Growing up on a farm, Sister Ann Mason learned to love and care for the Earth, especially by reducing and reusing materials. “We didn’t call it recycling; you just reused everything.”
It’s no surprise that this consciousness for stewarding Earth’s resources remains engrained in many aspects of Sister Ann’s daily life. She actively cared for the vegetable gardens at Marywood for many years. She was also an early adopter of recycling practices, encouraging the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids to recycle.
“We started recycling here at Marywood sometime in the 80s with the help of Sr. Dominica Nellett and our kitchen staff. It started simply, with cleaning out and rinsing cans. I took the next step with a nightly visit to the kitchen to cut the bottoms off each can, crush them, and box them up. I loaded my car and drove them down to a city recycling location. Before long, we were filling the whole bottom of a pickup truck every weekend,” describes Sister Ann.
By the early 90s, she encouraged recycling of office paper at Aquinas College. The mathematics professor (now retired, emeritus) admits “It was slow getting this started. Aquinas didn’t have a dumpster for it, so I gathered it and walked it to my car, and I’d bring it all over to Marywood because we had a bin here.”
Today Sr. Ann supports terracycle efforts at Aquinas College and Marywood. In a collaborative with an area elementary school, Sr. Ann supports efforts that encourage student learning and interaction with creation daily.
At Aquinas College, as students move into the dorms each year, she supports efforts to break down cardboard and reduce waste going into landfills. She also sorts waste into correct bins in the halls of academia.
“All of these efforts are labor intensive,” but the personal effort and sense of responsibility serves to remind Sister Ann of the impact humans have on the planet. “When I walk by a basket, I sort it.” Staff and students observe her collecting and walking items over to the correct bins; many begin to follow her example. “I want to help future generations see the value of recycling.”