One of the first things Varlamoff did at her parish was to replace styrofoam and disposable dishes at events with actual dishes, which reduced waste after large events.
In addition, after an energy audit, the parish replaced all its light bulbs, and is transforming its campus by planting native plants and trees.
She said for the ministries to work well, each parish needs a point person.
"They need somebody to lead the effort, to inspire the people to do this work, and to bring together experts and interested people to move the parishioners and to move the pastor and facilities manager and parish council to do this work," she said.
At the beginning of this year, the Atlanta archdiocese started the Laudato Si Initiative, meant to expand on what the parish teams were already doing under the action plan.
The archdiocese also hired two Laudato si' coordinators, including a sustainability strategist, in February.
Leonard Robinson, the sustainability strategist, has some 45 years experience in the field and previously worked with several California governors at the California Environmental Protection Agency.
He said not every parish in Atlanta has embraced the call for greater sustainability, partly because it simply was something new for many of them.
"It's a slight change, but it's not the change people expect. A lot of the parishes said, 'Okay, we're overburdened. We've got all these ministries we've got doing this, this and this. We don't have time for one more thing'," Robinson told CNA.
"Well, I explained that this one more thing it's not really a thing, we want to weave sustainability in all walks of Catholic life, education, ministry, and everything else. So if you're open to it, you won't even notice that it's extra work. You might find in some cases there's less, and you'll have more resources to do other things."
In some cases, the best way to approach parishes or individuals is not to even mention the phrases "climate change" or "sustainability."
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"Let's say energy efficiency. Let's say water conservation. Let's say sustainable landscapes. Let's say extra resources for other ministries, because you're saving energy, and these things when you save them, it does save you money, but it's not about money, it's maximizing the things that you do to enforce other ministries."
Robinson said the Laudato Si Action Plan was a great starting point, a "roadmap" for his work at the archdiocese.
"That was one of the attractions for my job. I don't have to start from zero, I've got this roadmap. All I have to do is institute that and weave that into every part of Catholic life," he said.
Varlamoff commented: "The Pope is so well respected as a moral leader in the world...why shouldn't Catholic churches be demonstration sites for energy efficiency, water efficiency, growing food sustainably? Why not recycling? There's no reason why the Catholic church can't lead the way."