Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle, restore

Our Mother Earth

By Deacon Tom Cervone, Ph.D., Sister Maureen Houlihan, D.C., and Nicole Cervone-Gish, Ed. M.S.

Editor’s note: This series takes a deeper look at Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si’”

There are simple and economic ways to live an environmentally sensitive and thoughtful lifestyle. For instance, we could rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle and restore. Applying these five R’s will reduce our carbon footprint, promote healthy environments, increase soil fertility, and improve Earth’s air, water, and land.

The Evansville Climate Action Plan (2021) of Vanderburgh County, Indiana (pg. 28) says, “weather records show that Indiana has become warmer and wetter, with more heavy downpours. Indiana scientists have concluded these climate trends will continue and intensify, affecting the health and well-being of all Hoosiers” (Purdue University Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment). As a result, implementing the five R’s is so important.

Rethink could mean to buy local. Michael Shuman (Going Local, 2000) says, “Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally own businesses that use local resources sustainably, employ local workers, and serve local consumers to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports.” Also, we may rethink the mail, food we eat, bags we use, energy use, consuming less, closer vacations and living simpler lives.

Reduce means using less. Many things we have can be donated, and having fewer things can simplify our lives. Kimberly Nicholas (Under the Sky We Make, 2021) says, “Both individual and collective actions, in private and professional life, are needed to reduce emissions toward zero fast (pg.143-144); we will not solve climate change without reducing over consumption from high emitters (pg.145); and if you start by reducing flights, driving and meat, you’ll be having the biggest bang for your climate buck (pg.146).” Buying less is great too.

Reuse is to use something again. For example, using a permanent straw in a permanent water container that can be cleaned. Another example of reusing comes from Chuck Masek, founder of Vanguard Medical Concepts, Inc., where he innovated and developed the reprocessing of medical devices labeled single-use industry. Also, composting converts wastes into mulch or soil, and having products repaired helps the economy and earth.

Recycle is when we sort items at home and business for collection in urban and rural areas, and use these materials again. Some examples are rain barrels to collect rainwater for watering gardens during times of drought; cities having a "Tox Away Day” for safe disposal of household hazardous chemicals; and cities having a recyclable day for electronics. Remember – recyclables should be empty, clean, and dry.

Restore means to make green. For example, let’s restore prairies, forests, wetlands and stream banks; and design complete streets, rain gardens, green roofs and green bridges. Properties should be permeable and park-like with less lawn. In addition, consider growing flowers and vegetables together (foodscaping); and growing trees on managed farms that provide shade and food to livestock and shade to crops (silvopasture). Also, appreciate the great benefits of Evansville’s many parks, the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage and Kentucky’s Green River National Wildlife Refuge along the Ohio River. They all reduce flooding, capture greenhouse gases, cool the air and offer recreational opportunities.

What can we do?


“Now is the time for urgent action. Nature underpins our very existence and livelihoods and is integral to the effective functioning and well-being of urban communities” (Mayor Valérie Plante, City of Montréal, Canada and Global Ambassador for Local Biodiversity of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiative).

Dr. Tom Cervone is a deacon at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Evansville, Indiana with 50 years of experience in ecology. He graduated from St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan University. Sister Maureen Houlihan, D.C. is a support sister on the Seton Harvest Farm started by the Daughters of Charity in response to the Communities - Care of Mother Earth. This CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm grows all natural produce for shareholders and the poor. Nicole Cervone-Gish, Ed. MS. is an award winning ELL (English Language Learner) teacher, who lives in Evansville, Indiana with her family.