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El Paso Diocese heeds Pope’s advice on environment

Pope Francis is visiting the United States four months after he released his encyclical, in which he spoke about the need to make changes to help our environment.

Here in El Paso, the diocese is trying to practice what the pope preached.

“As Catholics, we have an obligation to make sure our environment is safe and healthy, and will be here for the next generation,” said Elizabeth O’Hara, the Diocese of El Paso communications director.

Leaders in the diocese have spent the last three months studying the encyclical, looking at how they can make changes to align themselves with his address.

“We’re looking at our headquarters, the Pastoral Center, and looking at implementing the changes here first,” said O’Hara. “(We want) to see how do they work and (if) they have an impact on our bill before we start to suggest to the parishes that, ‘Hey, maybe you should look into these things as well.'”

O’Hara said some changes include removing grass and replacing it with xeriscaping, and irrigating the remaining grass only once in the summer.

Other changes include swapping out existing light bulbs for energy efficient bulbs, installing motion-detecting light sensors for switches and swapping out the swamp coolers with refrigerated air.

O’Hara acknowledged that some of the changes are expensive, but added that the cost is the reason why they’re trying them out at the headquarters first.

“We don’t want to lay that on the parishes yet. We don’t think they’re prepared for that,” O’Hara said. “So, we’ll do those changes on our own. We’ll take those best practices to them, and say, ‘You can’t do it all at once. Maybe if you tackle this part, then this part.’ It’s going to be a process.”

O’Hara added that it is too early to say when the diocese will present the best practices to its 57 parishes, dozen schools, and missions.

With about 80 percent of El Pasoans identifying themselves as Catholic, the El Paso Diocese told ABC-7 that it understands it has a real opportunity to influence big change if everyone is inspired to make small differences in their own homes.

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