While we’re living in the most economically prosperous times in all of history, it is also becoming increasingly clear that our current lifestyles are taking a huge toll on the planet.
Pollution from our cars, planes and factories are heating up the climate in real-time, turning lands into deserts, causing extreme storms and hurricanes, and increasingly driving peoples out of their homes.
As Christians, our key moral guideline is to love God above all, and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). In this context, how we treat the planet is often overlooked. Yet, our impact on the planet now directly and indirectly affects our neighbors across the planet. Furthermore, the Bible talks of us as stewards that need to take good care of the earth
(Genesis 2:15, Psalm 115:16), which we are to pass on to our children in a way that allows them to live a good and healthy life. In this context, taking good care of our environment is a key way of showing our love for our (global) neighbor, as well as our Creator. Or, to put it simply: caring the planet is part of our calling.
But how to give shape to this (often daunting) task and put things to practice? Below, I have set out five easy steps that will already help a great deal. Try incorporating them in your daily routine and see where you can best use your gifts and talents to keep this planet a healthy and livable place for all.
1. Meat free Mondays
Christianity is not a vegetarian religion, far from it. Yet, I find it hard to imagine that when God told the Israelites about the different types they’d be allowed to eat (Leviticus 11), he meant them to do that in the form of a full-Irish in the morning, a hot carvery baguette for lunch and an 11-ounce steak for dinner.
Our meat intake is actually more harmful to the planet than the impact of planes, ships, cars and other transport taken together.
And so the easiest way to help save the planet is simply to eat less meat. A good start is to not eat meat on Monday, as promoted by Paul McCartney’s ‘Meat free Monday’ initiative. Also, make sure to check out this greatly informative blog on plant-based cooking and see how you can slim down on your meat-intake for a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
2. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
I recently asked my grandma what life was like before everything was packed in plastic. She couldn’t really remember; plastic has become such a crucial and integral part of our lives, it’s difficult to remember a time without it (she’s also really getting quite old, that didn’t help either).
Plastic is everywhere. Scientists found huge amounts of (micro-)plastic in the Arctic sea, far away from populated areas; 29 kilos of the material were found in this poor whale’s stomach – who died because of it; and plastic is now a common pollutant in our own bodies too.
Most widespread are plastic bags, cups, bottles and straws. Fortunately, there’s re-usable alternatives for each one of them. Make a habit of bringing your own bags to the grocery store, and your own cup to the coffee machine. This might not sound like making much of an impact, but if, say 40 regular visitors of our church start bringing their own re-usable cups on Sundays, this would save almost 2000 single-use cups on a yearly basis. That’s only in CCC. For more inspiration, check out this great source on how to cut your use of plastics.
3. The car as last resort
We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, but all the exhaust gasses we’re inhaling every day are definitely no treat either. If you think there’s no harm, hang your white bed linen to dry outside in a car-busy street and see what happens…
As journalist Abi Wilkonson describes in a very enlightening article in the Guardian, it’s high time we start seeing driving a car as a last resort; something you do if absolutely no other options are available. Instead, travel by bicycle, foot, public transport, skateboard, pogo stick or any other green alternative you can come up with.
4. Happy holidays
In Ireland, getting a nice summer tan almost always involves flying and, at this stage, you can get your tickets to a sunny destination for almost as cheap as your average spray tan. Of course that’s amazing, but the less sunny side to this story is that flying is really bad for the environment.
To illustrate, a single flight from Dublin to Bali generates, per passenger, as much of CO 2 emissions as the average car does in a whole year. Flying is great, but we shouldn’t overdo it just because it’s cheap. Sometimes it’s also nice to just stay at home, especially if your home is Dublin. If you’re more of an explorer, make sure to check out the many amazing eco-travelling options out there, including here in Ireland.
5. Greening our wardrobes
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin (Matthew 6:28)
The verse above was written more than 2000 years ago, but really couldn’t be more relevant today. Fashion collections today change faster than some people change their underwear, and keeping up with the latest trends involves buying lots and lots of new clothes.
Greening our wardrobes means only buying clothes that were built to last – with respect to the earth and its people. The ‘Buy me once’ website does a great job at showing what types of brands will deliver sustainable and robust clothing (as well as other products). What also helps is focusing on buying second hand: one person’s trash is another one’s treasure and you’d be surprised by what you may find!
A final thought
Before I finish let me make one final comment to give you some hope and perspective, as we can often feel overwhelmed and defeated when we think about the state of our planet and our role in addressing environmental issues.
Really, all Jesus ever asks of us is to do what we can according to our gifts, and leave ‘running the world’ to him. So just do what you can, however seemingly small (Matthew 25:14-30).
Secondly, we are given great hope that God will restore/renew/re-make this world, so our hope is ultimately in him and not in ourselves. As Christians, we believe that Jesus came to this earth so that one day, we can live in a physical world that is free from all sin and corruption, greed and abuse (Habakkuk 2:14, Philippians 3:20, Revelations 21:1-4). Till then, let’s all try to love our earth, and so our neighbor and our creator, a bit better every day!
If you want to read a great book on this, try Planetwise by Dave Brookless.
And if you’re interested in forming a group within church (maybe a seminar or a City Group?) to explore these issues further don’t hesitate to reach out to me – email@example.com – this stuff is close to my heart and is the reason I am in Ireland doing a PhD! Also, I’m going to be organizing a Phoenix Park clean-up event soon, so if you want some hands-on experience cleaning up this planet, make sure to tag on there! More info to follow