or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Talk Amongst Ourselves › Spirituality › Greener church coffee hours
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Greener church coffee hours

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I suppose this could go under Environmentalism, but since it's specifically about a church-related issue...

I'm beginning to do research on what my parish could do to have a "greener" coffee hour so I could take it to others - and so I'm interested to hear what your congregstions have done. The stipulation is that whatever has to be as easy and as low effort as possible - the easier it is, the more people will participate. This is important since a number of folks probably don't lean towards the "crunchy" side.

Unfortunately, we have to use disposables - no dishwasher and installing one is not an option. We have between 40-80 people who stay for coffee hour on any given Sunday, and asking the 3-4 people doing coffee hour that week to handwash "real" dishes for that many simply is not going to happen. Plus, while we have the real silverware, we don't have cups and plates for that many. Even handwashing only silverware for that many ain't goona happen!

Having a mug rack with everyone bringing their own & washing their mug when done simply isn't going to happen either. Some folks might do it, but most wouldn't. Plus, trying to crowd that many people around one kitchen stink at once trying to wash their stuff? <falls on floor laughing!> Heck, just banishing the styrofoam coffee cups and plates would be a huge step! Note: parish does not supply paper goods, so whoever does coffee hour brings it. So, there's a mishmash of paper and styrofoam.

So, practical, low effort solutions most welcome.

We're green in other ways - CFLs whenever possible, recycling, thermostats programmed up in summer/low in winter, even an environmental component to Sunday Schools lessons. I wish our priest would put the weekly bulletin and monthly newsletter on our website (I would be SO happy not to have to deal with a paper copy!), but some people have expressed concerns about privacy issues, so that's not going to happen for the time being.
post #2 of 18
One thought:

Do you do fair trade coffee? Our church was able to order fair trade, recycled cups from our coffee supplier. I know you said people supply the cups/plates but if the church supplied it would ensure that the supplies were greener, plus I think it would be easier to have a stash of cups/plates etc.

To institute a large change like that think of it in stages and a 1-2 yr time frame. So, if the church decided to do a bring your own mug/mug rack, then start slow and keep a stash of paper for guests and anyone who forgot. Personally, I think this is the best option but will take a while to implement.
I don't think people would have to wash their mugs at the church if it was BYOM, since I would take mine home to wash.
post #3 of 18
i try to bring in my own coffee cup. i generally keep one in my car. I think a mug rack would work. they won't need to be scoured. just rinsed.

I also don't think it is asking too much for the coffee hour host to do dishes. even by hand. I am keeping an eye on the seasonal melamine dishes at target. they usually go down in price to about $.50 each at the end of the season. I figure we would need about 100. and since we serve mostly non messy foods it would only take about 15 minutes to wash them all and put them on a rack to dry. very little water for washing as well. but the time I was done washing the tables they would be dry and ready to put away. Silverware would not be an option really. its an expense because it gets thrown away so easily and hard to wash so I would stick with disposable. and cups are more complicated to wash on a large scale but concerned people having their own cup i think is a nice compromise.

Perhaps just giving people a list of ways they can be more green. being mindful of what they buy, recycling, etc....

we have a recycling bin at church but people just don't get it (really, is this such a new concept to people? I have been sorting recyclables for the last 20 years) and I usually end up taking responsibility for digging through the garbage for recyclables and digging through the recycling bin for garbage. in my church clothes. lovely.

Our bulletins are on line and it is great. we have paper ones but hate taking them out of the building (they have icons on them). we also have a calendar online as well.

you may not be able to get everyone at your parish on board or even a lot of people. but even if just a few decide to use real dishes when they host or bring their own cup for coffee thats that many steps forward. and every step forward is a positive one.
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'll hit the thrift store and see what I can find by way of Corelle plates and some mugs. We have about two people who always use a real plate/mug/real silverware (we only have about 5 plates) at coffee hour.

Lilyka, not sure how it's set up in your parish, but in mine you have either 3-4 people (a mix of couples & singles) doing coffee hour. Telling people "You have to wash the dishes, mugs, and silverware for 60 people" would NOT go over well. We've probably only got 20 people that I know for sure that could be classified as even slightly crunchy!

I think I need to go to Sam's Club. I was just on their website and saw all sorts of paper cups, eco-friendly plastic cutlery. The plastic cutlery would have to be ordered, but the paper cups should be available. It's difficult to find paper cups many places, believe it or not.

