Once we start to see that caring for all creation is something that is very important to God, our next step is taking actions which express this. This can sometimes feel very overwhelming and bring up questions such as “Where do I start? Can I really make a difference?”
I was talking to my 6 year old the other day about the rain and he said to me “You know daddy, even one drop of rain will change the level of the puddle.” It was this simple perspective that God used to challenge me about impact. Yes it might look like nothing has changed when a drop of water hits a puddle, but it has made a difference, and if more and more drops of water hit that puddle it will eventually overflow and flood the surrounding area. If we all take small simple steps in the possible towards Creation Care, then big things can happen. As a global movement we have the ability to take principles and spread them quickly, learning together and discipling the places we are called to. But I can hear you asking “OK, but what do we do?”
One of the easiest places to start is around “reduce, reuse, recycle”. When we think through our impact on the world and our neighbour, one of the easier places to start is thinking about what we purchase and it’s lifecycle. Where did it come from, how did it get to me and where will it go when I’m finished with it. A great question to ask is “Do I actually need this?” and if I do, “Do I need it new?” By taking a moment to reflect on that question we can often reduce our impact. Another way to look at this is what’s the product made from, ie “is it plastic or is it paper?” Paper if left outside will break down and return to soil, plastic if left out will stay around for 100’s of years. Also “What is it packaged in?” Here in the UK, a supermarket has the option of fruit and vegetables loose or pre-packaged. It might seem like a small thing but if lots of people started to shift their purchasing habits away from pre-packaged items to loose it would dramatically reduce the amount of waste we produce. This principle also works at an items end-of-life, take a moment to think about where it’s going after it’s been yours. Rather than just throw it away (because there is no away) can it be reused or repaired? Can I take it to a charity shop or put it on a secondhand marketplace or give it away? Can this item be recycled and if so how? If we can both reduce the amount we purchase and also the amount we throw away, our impact on the environment around us significantly. But taking time to think about where a product has come from before it reaches me and where it goes after me is an important part of understanding how we individually/as a community/as a society have an impact on our neighbours.
Another aspect of waste management is food waste and other organic material (such as a 100% cotton item of clothing). You can actually compost a large range of items, but start with something that is manageable for who you are and the size of your community. Then you can plan what to do with the compost once it is broken down. If you have a garden you can use it to help your plants grow, or if you don’t, you can look for and connect with a local group which does have growing areas and see if they would like to have it (this can be a great way to develop relationships with the local community). This helps to take the waste that would otherwise go to landfill and produce methane and recycles, reduces and reuses it into something that helps to bring life. From personal experience making this change within a larger YWAM community, it reduces the cost of bin collection, if you pay based on the amount of waste being removed. It also allowed us to grow better quality vegetables to eat with higher nutrient content, which in turn impacted the health of those in the community.
Another area to look at both on individual and location level, is energy and water use. A very simple thing to change are lightbulbs, from low efficiency to high efficiency (LED). They can cost a bit more in the short term, but they will use a lot less electricity saving money in the longer term. It’s also worth looking at the appliances being used, ie washing machines, fridges etc, and seeing if you’re able to change out lower efficiency items for higher efficiency ones. In the EU there’s a very helpful rating system for appliance efficiency. You’ll discover as you change out
less efficient items for more efficient ones you’ll spend less on your bills, saving money in the long term. It also helps the environment as your location uses less power, less energy will need to be generated, which, especially if the power is generated by burning gas, has a knock on effect on the levels of Carbon pollution released. Our water usage also impacts the environment around us. For example rather than tossing cooking water down the drain it can be saved and used to water plants as the water will carry extra nutrients from the cooking process. Or quicker and cooler showers as this reduces the amount of water being used and the amount of energy needed to heat that water, which help to save money and reduce the environmental impact.
Cleaning products are another area to look at, we all want to keep our places clean, so we often purchase the things that we’ve always used or a company tell us we need. My wife purchased a book not too long ago to give alternative ideas for natural things we can use to gain the same cleaning results. For example lemon juice is a very effective stain remover especially on tomato based stains. It’s also helpful to understand how your waste system is set up, for example if your location has a septic tank then using a standard toilet cleaner is actually very detrimental to the bacteria in the system making the septic tank less effective. There are a lot of toilet cleaning products that are friendly to septic tanks, or you can use baking soda and vinegar.
Looking at the biodiversity of your location is another easy and clear way we can better care for our environment. For example we have seen a vast reduction in species of pollinators across Europe since the end of World War 2, which in turn affects our food production as most plants need at least some help in producing fruit/seeds. God designed an amazing system of interconnected elements to bring life and fruitfulness and when we lose part of that we often see things either collapse or one thing over dominating and the system not working well. We can allow our grass to grow long in an area, or be intentional about setting up a wild flower area of native species to your area. It can also be helpful to look at what is in your location and if it would normally be found there, if we can help to create a place where native plant species are able to grow it in turn helps with natural insect life which in turn helps with birds and small mammals etc all the way up to larger animals. The loss of biodiversity in an area leads to great environmental strain but when we help to bring restoration we help an environment better cope with extremes in weather etc. which in turn helps the local people to have a higher quality of life.
You can also contact your local and national authority. Here in the UK I can write to my MP to express my concerns asking them to raise these within parliament, it is not a perfect system, but the elected representatives are supposed to be the voice of the people who voted for them and if lots of people are writing to them about a particular issue then they should make that known. We can ask them to enact and develop policy that is to the benefit of our environment, such as funding for biodiversity projects and renewable energy and resist policy which would cause great environmental destruction or detriment to the people they represent.
There are many other things that we can do, these are just a few ideas. One of the questions that can often come up is what difference does this really make in the grand scheme of things? If we just look at it from a worldly point of view very little, but as I said at the start even one drop of water changes the level in a puddle, so no mater how small it seems it does make a difference. But from an integrity perspective it makes a huge difference in our authority to speak and pray into these issues. Our authority both spiritually and physically is tied to the integrity with which we approach things, and when we make choices in line with God’s nature and character we find that things can shift in a dramatic way, such as feeding over 5,000 people from a single meal.