by Amy Jackson
On a recent road trip through central Illinois, I noticed all the new wind turbines that have gone up over the past year. In one field alone, I counted over a hundred. Seeing those giant pinwheels spinning in the wind brought loads of joy to my heart because I knew God loved that sight.
I went to school in the ‘90s, so I heard countless presentations on the importance of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But late in high school, when I started following Christ, my green lifestyle took on new meaning, and new urgency. The three Rs were no longer simply good things to do—they became essential to my life as a Christian.
One Christian writer, Charles Colson, wrote that “Christians should be the most ardent ecologists” because we know the creator, and we’ve been given the job of caring for his creation. God created everything we see, and he calls it good. Our first picture of God in Scripture is a creator proud of his work (Genesis 1).
Plus, the majesty of creation shows God to us in a way little else can. As we stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon or at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro or even on the shores of Lake Michigan, we’re drawn to the beauty, majesty, and greatness of God.
But God's dream for the earth is disintegrating around us. For instance, there is a worldwide problem of honeybees disappearing. Honeybees pollinate over 80 percent of our crops. If they disappeared tomorrow, we would no longer have the majority of our food supply. We are part of an intricate ecological web that God has created, and we must take our rightful spot among creation, recognizing our dependence on it and our power to help restore the earth to God’s original dream for it.
Besides calling us to preserve and restore God's creation, God calls his followers to love others, and green living is a matter of loving our neighbors. About six years ago, when the concept of “organic” began to be mainstream, I was grappling with its importance. I understood that organic produce could mean more health for me and that it protected the soil from harsh chemicals, but as organic cotton sheets and towels popped up in stores, I was skeptical. What’s the point of buying organic blankets?
That’s when I learned that in America’s constant cry for more—especially more clothes—the rest of the world was forced to meet those needs by growing more cotton faster. But cotton is a finicky crop, and to keep up with the demand, more and more pesticides were produced. In fact, more pesticides are used on cotton today (over 84 million tons every year throughout the world) than any other crop. Every three t-shirts produced require a pound of these pesticides. The problem is that half of the most widely used pesticides have shown a link with causing major health concerns in people—from cancer to respiratory issues to sight problems. Even scarier, most cotton is produced in third-world countries with few laws that protect workers from these dangerous chemicals. Our need for more is literally killing our worldwide neighbors. When we choose to buy organic sheets, towels, and shirts, we invest in companies who are growing cotton without the use of these dangerous chemicals. We use our money to vote for safe working conditions for the workers as well as taking care of our earth by not using these harmful chemicals.
Amidst this gloom and doom, the beauty of Earth Day is that we—you and I—can make a difference. Lots of little things really do add up. Part of God’s mission is restoring creation to his original dream for it, and we have the privilege of joining him in that mission.
Here are ten ways you can make a difference:
- Come to terms with your need for more and decide to choose less. I recently did a clothing fast that showed me how much excess I have. We’re conditioned to want bigger, newer, and more. Decide to be content and only buy what you need.
- Reduce your waste: get rid of junk mail, pay your bills online, buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging, use real plates and glasses instead of paper and plastic, bring your own bag to the store, use a reusable coffee mug when buying your favorite drink, buy only what you need, and shave a few minutes off your shower.
- Buy items that can be reused and shared. Before you buy, consider how you’ll be able to use the item in the future. Make sure it’s something that will last. Share bigger items with neighbors, family, and friends.
- Recycle everything you can. I even take home bottles and cans from work and restaurants to ensure they're recycled. Otherwise they'll end up in a landfill.
- Buy products made with recycled material—especially paper products like paper towels and sticky notes. If we recycle everything in sight but never actually use the products made with that recycled material, what’s the point? And the more we demand recycled products, the more will be made.
- Use less gas. Walk, bike, or share a ride whenever possible.
- Buy from businesses that are making good decisions for the earth and our worldwide neighbors. Check out the ratings of major companies at betterworldshopper.org.
- Support local businesses and farms that are invested in fair trade and other environmentally friendly practices. Visit your farmers' market and enjoy the local flavors.
- Clean up your community. Pick up trash along a busy road, plant flowers in a community garden, get schools involved in recycling, help your church understand the importance of green living. Gain awareness of the ecological laws and movements in your community. Get involved when possible.
- Spend time in nature. Because the more time you spend outside in God’s creation, the more likely you’ll want to preserve and restore it.
What about you? How are you making a move to save the planet today?