After exchanging emails with someone of standing in the parish today, she suggested getting together with the head of the Sunday school or the woman who teaches the environmental SS component. Have this become a SS project (last year they painted canvas bags for groceries), where they make an announcement about being more aware about green coffee hour stuff. Do up a nice handout with suggestions for being greener and where items could be purchased.

Really, the biggest thing would be ditching the styrofoam totally! Paper plates can be bought anywhere. The hot/cold cups would be a bit more difficult, but the woman I was emailing with today has said she would be willing to buy them, as would I.

It would also help if we could really encourage people to have as many finger foods as possible. We already do a lot of that - bagels/spreads, fruit, cookies, pastries, chips & dip. That would reduce the plastic cutlery issue.
post #5 of 18
definitely finger foods. I try not to need cutlery when I host coffee hour.

involving the Sunday school is a good idea. In my parish individuals/couples host. not everyone would e willing to use and wash plates but if you said here are plates, here is someone to help wash (If I am there I don't mind washing dishes. i am usually there to the end of coffee hour anyway) and here is how it is done I would think most of the younger people would do it. Not the older ones but like I said...even if you use reusable stuff once every two months you are making a huge impact.

The easiest way to ditch styrofoam is to provide enough paper and keep it stocked so no one brings their own stuff. really plates and cups are cheap enough that a few dedicated families could really keep up. it is just a matter of making sure there is never a need and after a short while just hanging a sign on the door about no longer allowing styrofoam They will realized they have not seen it in a while and by then it will not be a big deal. I would at least focus on paper cups because like you said, HOT paper cups are really hard to find and when you do find them they come in small packages and are expensive. :/
post #6 of 18
oh hey, another thing my church does is keep the pantry stocked with kool aid. This means less people bringing in jugs of juice which means less waste (nutritionally speaking I really don't think koolaid is that much worse than most juices. even 100% fruit juice which is just mostly sugar water anyway....) So maybe stocking up on a big container of lemonaid or kool aid and telling people not to worry about bring pop or juice for cold drinks could reduce your waste a little.

and of course the best thing you can do is lead by example.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Aeress View Post
One thought:

Do you do fair trade coffee? Our church was able to order fair trade, recycled cups from our coffee supplier. I know you said people supply the cups/plates but if the church supplied it would ensure that the supplies were greener, plus I think it would be easier to have a stash of cups/plates etc.
I've tried repeatedly to get a line item for basic kitchen supplies (including coffee and tea) added to the budget. My priest was in favor of it, but the parish council absolutely saw no need for it at all. So, that's the end of that, at least for the foreseeable future.

We don't use fair trade coffee. I know I just pickup whatever is on sale at the store in the big plastic "cans."
post #8 of 18
This may not work in your situation, but when I was assistant warden in my college chapel we had coffee or sherry hour after service. It was budgeted for, but we also had a basket out for spare change, because the budget didn't cover the cost. People threw in their quarters and dollars, not a lot, but it covered things like cream for coffee. Something like this might be enough to cover paper products to replace Styrofoam.

Also, if this became a Sunday School project, they could perhaps look for some funding to pay for this, maybe do a bottle drive or car wash or something. Or sort through the church or their home waste for returnables.

Also, you say they aren't crunchy. But there are serious Christian stewardship issues with regard to the environment, and even people who are traditionally conservatives are starting to realize some of the issues. As a long term project, drawing people's attention to these issues might be important. It might be something to talk to your priest about - the fact that the parish council doesn't see this as an issue is something that is perhaps significant in a greater way.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 

The bit about the parish council not seeing the point for paying for basic coffee hour supplies is totally unrelated to the environmental issue. I had brought it up several times that it would really help the parishioners who host coffee hour to not have to pay for paper goods, coffee, etc. When brought up it was way before I started researching on greener ways to do coffee hour.

We do have a basket out for donations (never for guests, just for regulars), but that goes towards the cleaning service for the church.
post #10 of 18
I know in our parish the Daughters of Penelope and AHEPA take care of a lot of things like that. The DoP covers anything the kitchen needs for the most part. Its not official church business, (DoP is not a church organization I think), they just do it. Technically whoever is hosting coffee hour is supposed to provide everything but there is always so much stuff like Koolaid, coffee and plates and plasticware. Or someone will host coffee hour and bring a giant can of coffee that will easily keep us supplied for the next three months.

ok my rambling point here is....Do you have something equal to the DoP or Philoptochos Society who could help you out. maybe be a driving force for change? I think it would be more likely to get them to budget for hospitality than the parish council. it would also be more likely to get them excited for change.

