Environmental stewardship gets dicey because often politics muddies the issue. The role of government in people’s lives or in a business’s decisions is a matter about which Christians can and do disagree. It’s easy to get in fights over these matters — and to lose sight, in the process, of the very basic biblical call to environmental stewardship. Christians red, blue, and purple should be able to agree on the importance of valuing and caring for creation even if they come to different conclusions about public policy matters and how to go about implementing that stewardship value.
The reality is that environmental stewardship is not a “left” or “green” or “earth-worshipping, tree-hugging” matter. It’s a biblical matter, emphasized consistently in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
So what can regular folks do to care for creation in the context of everyday life? Here are 7 actions to consider that have nothing to do with your decisions at the voting booth:
1. Pray and worship. Pray about environmental issues and concerns. Did you know that April 26th is the international Day of Prayer for Creation Care? Mark your calendar and commit to spend intentional time in prayer on that day. Also, make a habit of worshipping God for his artistry. Worship God for a beautiful sunrise. Walk in nature and sing hymns that praise our Creator. Enjoy this amazing gift of our lovely created world.
2. Recycle. I confess we went “off” recycling for a few years because in our neighborhood we have to pay for curbside recycling. But then, voila!, we discovered that Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has free recycling drop off spots. So every few weeks, on our way home from church, we drop off recycling.
3. Shop local farms. We don’t do all of our shopping from the farmers market, but we try to intentionally do at least some of it that way. Rather than produce that’s been shipped your way from states or even continents far away (emitting pollutants and using energy to get to your plate), instead choose to support farmers in your community who farm sustainably. (Even better? Plant your own garden! Lots of fun, hard-work, and family bonding!)
4. Reduce energy use. We approach this principle simply and incrementally in our home. An energy-efficient lightbulb here, the thermostat changed a few degrees there, the laundry washed on cold and the windows left open on a breezy day. Basic, small choices that add up. Since most of our energy comes from coal-fired power plants (which produce pollutants and emissions that harm the the air we breathe and the atmosphere in which we live), each choice to reduce non-renewable energy use makes a difference.
5. Choose re-usable containers. This may seem silly, but it’s a choice that has become meaningful to me. In school lunches, I use as many re-usable containers as I can and as few plastic bags (which will just end up in a trash dump). This is also a really significant choice when grocery shopping — using cloth bags may slow the line a bit, but it can be a small but meaningful act of worship.
6. Care for your lawn organically. No, this doesn’t mean buying ultra expensive organic fertilizer or letting your lawn become a weed garden. Check out these tips for easy and natural lawn-care passed along to me by a friend who knows his stuff. Avoiding or lessening one’s use of chemical fertilizers is really important; water run-off containing these chemicals often ends up in natural environments (streams, ponds, eventually the ocean) where the accumulating chemicals are creating dead zones.
7. Clean naturally. This is a new focus for me that I’m trying to implement a bit at a time. How can I clean my house without using harsh chemicals? Many household cleaners contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that enter indoor air and make it unhealthy to breathe. Also, many end up washing down the drain and negatively affecting marine life. This article has given me many helpful ideas that I’m just starting to put into practice.
See? Not one of these ideas involved hugging a tree or becoming smelly and weird (as some obnoxious pundits like to paint environmentalists). These are simple, smart, and no-nonsense ways to be a good steward. These ideas can also be implemented incrementally. If going full gusto on all seven isn’t your cup of tea, just pick one or two and try to do them sometimes or more often.
Thoughts? Other suggestions? I’d love to hear your ideas.