Mention the words "save the environment" or "go green" and you probably picture these phrases coming from a tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippy with liberal tendencies. Rarely would your first impression be of an impassioned Christian. But God created this world, called it good, and charged us with caring for it, so we, as followers of Christ, should do what little each of us can to care for the world we live in.
In his popular book Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action, Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth says, "We exist in a living, created world in which the Bible tells us that God knows every scale on a fish, every hair on our head, and the flight of every sparrow. We are to aspire to all things godly; therefore, it would be wrong to go through life in an unthinking or uncaring way."
If that's the case, then we must consider these hard facts:
- Each year we place an estimated 121 million tons of waste in landfills, even though some of this waste will take centuries to decompose.
- Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. water.
- Around 30 million acres of lawn are routinely treated with lawn care chemicals, despite the fact that some chemicals commonly used on lawns have been associated with birth defects, mutations, and even cancer in laboratory animals.
- Studies have found that newborn babies carry around 200 chemicals in their bodies just after birth, some with the potential to be cancer causing.
- Nearly one-third of the honeybee colonies in the U.S. have disappeared, negatively affecting the pollination of many fruit, nut, and vegetable plants.
The truth is that God's creation is dying. Species of animals that he created no longer exist, and others, like the honeybees, are endangered and disappearing. Water that he provided to quench our thirst and meet our daily needs has become poisoned in some areas; we need not look any further than West Virginia's chemical spill for confirmation. Man-made chemicals are causing sickness and disease, and even killing children, adults, and animals. We, as appointed care-takers of God's creation, can no longer ignore these truths.
In Genesis 2:15, God charges men and women with caring for his creation, "The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it." He gave us dominion over all that grows and lives, but dominion does not equal exploitation. Yet, when we consider the facts above, many of the ways in which we have been treating his creation can only be seen as exploitation. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that our actions have long-term consequences. We can continue to toss unwanted items into landfills, but even though decomposition may be a natural process, it takes time, and our consumption is moving at a speed much faster than nature's timeline.
The good news is that it's not too late. We can take action. We might not be able to reverse all that has happened, but each one of us can make a difference. Each of us has the ability to do what God originally called us to do; we can stop exploiting his creation and start tending to it. We can be the gardeners he wanted us to be.
As Sleeth says, "God's beautiful earth will not be saved by words or good intentions. It will be saved by humble, anonymous acts like turning off the lights, hanging clothing on the line, bicycling to work, and planting trees. People who are grateful for God's abundant gifts, people of faith who are not afraid to be held accountable for care of his creation, will save it."
Here are a nine ways that Christians can care for God's creation:
Organic food does not improve nutrition, since an organic apple has the same nutritional value as a conventionally grown one, but it does save you exposure to harmful pesticides and chemicals. It also reduces the exposure of harmful chemicals to the people who live where the food is grown and saves their water supply from contamination.
Find local farmers and growers for your produce, meat, and dairy needs. By purchasing closer to home, you reduce carbon emissions caused by transportation and help the local economy by keeping these dollars in your area. We create a greater sense of community when we purchase from a person and not a place.
Plant a garden.
Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden, so what better place to meet with him than in your own backyard? A garden doesn't have to be large and time-consuming. A few containers of tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs are a great start. Anything you grow on your own reduces your carbon footprint. If you have larger aspirations, consider heading up a community garden project. Invite your neighbors to take part. It's a great way to get to know them better.
It takes 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef. Eating like a vegetarian for even one day each week helps saves water consumption and reduces your carbon footprint by saving on greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted in the production and transportation of meat. You also help to reduce your heart disease, cancer, and diabetes rates.
It's not as frightening, messy, or complex as it seems. Cloth saves you money, material and human waste from entering landfills, and water and oil that are used in production of disposables, and it can be recycled and repurposed after potty training. Plus, when you find out that it takes an estimated 250-500 years for a disposable to decompose, it's a no-brainer switch to make.
Reduce the yard work.
Avoid chemicals that kill weeds and encourage grass growth. They are harmful to children and pets, and have been linked to cancers and brain tumors. These chemicals can run off into water systems and harm the soil. Additionally, they encourage more frequent mowing, which consumes more fossil fuels. Instead, hand-pull weeds and mow your lawn less often. Taller grass leads to water retention by shading the soil and blocking weed growth. Leave lawn clippings on the grass. As they decompose, they provide vital nutrients for the soil.
Borrow instead of buying.
Instead of buying an item like a wheelbarrow that gets very little use, ask your neighbor if you can borrow hers. Borrowing reduces waste, saves money, and gives you a great opportunity to strike up a conversation and maybe even a friendship.
Even we as Christians have bought into the notion that bigger means better. In reality, it often means more time and expense, so choose a smaller house. It will require less energy, less cleaning, fewer furnishings, and even more ways to save on time, money, and energy. Downsizing to a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle also has benefits, such as saving on emissions, gas, and insurance costs.
Honor the Sabbath.
God has given us a model to practice rest. If we truly honored and practiced a day of rest each week, and tried not to consume on that day by driving, shopping, and eating out, we could reduce our carbon footprint. Not only would we be helping the environment, but we would be resting and reconnecting with our Creator, as he commands us.
As Sleeth says, "The Christian is not at liberty to do whatever he likes. Christians are constrained by conviction to think about their lives, their actions, and their responsibilities."
So, start seeking God's will for his creation. Try to see this planet through his eyes. Serve him, honor him, and worship him with the choices you make. He gave us Earth to live on and tend to. It's time we start caring for it until his return.
Meagan Church is married to her high-school sweetheart and is the mother of three kids. She is a writer and children's book author. She is also the brainpower behind the online resource Unexpectant.com, exploring the realities of birth, babies and beyond.