At our church the parishioners bring all the consumable stuff right down to the toilet paper and hand soap in the bathroom. I think asking the parish council to budget in coffee is a bit of a lost cause.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Every other church I've been a member of HAS supplied coffee and basic paper goods. A few people actually WERE indicating the cost of these things in addition to coffee hour food was a bit much for them.

Well, I guess there's the women's group, which I was president of, but I got so overloaded with multiple committments, so the woman who was prez before me took it back.

I'll chat up some more folks at church on Sunday and see what they think of these ideas.
post #12 of 18
Originally Posted by Tradd View Post
Every other church I've been a member of HAS supplied coffee and basic paper goods. A few people actually WERE indicating the cost of these things in addition to coffee hour food was a bit much for them.

Well, I guess there's the women's group, which I was president of, but I got so overloaded with multiple committments, so the woman who was prez before me took it back.

I'll chat up some more folks at church on Sunday and see what they think of these ideas.
In my experience women's groups do get really overloaded with these kinds of small tasks. One parish I was at the women had to do the altar linens, flowers, clean the churches, send gifts and cards to sick or elderly parishioners, organize the fundraisers, take care of social events, and more.

The men mowed the lawns and occasionally did a bit of carpentry in the rectory.
post #13 of 18
there are some dixie cups that have a little handle that folds out. I think eliminating the styrophone would be the most important.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Well, I talked to some people on Sunday and I'm just floored - and not in a good way. I wasn't able to talk to the really crunchy lady who teaches the environmental Sunday school component.

I guess our folks are mainly only very, very marginally crunchy. Big SUVs and all. We are in a somewhat ritzy suburb and pull people from four counties due to where our parish is located. They'll buy recycled toilet paper (I've seen them bring it for the food pantry), recycle some things, and eat organic, but real changes like using glass over plastic (switching from plastic is my current project at home), driving a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle, and living closert to work - nah!

My priest joined in the conversation with two people. I mentioned what I was researching and that I thought it would be great if we could at least get rid of the danged styrofoam. He's pretty green himself. A lot of the things we've already done (CFLs where possible, keeping thermostat up in summer and down in winter) were at HIS inititative. Oh man, you should see how some people fight him about the lower thermostat in winter! Anyway, he said he'd done a lot of research and has come to the conclusion that paper being better than styrofoam isn't always the case - depending on the manufacturing process, etc. I couldn't believe I was hearing that! I mean, if styrofoam wasn't that bad, McDonald's wouldn't have done away with the styrofoam packaging for sandwiches however long ago, in favor of cardboard.

He also didn't want reusables (perhaps except silverware, since they're easy to wash) because you can't handwash them as well as a dishwasher would and get them sanitized. Never knew he was a germ freak. Or perhaps he's just afraid of someone getting sick and suing the parish. There is one very green family (the wife is the very crunchy Sunday School teacher) who DOES use real silverware when they host coffee hour, but that's only twice a year.

Getting a dishwasher is not a possibility. There is no place for it in the current kitchen design. There is also no money.

I have two choices. I will still talk with the crunchy Sunday School teacher and see if anything can be done with gentle persuasion to use paper rather than styrofoam.

I can also take it upon myself to keep the kitchen stocked with paper plates, paper coffee cups, and paper cold cups. I'll have to look at my budget to see if I can handle that financially. The paper plates wouldn't be that expensive. The coffee cups are the real key to the whole thing. Styrofoam coffee cups are cheap and available everywhere. The paper ones are harder to come by. They require a trip to Sam's or Costco (with a friend, using their card since I don't have one) or the local restaurant supply store (open to the public) that doesn't require a membership. Or I could order online.

What a bummer!

Any ideas given what I'm up against? I'm kinda frustrated.
post #15 of 18
Did you ask your priest to share his research with you. I have not really researched it, but maybe he does have a valid point. Before I dismissed it out right I would ask him to share his research. if nothing else you two will be able to start the conversation from the same place as you continue to fight for paper.

And it is not a total solution but our parish only uses styrofoam for hot drinks. cold drinks go in paper. Not sure how that started but at least half the drinks go out in paper. Half is better than nothing.
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
The styrofoam cups are for coffee/tea, but the cold drinks are usually in plastic. So BOTH are bad.

ETA: Thanks for reminding me to ask him for his research. I'd meant to email him but forgot.

