I am not an environmental activist.
I’m letting you know this because in the last six months or so, I’ve had a lot of people assuming that I am. There are reasons for this. For example, my husband and I have recently switched to cloth diapers and wipes for our eighteen-month-old. I am finishing off my last bottle of shampoo and will be switching to baking soda when it’s gone. We avoid unhealthy food ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate (MSG). We bought reusable shopping bags and a to-go cup to get coffee in at Dutch Bros.
We’ve been making these changes for various reasons. Cloth diapers are much cheaper than disposables, and food additives have been linked to all sorts of health problems. The one result which has put the single biggest smile on my face is not one I expected: we’re producing about half as much garbage as we were six months ago, and I’d say about eighty percent of that output is biodegradable material like food scraps and paper. We also waste about half as much food as we used to.
I love that.
But the reason I love it is not because I worry about the landfills dotting the globe, or about the ozone, or global warming, or any of that stuff. I’m not happy about those things, but I don’t worry about them much. God’s got it under control, and if the earth is going to have a catastrophic breakdown, I trust Him with it. By that, I do not mean “Trash the earth – who cares, since it’s just going to burn?” Instead I mean that, if it’s true that we’re headed for a massive ecological disaster, while that certainly is going to be a rough time in history, if not the very end of history, it’s still part of God’s plan.
I certainly don’t advocate destroying the planet, whether intentionally or by sheer neglect. But saving it isn’t a high priority of mine, either. I don’t feel called to that (but kudos to you if you are – there’s certainly nothing wrong with that).
So, then, we come to a question. If I’m not mainly concerned with saving the planet, why do I bother with all these environmentally-minded lifestyle changes?
There’s a little experiment that I really wish I could do. I wish I could take a cross-section of twenty people in my city, strip them of all their cultural bias for or against environmental activism, and show them their own personal pile of trash. Maybe a years’ worth. The pile of yuck that they and only they are responsible for. I wouldn’t include their family’s output. I wouldn’t include the output of social functions they went to. Only each person’s individual trash.
My hypothesis is that each and every one of them, when separated from their cultural biases – from their stubbornness – would be disgusted by their wastefulness.
Not by their negative impact on the planet, but by their own selfish, greedy wastefulness.
Part of me wishes I could see my pile. Part of me is glad that I can’t. One thing’s for sure; I want to make it smaller.
By these lifestyle changes, I’m not advocating – or opposing – environmentalism. I am opposing consumerism. Here’s an example: next time you buy yourself lunch from a fast food chain, look at the packaging before you throw it away. Imagine that multiplied by however many millions of fast food meals are consumed in America each day (64 million at McDonald’s alone). Don’t worry – not right now – about all the plastic winding up in landfills. Right now, I have a different question.
How much money do you think was spent on that packaging?
Fast food has a purpose, to be sure. When I’m in a rush and don’t have time to cook myself a meal, I’ll hit a fast food joint, and I’m not ashamed of it. But what if everyone in America limited those trips, to only the days when they really had need of that convenience? Imagine how much money we’d save on packaging alone. How many impoverished kids do you think we could feed with that money?
I am not, therefore, an environmental activist. I don’t do what I do in order to save the planet. I do what I do because I want to be a good steward of the resources I’ve been entrusted with.
Among the resources God has entrusted to me: money, time, space, skills, grocery stores, electricity, the internet, friends, the Bible, the Holy Spirit. (There are many more.) I combine these resources to achieve various desirable results: a picnic, clean laundry, spiritual maturity. (There are many more.)
In this process, there are two things I aim to not do:
a) reach non-desirable end results (eg: making drugs instead of making dinner), and
b) waste resources (eg: spending money on paper towels, when I could just use a washrag to clean up that mess or to hold my sandwich).
Because when I waste resources, I minimize desirable end results. That is, all the money I’m saving on diapers can go to buying Action Packs to send to Pakistan or Iran. And that’s a good use of resources.
I’ve decided, after some thought and lot of prayer, that I’m going to start a new series called Living Chartreuse. I thought about calling it “Living Green,” but as we’ve discussed, I’m not ‘green’ in the traditional sense. So chartreuse it is. I’m going to discuss ways that you and I can be good stewards of our resources. By nature, the series will focus pretty heavily on being a Christian wife and mother – you’ll probably see a lot of Proverbs 31 coming up. Hope you enjoy!