will just end after two months.”

After Garofalo’s presentation, many showed interest and began making concrete action steps to reduce energy or resource consumption. One of the Christian ministries decided to bring and reuse plates, silverware and glasses at every one of its food events instead of buying and dumping disposables. “It’s an easy thing to do, it’ll save money and is fantastic for the environment,” Howard said.

The Chaplain of the Muslim Student Association Kameelah Rashad said that she also plans to ask students and community members to make small changes that will go a long way. “Something as simple as not leaving the water on for the ablutions before the daily prayers, or asking people to bring their own utensils during the month of Ramadan when we feed people every night aligns with the tradition of the prophet, which emphasized simplicity and mindfulness,” Rashad said. “We have a hand in shaping the future of conservation, and the best way to bring those reminders to the Muslim community is to emphasize that it is aligned with our faith, and it always has been the case that we should not take more than our share, that we care about future generations and about the land.”

Rashad also plans to be mindful of consumption during big events that MSA has coming up this semester, such as the annual MSA Winter Wonderland, a free skating event. “There’s going to be treats and hot chocolate, and we’re going to ask people to bring their own mugs, and we’re going to think of ways to reuse materials and containers we already have.”

For the skeptics, Howard considers an important question: Does this really make a difference?

“Does one Jewish or Muslim or Christian student cutting down their shower time, powering down their computer, riding a bike instead of a car make a huge difference? Maybe not,” Howard said. “But if all of Hillel or Newman, if an entire religious fellowship, if all of the religious groups that make up a big portion of our campus try to do something environmentally positive, it’s a big deal.”

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