Being green? How about being sensible?

If you watch TV, surf the Internet, or read any kind of periodicals whatsoever, you’ve probably heard a lot lately about being “green.” Although environmental concerns have been discussed in the public square for years, suddenly, after Al Gore’s ridiculously successful documentary An Inconvenient Truth, it’s become very fashionable to talk about how “carbon-neutral” and “green” one’s lifestyle is. I haven’t come across a magazine yet that’s resisted the temptation to jump on the bandwagon and publish articles about how many carbon credits you can save by doing this or that. So how, as Christians, should we respond to this “green” cultural phenomenon?

I know that many Christians, including myself initially, have responded by saying, “Rubbish. I don’t want anything to do with it.” This is an understandable reaction, since we don’t really wish to associate ourselves with tree-hugging Mother Earth worshipers who idolize the creation rather than honoring their Creator. However, I don’t think this reactionary response is particularly Biblical. In fact, I think the Christian community as a whole should place a higher priority on caring for the environment, but not for the sake of being green or trendy.

Genesis 1: 28
“And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:31
“And God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

When God created the world, He pronounced it to be Very Good, and placed it under the care of His crowning creation, mankind. Therefore, just as we respect human life as being created in God’s image, so we should care about preserving God’s creation generally, His “very good” earth. Motivation is everything here. We may end up doing some of the very same things that the green Mother Earth worshipers do, but we do them for the right reasons. Not because we’re trendy, not because we idolize the cause, but because it’s part of a God-honoring lifestyle that values sensible stewardship.

As a side note, this can be an opportunity to speak to your unbelieving friends about your faith, since everyone seems to be talking about this issue right now. I recently started a recycling program at my pharmacy, since we were throwing an unconscionable number of recyclable bottles into the trash. My coworkers admiringly said, “You’re so green!” This gave me an opportunity to politely disagree and explain that my motivation comes from a different source: a wish to honor the Creator by being a good steward of His creation; particularly, I consider it my duty to take responsibility for my own waste. My coworkers were surprised, and although none of them prayed the Sinner’s Prayer on the spot (and not all of them, by the way, are unbelievers), it established an ongoing dialogue about why, as a believer, I make the choices I do.

So what should this lifestyle look like? Well, I think recycling is a good place to start. In our house, we recycle cans (aluminum and tin), plastics, glass, and cardboard, because we use a lot of all these things. It’s very easy to put out a few more containers in the house, and here in our community you can drop your recyclables off at some of the local grocery stores. And of course, you can get a little extra spending money from your cans. It’s not a great hardship to recycle, you just have to get started.

Another good idea is to use recyclable grocery bags. This eliminates quite a bit of waste and, again, is not particularly inconvenient. At some grocery stores you even get a small discount for bringing your own bags!

Using energy-efficient light bulbs is another good and easy adjustment to make. (Make sure, if you do, that you use up the bulbs you have now, and just replace them as they go out with the energy-efficient ones. Some people get really gung-ho about this, and forget that throwing away perfectly good light bulbs is wasteful too!)

There are lots of other small things you can do, like walk and bike more (instead of driving short distances), bring your own mug to the coffee shop, use cloth napkins and diapers (although, not having been a parent yet, I’m not sure exactly how practical the cloth diaper idea is), and if you own your home, install energy-efficient windows and insulation and so on. But you don’t need to go overboard. I, for instance, have no intention of going around unplugging my microwave and toaster and blender and TV and VCR and lamps and fans and stereo before leaving my house every morning. Are you kidding? The trick here is to establish a few things that are helpful to the environment while remaining practical for your lifestyle, and all the while remembering that it’s not about Mother Earth. It’s about God.


2 Responses to “Being green? How about being sensible?”

  1. April 24, 2008 at 5:40 am

    Despite the “custodians of this earth” comment over to the right, I have to say that disposable diapers are what landfills were created for! They deserve a place in the great list of inventions.

    Eric was pinned into cloth diapers, though. Maybe that’s why he’s special.

  2. April 26, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    I changed over to cloth bags for the grocery store about a month ago… the key I have found is keeping them in the trunk…so they are with me always. I also bought a fun bag for other purchases like books, clothes… instead of those bags as well. I am still trying to get in the habit, but it makes me feel good to add a little solution instead of problem.

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April 2008
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Thought For The Week

I want to clarify that there is no political problem that is not really a heart problem with hearts not connected to Christ. Only one Kingdom is really important, and this isn't it.

But just as it's sad to see poorly coded software, a badly built building, or an ugly city, it's even more sad to see a nation being thrown away. As custodians of this earth, we should do better.

-Mark Ritchie


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