I lost my appetite at a fellowship luncheon in a Lutheran congregation.
No, it wasn’t the food but how it was served: Styrofoam plates and bowls, plastic forks and spoons, clear plastic cups for cold drinks and for hot drinks? Styrofoam! It sickened me to think of all the refuse that would sit in a landfill for decades just so that we could eat lunch.
Earth Day falls on the day after Easter. It’s a good time to reflect on how poorly we humans are taking care of the one and only home we have and the creation that God called not just good but “very good” (Genesis 1:31). If it hasn’t already, the planet is reaching its limit to safely absorb our waste from burning fossil fuels and from making, using and discarding plastics and other human-made compounds. We are consuming natural resources at a faster rate than nature can replace them.
The world’s scientists have long been sounding the alarm that we are on a collision course. Disaster looms in the lifetimes of our grandchildren.
God’s people can and should do better – and a congregational “Green Team” can lead the way. Why not form one this month? Involve your youth and young adults, who may be more attuned to this problem than their parents. What could a Green Team do?
- Lead a “plastic purge” in the congregation by finding and implementing alternatives to single-use plastics for fellowship events and other uses (such as disposable communion cups)
- Educate the congregation on the destructive effects of climate change and the scientific consensus by arranging classes, temple talks and discussion around books (Bill McKibben’s new one, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?) or films (such as Netflix’s Our Planet).
- Landscape the premises with more plants, shrubs and trees. Better yet, plant a community garden to not only feed neighbors but also to teach children and others about where our food comes from.
- Arrange for your utility providers to do an energy audit (generally free!) to examine the efficiency of your church’s lighting, heating and air conditioning systems. Work with leaders to implement recommendations
- Make your building more efficient by insulating walls and ceilings, wrapping pipes and sealing (or replacing) windows and doors
- Start a congregational compost pile for food waste and teach congregants how to do so in their homes
- Install a bike rack and encourage people to bicycle and walk more.
- Maintain a beehive to encourage pollination. Teach about the role bees play in food production
- Advocate for public policies that will promote a cleaner environment and reduction of fossil fuels
- Join with other environmentalists, especially those aligned with faith communities in your community or denomination.
Will your Green Team be able to solve the world’s environmental crisis? Not on its own. But we know that big movements often begin with small groups of God’s people working together.
Photos: NASA archive image, stevan sheets and d-olwen-dee, Creative Commons License. Thank you!