How I am trying to care for the Environment (#Write31Days)

I originally called this post “How Christians Can Care For The Environment.” Grand but misleading, it makes me sound like an expert when what I really am is someone who has taken some teensy baby steps, and is looking for encouragement and incentive to do more to take care of the earth.

I can’t remember exactly when I started to care about the environment (possibly the season when I became less dogmatic about the end times.) I probably started with recycling, which I still do faithfully even though lots of stuff put in recycling ends up in landfills. Recycling gets more attention and focus, but I’m learning that reducing and reusing are where the real earth care lives.

I began seriously considering the amount of waste our family produces about 5 years ago when I participated in a group centered around 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, a life-changing book describing Jen Hatmaker’s experience doing month-long fasts in 7 different areas of excess.  I highly recommend not just reading it: Gather a group and do it together.

In the Spring of 2014 my friends and I dragged our families through 2 weeks of REDUCING, cutting down our waste and contribution to landfills.  I learned a lot from friends in the group who are much more environmentally conscious than me. One friend was even willing to try out “family cloth“. (She was the pretty hard core and even she didn’t last with this. I was unwilling to even try, and Matt still teases me about family cloth any time I mention environmentalism or waste reduction.)

What I was willing to try & have mostly stuck with:

Giving up disposables as much as possible: I moved paper towels and napkins out of our kitchen. We cut up old towels which, along with sponges, we use to clean up any messes. I dragged out the cloth napkins we got as wedding gifts. It seemed like a pain figuring out how to launder all of these at first: We started by keeping a mop bucket under the sink, but that gets stinky fast. We moved to tossing them in with our dirty laundry, and washing them on hot with our towels and whites. We still only use paper napkins when we’re hosting large groups, and I can’t remember the last time I used a paper towel.) We do occasionally use paper plates for pizza when I don’t want to do dishes but thinking about this again renews my commitment to refuse disposables.

Changing how I handle feminine hygiene: I gave up tampons and sanitary pads, and began using a menstrual cup. It took a couple of months to get used to, but this was a truly permanent change: I’ll never go back.

Reducing my water use: I’ve always been pretty good about turning faucets off when I’m not using them (brushing my teeth, or washing dishes.) I only run the dishwasher and do laundry when I have full loads. I experimented with turning the water off in the shower except when I was getting wet and rinsing off, but the winters did me in. I do take really quick showers most of the time, and I never shave my legs in the shower anymore.

Things I tried but have been less committed to:

Buying in bulk, to reduce packaging waste.

Using reusable shopping bags: I’m super awesome at this when I shop at Aldi, where they hold you accountable. But lately we’ve been ordering groceries at Walmart, which is MAGICAL but they bag every little thing in a separate plastic bag. Ugh. We use those walmart bags to line every small trash can in the house and for pooper-scooping, so at least we’re reusing??

Buying used clothes (thrifting, garage sales & good will), rather than new.

Going electronic with books, movies, and music: Our music is entirely digital, and I’m beginning to buy digital copies of movies rather than DVD or Blu-ray. I so buy a lot of books on Kindle, but y’all. I LOVE A REAL BOOK.

Things I am unwilling to do, but admire in others:

  • Cloth diapering. I’d like to say that if I had babies now I’d cloth diaper, and I really hope that’s true. But I also have one child who made it past 4 before he was potty trained, so all bets are off.
  • Ride-sharing and biking, to cut down on how often they use their car.
  • Buying local (this cuts down on gas and the cost of transporting and shipping.) Shipping is super wasteful and has a huge footprint, but again: I love my Amazon Prime. Sigh.
  • I listened to a podcast this week where they talked about the environmental impact of the beef industry. I had no idea that some people are vegetarians because of the environment.

As I think about caring for the environment, and loving God’s creation well,  I am convicted by this list of things I am not doing (and don’t want to do). The main issue is convenience. Sigh. I’d like to care enough for the earth that I’m willing to go out of my way to do things in greener ways, even if it’s inconvenient.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord.” (Psalm 96:11-13)

What are your favorite environmentally friendly practices?

I asked Facebook, “What is one thing Christians don’t care about, that they should?” Over the course of October I am answering this question myself, as part of the Write 31 Days challenge.

Everything I’ve written for “Write 31 Days: Christians Should Care” lives here.


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