Caring for the environment is a way of respecting God and caring for ourselves, say authors Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman. Adopt their God-inspired earth-friendly ideas.
When we care for the environment, we show our deep respect for the Creator in much the same way we would admire the work of a great artist in a museum. When we fail to care for our planet, the world sees our treatment of Creation and unconsciously picks up the message regarding our disrespect.
What is more, caring for Creation is a way of caring for ourselves. Nature has a way of ministering back to us. It provides color, shapes, scents, shade, and sustenance. And by tending Creation, we also show consideration for our children's future. We demonstrate that we love them enough to provide a clean and beautiful garden that paints a stunning picture of the Artist.
Discover 11 ways that Christians--and everyone else--care for the environment.
Adapted from "Everybody Wants to Change the World," (c) 2006 by Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman. Published by Regal Books. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Christians sometimes find it difficult to find common ground with people outside their faith. One way to come together with those who might not be Christians is to simply care for the earth by “greening” your city or community.
Among other ideas, you can: Adopt a block, plant a tree or create a mini-park for the community.
- Adopt a Block. Landscape the sidewalks or medians of a specific section of town—perhaps even a couple of city blocks
- Stage a Cleanup. Offer to stage a trash cleanup event with your group in an area of your city that desperately needs to be picked clean of trash and rubbish.
- Plant a Tree. Plant trees on city- or county-owned property that is unlikely to be developed.
- Do Some Landscaping. Landscape a city monument or historical building.
- Create a Minipark. This is not a large recreational facility, of course, but a walk-and-sit kind of place where you bring your picnic basket for a slow lunch.
One way that you can make a difference in our own community is to volunteer to make sure your church or school’s habits are friendly to the environment.
Three possibilities: Reduce paperwork, avoid waste, recycle.
Some of the ways that you can help green your church or school include:
- Reduce Paperwork. Project announcements or any materials you are using for a presentation on a screen instead of printing them on a sheet of paper.
- Avoid Waste. When possible, use plates, cups and silverware that can be washed.
- Create a System. Create a simple recycling system, if there isn’t one in place, to collect all newspapers, magazines, used office paper and junk mail.
To really get into the spirit of Earth Day, consider volunteering at an Earth Day event in your city or region.
Volunteer to do a local trash cleanup, start a recycling program and use more recycled goods, plant trees, learn how to keep your house plants growing with less water, dispose of toxins properly, and discover ways to minimize the amount of time you drive your car.
You can do these things each day of the year, or you pick one at a time and implement it into your daily routine.
One of the easiest Earth Day projects that you can do right now is to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home. Begin by replacing the light bulbs in your house or apartment with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs), which last longer and use less energy. In fact, the Earth Day Network estimates that if every household in the United States replaced just one light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate the equivalent of the emissions caused by one million cars.4
The single greatest energy eater in your home is probably your refrigerator, so reduce the energy used in this giant appliance by lowering the thermostat one or two degrees.
Most ancient traditions have stories about protecting animals and plants.
Whether the saving act is for the species themselves or because of some use they bring to humans, the idea of ridding the world of everything but humans and a few crops on which they depend has never been a praiseworthy vision.
There are many ways to get involved to help protect animals and plants. A primary way is to write letters to your senators and congressmen about protecting America’s public lands and wildlife preserves, confronting global warming, and preserving the Endangered Species Act.
Another way to help is to volunteer with a local wildlife society, which will also help you engage in your local community and raise your general awareness level.
Three organizations that provide helpful information on endangered species include the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, and the World Conservation Union.
Photographs of endangered species and other helpful resources are available at the organization’s website at www.iucn.org.
Part of the myth that drives overconsumption is that all of this extra stuff will somehow make our lives better and our spirits happier. This myth is too costly to the earth and to our souls.
One important way to be kind to the earth is to simply use less of it. Some of the ways to begin to make a difference in the world today include: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.
- Refuse: Just say no. Don’t buy something just because you can or because you want it. Every time you buy something, you are using up a piece of the earth and causing pollution.
- Reduce: If you cannot say no, perhaps you can reduce your rate of consumption. For example, how about using half of a tank of gas this week rather than three-quarters of a tank of gas?
- Reuse: Sometimes waste is just so meaningless. When you throw out a bottle after drinking its contents, it’s no different from throwing out a mug at the restaurant after drinking the coffee from it!
- Recycle: This is the bottom of the hierarchy—the last stop. It’s better to just say no for starters, but if you can’t (or if you have already reduced and reused), you can often recycle something instead of just throwing it in the trash bin.
One of the best ways to be kind to the environment is to reduce carbon emissions. The car is a chief culprit in creating air pollution.
One way that you can help to reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of the air is to join with millions of Americans who are discovering a new love affair—the bike.
Cycling to work, to school or to a friend’s house can be a practical and, at the same time, healthy way of commuting around town.
One innovative group that is pushing for more cycling is Yellow Bikes (a takeoff of Yellow Cabs), headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. The group’s initial idea was to create a large pool of reconditioned bikes for free public use in cities across America. People could simply pick up a bike at a predetermined location and drop it off when they were done.
If you don’t want to join Yellow Bikes (or there is not one located in your area), you can still help the environment by simply giving your car a break now and then.
Contact Yellow Bikes for ideas on how to make the most of cycling. The web address is www.yellowbikes.org.
There’s a certain edge to human arrogance that views animals as a simple resource to be exploited at all costs.
