St. Mary of the Hills is a small Episcopal Church located in the quaint village of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Our church is home to a diverse congregation of 300 folks made up of both year-round and seasonal people. Throughout priest changes and membership changes, a core group of parishioners has been determinedly steadfast in educating our congregation about Creation and our responsibility as Christians to care for it. We have done this through education forums using study guides from the Northwest Earth Institute and celebrating the Creation Cycle during the last eight weeks of Pentecost when we focus on the creation through hymns, homilies, and prayers.
Several years ago, our Environmental Concerns Ministry decided it was time to start putting our preaching into practice and we began using non-disposables for all our events. The next step was to start a recycling program, which is starting to catch on. We still find ourselves sifting through the trash and hauling out recyclables, but we’re getting better.
Last year, we decided to go to the next level and make our big fund-raiser, The Tour of Homes, a Zero Waste event. This took lots of education and working closely with the food committees to make sure all foods and packaging could be recycled or composted. It was quite successful and most of what was used was indeed composted or recycled. We did the Zero Waste Tour again this year with even more success and more cooperation from all involved in the tour.
Now we are going even deeper in our efforts to make St. Mary’s a Zero Waste Parish. We are making all of our events Zero Waste. We also recycle the mail at our post office in Blowing Rock. Due to financial constraints, the post office was no longer recycling the junk mail making its way into our mailboxes. Our environmental committee decided to take this job on as a community service, so three times a week, volunteers go to the post office and empty the junk mail bins and recycle the contents at our local recycling site. This effort usually gets a lot of attention from folks frequenting the post office while we are there, and many offer to help and many more say thank you. I think it’s safe to say that St. Mary of the Hills is on its way to becoming a parish that truly practices stewardship of God’s creation.
This Cool Congregations story was submitted by St. Mary of the Hills, Blowing Rock, North Carolina.