Our mission in JESC is aligned with the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) such as journeying with the youth (ELP) and serving the outcasted by service work and by sharing our Society of Jesus networks’ global initiatives. An important area of focus is a just ecological transition, and in this regard, we have a newly drafted charter of internal eco-friendly best practices. The readaptation to office-work raised some environmental questions and how each of us can care for our Common Home. The Justice and Ecology Secretariats have agreed on a set of eco-friendly best practices charter that aims to reduce waste products within the office. It is a document that stands in the intersection between the words by Pope Francis in the ecological encyclical Laudato Si’ and the message by Father General Arturo Sosa SJ on the UAPs on caring for our Common Home. 

Gianmarco Palermo, JESC Justice Assistant led the inter-secretariat cooperation to work on the charter for JESC green practices. He shared his thoughts on what triggered the project. 

Q: Could you elaborate on what ecological practices mean?

A: As a Social Centre that wants to contribute to the vision and values for Europe, we must give an example in the area of Ecology, one of our departments. Our mission is to change the European Union and let it become more eco-friendly. In order to do so, we need to be more eco-friendly in our own space; office, house, public spaces and where we spend time at. The premise to it is: We start with individual changes and these contribute to an ecological transition. 

Q: What do these ecologically friendly practices involve?

A: The team made a selection of three main categories: ‘Food’, ‘Our Space’ and ‘Mobility.’ Among these, we then suggested a few best practices to implement in the future, such as no single-use plastic in the office and buying Bio or Fair Trade meals. As well, we avoid using unnecessary paper; we make a conscious effort to save energy by using mainly daylight and avoid electric consuming machines, such as a dishwasher given we found fast and efficient handwashing our dishes after every meal. Like in our personal household, we respect the separate bins for waste recycling. When it comes to mobility, we try to avoid using public transport and prefer to cycle to work. We are also trying to avoid flying, but that can only be measured in the long-term.

Q: Do you think your office is a suitable setting to apply green measures?

A: Every place could be suitable to apply green measures. The most relevant thing is the will of the people. That is because we call one of the three areas “Our Space.” We want to care about our daily habitat, our rooms, our desks, and in general terms, our own health. To do so, we take little steps that make a difference to our Earth, and with it comes the spirit of commitment which generates a fruitful environment to engage with each other and collaborate in making Europe a greener place.

Q: What was the initial idea behind implementing these eco-practices?

A: The idea came from one of our network members and we decided to create a sort of ecological guidelines to respect at the office. After a few brainstorming sessions, we decided to start at our own pace and identify which good practices we are already carrying out. For instance, we are used to recycling and reusing paper and recycling waste. However, we thought we could do some conscious efforts related to buying glass for multiple uses or avoiding to buy milk Tetra Paks.

Q: Did you get ideas from other organisations or networks?

Our networks are very important for us and they have been the first engine for our ecological project. Indeed this idea came when we realized that a few members of our Social Centre networks were implementing different ecological policies. Some of them are avoiding flights when they are traveling less than 1000 km and applying policies on food and general waste. 

Besides, having some partners with a focus on the same idea is a source of inspiration. We get ideas from them and likewise, we share our practices. In a way, we will give back to the community what we have naturally received. Beyond our Brussels-based Social Centre, we are already working on a common internal charter in ecology transversal to our Social Centres.

Q: Why do you think it is important to apply eco-friendly measures at the office?

A: The importance is giving the example and being more aware of what we stand for. Our Social Apostolate network has two big priorities for the period 2020-2022 with the milestone of the 2022 Loyola Congress. One of the priorities is Ecology. Applying eco-friendly measures will give us the strength and confidence to improve our commitment and be aligned with the 4th Universal Apostolic Preference in caring for our Common Home.

Q: How are you going to monitor the individual/holistic performance of these ecological guidelines?

That is probably the hardest part of our project. Unfortunately, measuring this performance is not an easy task. These eco-practices are an invitation to make room for improvement. To avoid purchasing disposable plastics or having an eye on electricity bills by the end of the month might be the first unseen set of measures. However, we agreed to discuss improvements at team meetings and speak more to each other if we feel things are not going in the right direction. We are looking forward to seeing some small but positive results soon.

Q: What is your opinion about the EU green deal?

A: In short, the EU Green Deal is perfect. However, we know that perfect is a shallow conceptual label. I am comfortable in saying that it is extremely ambitious. The European Commission has already invested time and resources on it and we will soon see the first results. Likewise, as some ELP lecturers and a former Commissioner mentioned, the concrete realization of all the measures planned is hardly possible. It is, however, a great starting point and a promising green intervention in the European Union. However, the EU needs the citizens’ individual collaboration and more internal eco-friendly policies might need to be adopted by private companies in order to achieve the common result: Caring for Our Common Home.

We made a playful presentation for a team meeting as a first introduction to our eco-friendly office.

Interview to Gianmarco Palermo
JESC Justice Assistant