Adelante Mujeres photo
Guadalupe Maldonado shows off the durable, washable plates on which  Adelante Mujeres’ farmers’ market vendors now serve food, which has kept  an average of two garbage bags out of the landfill each week.
Adelante Mujeres photo
Guadalupe Maldonado shows off the durable, washable plates on which Adelante Mujeres’ farmers’ market vendors now serve food, which has kept an average of two garbage bags out of the landfill each week.
Sometimes, it’s not easy being green. But more often, local Catholic-affiliated organizations say, it’s pretty simple to incorporate small changes into the workday that make a big difference in saving the planet.

For their efforts, two organizations and one school in the state were recognized last year in a list of Oregon’s Top 100 Best Green Companies, published by Oregon Business magazine.

Adelante Mujeres in Forest Grove, ranking No. 7 on the list, has among its core values to love and respect the earth.

“From the get go, we made a commitment that we wanted to, throughout the organization and with all of our programs, keep this beautiful Earth at the forefront of our thinking when we’re designing a program or discussing ways to enhance programs,” said Bridget Cooke, executive director.

Cooke founded the organization with Holy Names Sister Barbara Raymond in 2002. That commitment is reflected in the organization’s programming in education, empowerment and enterprise for immigrant families, but also in its everyday operations.

Employees don’t use disposable dishes or silverware during meetings at the office, and the organization has also introduced a program where all its farmers’ market vendors use reusable plates, which are gathered and washed. This summer they will introduce a non-disposable cup.

Back in the office in Forest Grove, employees recycle and compost food waste. They use natural cleaning supplies, a simple recipe of Castile soap, borax and vinegar. They use cloth hand towels in the bathrooms, which employees take turns carrying home on weekends to wash. Computer monitors are shut down every night, and all lights have compact florescent bulbs.

The organization operates with three bottom lines, Cooke said – people, planet and profit.

Last year’s 100 Best Green Companies were picked based on a sustainable practices section in a survey of more than 26,000 employees and 505 for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.  

Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest earned the 33rd ranking on the list.

“Jesuit Volunteers live in communities that commit to simple living embodying a healing and sustainable presence on the Earth,” said Jeanne Haster, executive director.

Energy efficient furnaces were installed at the office, and staff built a community garden, which they share with low-income residents in North Portland.

Program staffers usually travel to work by bike or public transportation, and they traded paper documentation for electronic as much as possible. Furniture in the office was used when it was acquired, and when it breaks, it is repaired instead of replaced. A Portland Development Commission grant allowed the organization to install screen doors and awnings for temperature control during the summer months.

Holy Redeemer School in North Portland was 56th on the list.

The school and its parish are governed in part by an environmental stewardship committee, formed in 2008 to help the community become more environmentally conscious.  

Even before the committee was created, the parish had long nurtured a sense of stewardship by using efficient light fixtures, recycling, installing double-paned windows and donating leftovers from the cafeteria to local hungry.

Since 2008, larger projects have been carried out. A bioswale was installed to absorb runoff. Storm water cisterns collect rainwater for the 7,500-square-foot pastoral vegetable and fruit garden, built on the site of an unused play area. Children experience hands-on lessons about growing food and extra produce is donated to St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Food waste and leaves from the many trees on the campus are composted, and cafeteria trash has been reduced from several full bags of garbage daily to just one.

Maria Elmore, the school's development director, said Holy Redeemer's earth-friendly way of conducting business is a big selling point for new families who decide to enroll their children.

"The message the school hopes students will take away is to be conscious of the footprints we leave on Earth and how we can minimize those," Elmore said.

The students get it, she said. Many of the "green" projects at the school are now student-driven.

Other Catholic organizations appeared on another one of the magazine’s “Top 100” lists. Among the best non-profits to work for were: Mary’s Woods at Marylhurst, DePaul Industries, La Salle Catholic College Preparatory, Blanchet Catholic School, The Macdonald Center and the Northwest Catholic Counseling Center.