News Item

Bellarmine accepts papal environmental encyclical as call to action

Jun 18, 2015

Bellarmine's 175-acre campus is designated a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The encyclical on the environment released today by Pope Francis is a call for radical and sweeping action to protect our planet's environment.

"In this encyclical, more clearly, directly and powerfully than ever before, Catholic social teaching sheds light on the connection between and among caring for the poor, caring about social justice in the world, and caring for the environment," said Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, Bellarmine’s president. "As many believe from compelling scientific research, a dangerously and rapidly deteriorating earthly environment threatens the health, well being and quality of life of everyone in the world, and especially the poor, in unjust and disproportionate ways. We will receive the encyclical in the open spirit Pope Francis recommends, and as appropriate, will include it as a serious, important teaching and learning resource in the University's ongoing educational reflections and conversations."

McGowan noted that, in 2013, Bellarmine elevated its environmental studies program into its own school, placing it on equal footing with schools of arts and sciences, nursing and health sciences, business, communication, education and professional studies.

"Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change is a welcome invitation to people of faith across the religious traditions to clearly see ourselves as one among millions of species on our planet and to consider our own role in advocating for regulations that will create the systemic change necessary to enable the flourishing of the whole creation," said Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, chair of Bellarmine's theology department. "His call to integrate justice into discussions of the environment provides prophetic leadership for Roman Catholics and lends significant support to ecumenical efforts to address the contemporary intertwined crises of poverty, wealth inequalities, and environmental destruction."

Here are 13 ways Bellarmine University is already addressing conservation issues.

The George G. Brown Center features a geothermal heating system that saves energy by drawing on natural resources, using 88 wells that are each 500 feet deep. This building's restrooms also feature dual flush toilets (solid or liquid) that use reclaimed rainwater rather than city water.

Centro, a transformative campus facility currently under construction, will feature a partial green roof, roof overhangs to reduce heat impact of sunlight, a large atrium lit with daytime sunlight, and recycled carpeting.

The Bellarmine Farm composts campus food waste and grows fresh produce in a demonstration garden.

An emergency phone in Nolen C. Allen Hall’s parking lot draws solar and wind power, enhancing campus safety without energy expense.

Students in the School of Environmental Studies meet with campus administrators to conduct energy audits and propose new conservation measures. Recently implemented student initiatives include a bicycle loan program to reduce local car trips and a new residence hall recycling program.

Students led a survey of the university’s tree canopy to earn Bellarmine recognition as a Tree Campus USA school.

In 2014, the campus reclaimed 52,560 gallons of mixed recyclables and 30 tons of cardboard.

Routine improvements include energy-efficient lighting in the quad and on flagpoles, water bottle refill stations that keep a running tally of plastic bottles saved, campus shuttle buses to discourage cross-campus driving, electric gators to replace fuel-powered ones, and contractor/vendor requirements, such as green cleaning products.

The School of Environmental Studies educates scientists, as well as civic and business leaders, who will lead the region’s sustainability efforts.

Faculty members organize public events and campus lectures, and they serve on the boards of local and statewide conservation groups, including Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light and the Kentucky Conservation Committee.

Students and faculty members share their expertise with the community through K-12 school visits, service projects and consultations for sustainable neighborhood planning.

A student-led food recovery network, founded last year, gathers perishable campus food that would otherwise goes to waste and provides it to community agencies who feed the homeless and others in need.

Campus Ministry’s annual “blessing of the animals” public event in honor of St. Francis of Assisi has garnered more than 100 signatures of support for the Catholic Climate Covenant’s St. Francis Pledge.

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