By Brenda Dickerson
As Seventh-day Adventists, we highly value our Sabbath celebrations. Much time, energy, effort, and money go into facilitating weekly worship. This investment rightly reflects our belief that the Sabbath was established at creation to be a continual reminder of the value of God’s relationship with us.
But what about God’s other directives to humanity given during creation week–specifically, the charge to care for the world that He had just brought into existence? How much time, energy, effort, and money are we currently investing in maintaining the earth? How important is it that we embody creation care as a global church, local community of believers, and individual citizens?
Some may argue that creation care doesn’t matter because “it’s all going to burn” when Jesus returns. However, the last two chapters of the Bible tell us clearly that our final home is not heaven, but this earth. Consider the following summary from Chris Blake’s book Searching for a God to Love:
Our final destination (forever home base) is not heaven, but this earth made new—where we will plant gardens and tend them and eat their produce. How we treat this planet now is how we will treat our future home forever. When we understand this, we realize why environmentalism is especially important to Christianity.
Perhaps, in the end, practicing creation care is as much about building our characters as it is about protecting the earth.
A billion acts of green
So, how can we as Adventists become more diligent stewards of the space God created for us to inhabit? There are, in fact, a number of easy ways for local congregations and individuals to honor our responsibilities to the earth. Since 1970 when U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded a teach-in Earth Day (celebrated yearly on April 22), educational Earth Week activities have been big with schools. And recently companies and community organizations have also gotten involved. If your local community lacks Earth Day activities, your church members could be the ones to get the ball rolling.
Living green at home and church
We’ve probably all heard the slogan Reduce, Reuse Recycle. These concepts are not new; many of our grand- parents followed them as a way of life. They just make good sense. Here are a few ways to live green you may not have thought of yet (or used to do but kind of forgot about).
- Recycling: What’s working, what’s not. Recycling continues to be one of the best ways to minimize the amount of damage we do to the environment, and it’s something every- one can—and should—do. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent statistics, we are re- cycling steel, aluminum, and glass products endlessly.
But recycling plastic is an entirely different story. The EPA reports that despite the sharp rise in the amount of plastics generated, large-scale recycling still lags far behind the recycling rate of other product types.
- Paper or plastic? Neither. Each year the United States consumes 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees and vast quantities of water.2 However, plastic bags are not a better solution since hundreds of years from now they will still be floating around. The truth is that our usage of plastic and other disposable items doesn’t need to continue. Just remember to bring reusable bags for grocery shopping and mesh bags for your produce (leave them in your vehicle). There are many eco-friendly, high quality alternatives available today, including biodegradable trash bags.
- Let’s talk about cleaning. Try using old T-shirts cut into rags instead of buying sponges or paper products that will end up in the landfill. When purchasing cleaning products, look for ones made with toxin-free and biodegradable ingredients, such as those found at methodhome.com. You can also make your own cleaning products from baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.
- What about your wardrobe? Doing laundry is a never- ending process that affords opportunity for downsizing your carbon footprint. You can start by reducing the amount of laundry you do. Most outer clothes do not need to be laundered after only one wearing. Minimize your washing by dressing in layers and choosing clothes suitable for your task. For protection from food spills, dirt, etc., wear an apron or old shirt over your clothes.
When you do need to launder clothing, the first line of defense for the environment is to use as few chemicals as possible. If you’ve been able to install a rain barrel, use rain- water for soaking your hand washables. Then you will need only the tiniest bit of soap, as rainwater is very soft.
One of the biggest environmental burdens in laundry rooms is the dryer. Clothes dryers use large amounts of electricity and emit carbon dioxide. When possible, hang laundry on a rack or a line outside to dry.
- A natural lawn and garden. A lawn is the most expensive and highest-maintenance part of any yard, so only grow grass where you really want it. When you mow, leave grass clippings on the lawn. Sometimes referred to as “grasscycling,” this provides nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) equivalent to one application of fertilizer.
As for the rest of the yard, try growing at least one thing you like to eat. Even if you don’t have much space, as long as you have some sun you can grow a tomato vine or some organic lettuce in a pot. To feed your garden, try composting food scraps. All you need is a container with a lid to control odors and a place to make your compost.
You may have noticed that creation care goes hand-in- hand with another of our crown jewels—our health message, often referred to as “the right arm of the gospel.” The principles of earth care beautifully strengthen our physical health, and vice versa.
The bottom line
As with establishing any habit, choose something that’s interesting to you and can be done fairly quickly and easily. Then just do it . . . and keep doing it until it’s a natural action. Each year try to add something new. Whether it’s using cloth shopping bags or recycling containers or growing a community garden at your church, you can know that you are helping to protect our earth and fulfill our role as guardians of creation.
–Brenda Dickerson is Mid-America Union Conference communication director and OUTLOOK editor. Email her at: [email protected]