I found the below by quick googling "paper vs. styrofoam cups":






Well, you could knock me over with a feather! This stuff must have been what my priest recommended. Of course, the best thing would be a reusable mug, but for everyone to use one is not likely to happen. I could definitely hit the thrift store for some mugs and let people know they're available if they'd prefer to use a "real" mug.
post #17 of 18
so, here are the areas that i would look at first:

1. if you are in charge of coffee hour, volunteer to wash the mugs/plates/spoons, etc. i can wash 20 mugs in about 10 minutes, so i would be finished in 40 minutes. with plates and teaspoons, i would add another 20-30 minutes. I could probably manage an hour to an hour and 10 minutes of volunteer work. Also, cloth napkins, that i would take home to launder and just toss it in with my normal napkin laundry.

assuming that isn't possible:

2. biodegradable cups--there are some made from bamboo and corn and a few others. I do not know how coffee-friendly they are, as we use mugs and i volunteer to wash all of them (admittedly, it's only about 20-25 at the most). typically, you can buy them in bulk at places like "costco" and it's rather surprising, but it's true. you can also buy degradable/compostable plates, napkins, and even utensils. so, look up and see what you can find, and if you can find it in bulk. talk to the rest of the coffee club folks about using that instead of a mish mash of different items (that is, if they are going to purchase for coffee club, please purchase these).

3. trash bags--try to get biodegradable ones of these too. then, you put biodegradable stuff in biodegradable stuff and it's more likely to actually biodegrade.

4. composting--if possible, see if you can compost this stuff. I recommended to my MIL--who keeps the grounds/gardens at the church--that a compost bin would probably serve them well. gave them some info, and now all food scraps go in there, as well as compost-able napkins and cups and such. she's actually quite particular about what disposable stuff is used at the church now, but being one of the "elders" and on about 12 committees, she's able to have influence, and she actually saved them money by sourcing it, and now she has great compost for the gardens, and blah blah blah, and so now they are selling that compost to the church members for their gardens, and it becomes sustaining.

5. as mentioned before, getting fair-trade stuff is great. using large coffee pots helps, and we have used the same for tea. In my former studio (not my current one) we had four large coffee urns, and so we would do coffee and decaf, and then we would do a tea (usually black/green) and an herbal tea. I would buy directly from the sources (local coffee roaster, local herb farm for the herbal tea; purchased the black tea in bulk from a supplier), and they were happy to give me a great price on it. being a non-profit organization, you might be able to get an even better one than i did--which would save money AND be good for people, environment, etc.

i know this thread is old, but i'm in the process of developing something similar for myself since we are dong the meditation group. I want to get it rather organized so that it is *green*. we will be taking "koha" (donations) for the group, so that we can keep ourselves in art supplies (for the kids) and tea. we probably won't do coffee. but, we do have a large french press (in which we do tea), and we will go from there.

anyway, that's me. LOL
post #18 of 18
also, having read what you are up against, i simply act. no more permission-seeking. i just freaking do it. LOL

so, what i discovered when i transitioned a quaker meeting from disposables to reusables (even down to not using tea bags!)--and thems be crunchies!--was i just started doing it. i went to the salvation army type place and grabbed about 50 mugs and i think i paid $25 or something. I brought them to the quaker meeting and stacked them in an empty shelf. i also brought a press pot for coffee and another for tea, and i brought a canister of coffee and a canister of tea.

at the end of meeting, i would make the coffee and tea, set out the mugs, etc. after coffee, i would wash the cups and put them away. for a few weeks, i did this alone, and then the tea bags were gone, and there was just loose tea available, and i kept bringing it and making it in the press pots, and there you go. i just kept doing it.

after a few weeks, another quaker started helping me out--she would dry while i washed--and then another person brought more loose tea, and another brought more coffee. so, it started to change just because i did it, without asking.

sure, at first it was quite an investment, but after a while, it just changed. I also started switching from paper towels to towels/rags, and then buying recycled toilet paper and so on.

of course, this was a small quaker meeting, so everyone pitched in by buying toilet paper, paper towels, and such.

oh, and i also built a compost bin there (i seriously worship compost). people were psyched about that. i asked first, no one had an opposition, i chose the site, built one, and then everyone started using it. the meeting didn't have gardens per se (not this one, another one did and it also had a compost pile), but people would bring their stuff to compost and take compost as needed. and we did sell a fair bit at the farmer's market, which supported the meeting too.

i actually miss that meeting. it was a good place for us. the quaker meeting here only meets once a month, and from what i can tell, doesn't have much else going on. it's disappointing, as i love unprogrammed meetings.

perhaps i should just start hosting those. LOL
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Spirituality
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Talk Amongst Ourselves › Spirituality › Greener church coffee hours