by Anna Dourgarian on April 30, 2019

God created us to be stewards, not rulers, over the environment. What does it mean to be a steward?

-Sister Brenda Lisenby


Napkins, coffee grounds, and orange peels are composted instead of wasted

“Let’s go all organic,” said Sister Mary Frances to the Sisters. The Visitation Sisters were hosting an appreciation brunch for the Ascension Church choir at the monastery. Going all organic was a bold goal, and the Sisters pulled it off: compostable tableware, damp cheese cloths to replace Saran wrap, and eco-friendly cleaning products. Like every party that the Sisters host, the brunch was a blast, without sacrificing the natural environment.

The road to building a communal mindset and the habits necessary for going “all organic” has not been easy, and the Sisters still have a long way they want to go. For the year 2019, they have adopted care for the environment as a guiding theme for their community. At New Year’s, they each received a small paper bag to keep in their rooms to collect compostable waste that would otherwise be thrown away, like used tissues and hair from their hairbrushes. They are determined to be deliberate about how they can make a difference.

Sister Brenda is an inspirational help, a voice of wisdom and practicality as they strive for a greener household. She has always tried to make environmentally-conscious decisions, such as refusing disposable straws and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. Now, she helps the Sisters stay up-to-date on city regulations, like:

  1. Juice boxes are recyclable.
  2. Keep caps on milk jugs so they don’t get stuck in the recycling center’s sorting machine.
  3. Do not put paper bags full of recycling into the recycling bin. The bags get in the way of sorting.

Sister Brenda helped organize recycling and composting at National Night Out

When Sister Brenda first joined the Visitation community, she found them “wish-cycling”. Wish-cycling is throwing non-recyclables into the recycling bin because you wish that the materials were recyclable. The Sisters are now wiser about what they recycle, what they compost, and what products they buy in the first place.

Sister Brenda also pursues eco-friendliness in personal habits. She uses a bamboo toothbrush and makes her own toothpaste. Instead of plastic disposable razors, she uses a safety razor for shaving. These are small changes, but they are small things done with great love, and that makes all the difference.

The Sisters’ future goals include more eco-friendly food storage practices and consistently using eco-friendly cleaning products. In addition, they want to spread the word in their neighborhood about caring for the environment; they have found that their annual block party in August is a great opportunity to teach their neighbors about recycling and compostable goods. Sister Brenda would also like to go for a tour of the city’s recycling center.

Can they achieve zero waste? Not necessarily. On one hand, they must make tradeoffs for living in community and convenience. On the other hand, they can be more aware and make wiser daily decisions. They aim for zero waste, even if it might never happen. One small step at a time, they are committed to caring for all God’s creation, our common natural home.

For more information on our local solid waste and recycling, Sister Brenda invites you to visit


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