Some humans have developed a kind of dominion ideology in which they believe that they have the ethical right to do with animals as they please. No compassion or moral thought enters their minds as they treat animals with total disregard.
How you can help:
Change you lifestyle to be more animal-friendly, conduct an education campaign for animals, sign up people for community-wide efforts to end animal cruelty.
The first thing you can do to counteract this is find ways to change your personal lifestyle so that you can go through life’s normal consuming demands without inflicting pain on animals.
One organization that is devoted to kindness to animals is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The organization posts both the good and the ugly on its website, where you can find the latest campaigns against companies that violate animals, learn which food and clothing products are created without animal testing, and discover other resources for further education. Make a commitment with what you learn from the PETA website to buy only certain kinds of products.
Next, conduct an education campaign on your campus. Set up a creative booth at the student mall or other public place where you can show videos (PETA has plenty), display posters, or hand out relevant literature. You’d be surprised how many students are not aware of the price that animals pay to maintain people’s lifestyle in our society. Be creative.
The final suggestion is to sign people up for current animal cruelty campaigns.
One sensible way of being easier on the earth is by eating lower on the food chain.
Central to the principle of eating lower on the food chain is the idea of lessening each person’s net impact upon the earth. Here’s one way to think of it: What is the most efficient means of getting meat protein?
Well, ounce for ounce of net protein, it takes 13 times as much grain to feed a cow as it does a chicken. When you add to that the other costs of feeding cows versus chickens (barns, fences, fields, fuel, equipment, staffing), the cost of cow protein becomes much higher. So, if we are able to get the same nutritional value into our bodies from a bite of chicken as we can from a bite of beef, why not use that means and preserve the earth?
The key to eating low on the food chain is to gain proteins from “low cost” sources. In fact, you don’t even have to eat meat for protein—you can get all the protein you need from a combination of grains and legumes. If you do eat meat, you can make a habit of eating chicken or fish more than beef. (Your doctor will tell you that all of your body’s protein needs for one day can be satisfied with one bite of chicken—it’s not as though we have to eat a side of beef to stay healthy!) The idea here is not to be legalistic about food but to be sensible and creative.
For ideas on eating low on the food chain, go to www.tryveg.com or www.goveg.com. The PETA website also has a friendly vegetarian section at www.peta.org.
With our country smarting from the price of overseas oil, it suddenly has become fashionable to consider solar energy as a viable option.
Some states, such as Pennsylvania, give consumers the right to choose the source of the energy they are purchasing (solar and wind are among those choices). Energy companies are required to purchase their energy from whatever source the consumer demands.
That wonderfully progressive law puts the power of consumption back into the hands of citizens rather than a few powerful corporations.
A green campaign will not succeed overnight, because too many people and corporations benefit from our remaining dependent on unhealthy energy sources. But tomorrow’s world does not belong to those corporations—it belongs to today’s women and men who have the moral right to steer this ship on a different course.
For more information on the benefits of switching to green power and green power programs, visit www.greenpower.gov or the Environmental Protection Agency’s green power link at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/.
It has been estimated that the world’s rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of at least 80,000 acres per day.
There is a myth in the West that these lands are destroyed primarily by indigenous people who do slash-and-burn farming. But the true culprits are people outside of the rainforest who go there to access mineral resources (such as gold), build pipelines to export oil, set up fruit farms, or clear thousands of acres to graze cattle.
These economic enterprises capture the benefits of the local rainforest for the exclusive purpose of exporting products for profit.
The devastation as a result of these practices that is wreaked on the roughly 50 million indigenous people who live in the rainforest is unconscionable.11 When we destroy the rainforest, we are directly destroying them.
How can you help? One organization, the Eden Conservancy, is preserving a large section of rainforest in Belize as part of a biological corridor that extends through the continent. The idea is to preserve the local integrity of the rainforest and create a permanent corridor that will ensure the survival of endangered species in that region.
To purchase and permanently set aside an acre of rainforest into the Eden Conservancy Trust costs only $200. This is a great idea for group fundraisers or for holiday gifts and personal donations. When you purchase an acre of rainforest, the Eden Conservancy will send an attractive Certificate of Trust with your name on it to indicate the number of acres that have been saved.
To purchase acreage, contact the Eden Conservancy through the Jaguar Creek environmental center at www.jaguarcreek.org. Or, to learn more about the importance of rainforests and the effects of deforestation, visit www.mongabay.com.
Some ideas that we recommend for spreading the vision for the environment in your church, school or neighborhood include the following: Celebrate Earth Day, join the parade, set up a booth, announce your plans, hold a seminar.
- Celebrate Earth Day. Ask your church’s leadership to make Earth Day a part of the annual church calendar so that at least for one day of the year, your fellow church members will focus on global issues.
- Join the Parade. If your town has an Earth Day parade, strongly urge your fellow churchgoers to join the event as a clear statement that Christians love the creation of their Lord. However, make sure you discourage people from the temptation to show up at the event with placards and slogans that try to “correct” other people’s orientation to the environment. Allow this to be a positive time of public cooperation and affirmation.
- Set up a Booth. Set up an informational table or booth in your church foyer. At your table, be prepared to talk to people who are interested in helping the environment and be sure to have some statistics, information and practical suggestions available to promote environment-friendly tactics.
- Announce Your Plans. Don’t be afraid to ask your pastor or for advice on ways that you can get the word out.
- Hold a Seminar. Get some friends together and hold a Saturday or Sunday afternoon seminar on the environment for those in your church who want to learn more about environmental issues.