Several members of St. Mary Immaculate Parish’s empathy project team members recently gathered near a bench made out of plastic bottle caps and lids.
The pilot project taught several small groups of confirmation students at the parish in Plainfield a method for innovation called Design Thinking to identify needs of others in their community.
The first step in Design Thinking is empathy. One of the teams, the green team, zeroed in on how their parish could become better recyclers. (Two other teams worked on how to help those impacted by divorce and how to raise awareness about the dangers of drug use.)
In addition to providing better access to recycling receptacles for staff and parishioners, the Green Team began a campaign to collect plastic bottle caps and lids.
These items cannot be recycled and end up in the landfills; through their research, the students learned that landfills in the Plainfield area will be at capacity in 11 years. However, they also found out that Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, takes these caps and turns them into outdoor benches and picnic tables.
Parishioners eagerly joined in to support their efforts, donating more than 800 pounds of bottle caps, which the team and additional confirmation students sorted and weighed. The cost of $250 per bench was donated by the parish's Knights of Columbus and Ladies Auxiliary for the first bench, which arrived in November 2018.
Two more benches will arrive soon, sponsored by the Catholic Council of Women and confirmation families to provide more outdoor seating for use on the St. Mary's campus.