“So many of our residents are from countries where items like plastic bottles and cans aren’t commonly used or in such quantities,” said Zita Telkamp, CDP, program director. “We teach them not to just throw them away because they can be recycled.”
Every week, clients help sort plastics, paper, cardboard and cans so they can be taken to a local recycling center for processing. Other items are reused and repurposed in various ways around the shelter.
A recent grant from the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, has enabled La Posada to improve and expand their garden capabilities. With the funding, they were able to purchase the equipment for a new irrigation system, fence posts, a fence, ten rain barrels and two composters.
Clients assisted in the design and engineering of the irrigation system. They also helped dig the two hundred yard, three foot deep trench needed to bring water from the Resaca, a former tributary to the Rio Grande. An electric pump draws 115 gallons of water per minute into PVC pipes to irrigate the crops. The composters create fertilizer to condition the soil by the addition of humus, nutrients and beneficial bacteria. The new garden now provides organically grown produce such as potatoes, carrots and zucchini to supplement weekly grocery purchases.
In addition to vegetables, clients and staff also enjoy fresh fruit from their newly expanded orchard. Thanks to a $1,000 gift from Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, ten orange, three grapefruit and two lime trees were added. Pecan and peach trees, one of each, complete the orchard’s offerings.
No pesticides are used at La Posada, something Sister Zita is proud of.
“Growing up, my father owned an orchard and I remember the spraying,” she recalled. “Here, we pull weeds and water by hand on the days we don’t use the irrigation system. The extra care and attention to the gardens means we don’t have to use chemicals. It’s another way we can protect the earth.”
The green efforts aren’t just limited to outdoor projects at La Posada. Staff and clients use vinegar as a key component in homemade household cleansers. It is effective in killing most mold, bacteria and germs, due to its level of acidity. It is also environmentally friendly and very economical. Vinegar is mixed with JOY dish detergent to make a shower and bathtub cleaner and with water to clean the wood laminate floors.
The benefits of going green at La Posada will have lasting effects not only on the earth, but on the clients. They are learning life skills they can use moving forward as they start their new lives in the U.S.