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Environment Program

To you the Earth yields her fruit, and
you shall not want if you know how to fill your hands.
It is in exchanging the gifts of the Earth
that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.
Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice,
it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.

(Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

Over 250 people use the Saint Columba House building daily to participate in a wide range of community programs, to obtain services or to participate as volunteers. This high use can generate a good deal of garbage, energy use and clean-up requirements. However, it can also create wonderful opportunities for education, participation and volunteerism. Through our work on the “Environment Program” at Saint Columba House, we have chosen to focus on the latter, consulting, educating and involving citizens from the community in the many initiatives we have taken to promote environmentalism.

Salsa corner

As an organization on the cutting edge of emerging needs and innovative responses, Saint Columba House has taken a leadership role in our community and within The United Church of Canada to promote a campaign to improve environmental practices. We are greatly inspired by the call of the Gospel to live faithfully in the midst of Empire, which in today’s world means not only living in harmony and equality with other human beings, but also with nature, its various species and its ecological diversity and fragility. This implies change at the personal level, organizational and institutional level.

Vegetables from Saint Columba House

Phase 1 of this initiative began in 2006 at Saint Columba House when we evaluated our current ecological practices and set some concrete goals that have since been achieved. These include:

  • Development of Community Partnerships with local environmental organizations
  • Installing a composting system to process over 2,000 pounds of kitchen refuse annually
  • Improving recycling practices to deal with clothing, toxic products, 700 milk cartons weekly, ink cartridges and batteries, as well as paper, plastics and other materials.
  • Use of reusable washable kitchen ware, eliminating 20,000 styrofoam cups annually and a considerable amount of paper and plastic. Implementing a garbage-free policy for all community and fundraising events (no throw-away plates, utensils, cups, while raising awareness etc.)
  • Conversion to biodegradable cleaning products compatible with cold water.
  • Conversion to Fair Trade coffee.
  • Practice of ecological consumerism taking into account energy efficiency, reduced and recyclable packaging and the voluntary simplicity principle of “Do we really need it?”
  • Building retrofits including repairs to windows so they latch properly, replacement of old doors for airtight insulated ones, installation of a Tekmar device to regulate heat distribution, plans to undertake an energy audit in summer 2008.
  • Introduction of environmental education in many of our programs, including a public information board with creative ideas and concrete suggestions for ecological life-style changes.
  • Collective Gardening projects developed at Saint Columba House, demonstrating balcony and in-ground organic gardening techniques, while promoting food security and building community.
  • Promotion of healthy life-styles and environmental awareness.
  • Installation of a bicycle rack outside our building to promote cycling to work.

The Green Church Project

Due to the success of our initiatives to promote responsible environmental practices at Saint Columba House, we reached out to the wider community and church with the Green Church Project, working in partnership with other United Church ministries (United Ministries in French – UMIF, Montreal City Mission and the Montreal Presbytery Justice and Global Ecumenical Relations Committee). The Green Church Project seeks to engage churches and other ministry sites in a process to address their ecological practices by developing Green Teams to take up the challenge and to share what they learn with other sites. To date, the Green Church Project team has created a web-page ( that provides resources, inspiration and links to help churches along the way. We have also initiated a pilot project with 8 ministry sites that will work intentionally over the next 6 months to achieve their goals and share their experience with others. We have managed to raise sufficient funds to hire an animator to oversee and provide leadership to this work. This initiative originated at Saint Columba House, and we continue to work on the oversight team of the Green Church Project.