As citizens on a planet of finite resources, we have an obligation to each other to preserve those resources. Alas, because they seem so abundant, our corporations and governments have done a very poor job of managing them. Instead the mantra has been to use whatever we can to create a “better life”.
What is a “better life?” I think too often, we look at possessions and tastes to define “better”, without considering the human and environmental costs of those possessions. What resources do they require? How far do they have to travel for us to receive them? Is a living wage being paid to the creators of that possession? How much pollution (to air, water, the earth) was created to make the item? These are all environmental costs that need to be considered whenever we consider producing and consuming things. A prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (p. 827) describes well a healthy way of thinking about being a responsible consumer. “Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation; Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty.”
I challenge us to think more intentionally about the subsequent clauses of these sentences. God did not “give us dominion over things” to use them recklessly – he made us “fellow workers”. Yes indeed there are “resources of nature” for us to use, but not so that anyone may “suffer from our abuse of them”. A wonderful guide for how we use natural resources is to adopt the Indigenous American way – consider how our use of a resource will impact the 7th generation of people beyond us – “the generations yet to come”.
Here are some ways to consider the impact of your life choices on our environment:
– Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use
– Reduce your speed while driving
– Buy local goods and products
– Utilize public transportation
– Take shorter, cooler showers
– Take advantage of natural breezes in the summer, instead of air conditioning
– Dry clothes by hanging them
– Pile on sweaters and socks instead of turning up the heat
– Eat local and seasonal foods that do not have to travel far to get to your table
– Turn off your lights for one hour every day
– Say no to bottled water
– Choose a fuel-efficient or EV car.
– Set concrete goals for reducing your travel.
– Whenever practical, walk, bicycle, or take public transportation.
– Eat less meat.
– Buy certified organic produce.
– Reduce your use of hot water in washing clothes and/or
– Purchase a tankless water heater
– Install LED lighting and efficient appliances and/or solar panels
– Choose an alternative energy supplier
God’s creation needs us to care. From the Song of Creation:
“Let the earth glorify the Lord…
Glorify the Lord, o mountains and hills, and all that grows upon the earth.
Glorify the Lord, o springs of water, seas, and streams,
o whales and all that moves in the waters, all birds of the air, o beasts of the wild, and all you flocks and herds, glorify the Lord.”