Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s hard to miss the much-needed “green” trend that’s swept the world. This has a special importance for us as Christians as we seek to obey one of God’s first commands to humanity: to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28), mimicking God’s caring, careful rule of us.
The Proverbs 31 woman is only one of many scriptural examples of our power over our home and its use. As stewards—and teachers—of our family’s living patterns, we have unique opportunities to flesh out careful biblical stewardship in our own homes.
This stewardship can demonstrate lessons to our children with a far wider scope than the environment: an eternal scope. Jesus illustrates this in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:23, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
Environmental stewardship can teach our children:
- Financial management principles as they learn to reuse or repair, and innovatively make the most of what they have.
- Ethical guidelines and decision-making skills that look beyond “me” as they choose justice and compassion, purchasing items that treat unknown, yet poorer members of another country fairly. Or, as they look to the future of our world and its resources, learning to be “givers” more than “takers.” Their dollars and their decisions do matter.
- Our interdependence in our “small world,” as well as a basic knowledge of and appreciation for where things come from.
Care for the environment takes our commitment to a godly legacy, in our own families and around the world, to a new level of responsibility and conscientiousness.
Here’s a small list of not-so-hard ways to get greener. Bonus: Most of these save cash, too.
1. A lot of detergents, soaps, and cleansers are hard on the environment and our families, even causing the development of more dangerous germs that respond to chemicals harsher than we need. Consider purchasing “green” versions of laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and other cleansers. They’ve become much more accessible and affordable. I make my own cleansers (recipes abound on the internet) because I find them so much more convenient and cost-effective … not to mention all of us breathe easier (literally) with less danger for our young children around.
2. Hang your laundry to dry. Or throw a couple of tennis balls in your dryer, setting the heat down a little. The tennis balls cut down drying time by about 25 percent.
3. What makes heat typically takes more energy. You’ll save about five percent on your bill for every degree lower your thermostat goes in the winter (try programming it lower for nighttime). Take shorter showers, and install water savers in your showerheads. When possible, cook in your toaster oven rather than your conventional oven (saves on air conditioning in the summer, too). Wash clothes in the coolest water possible.
4. Use reusable shopping bags. Most stores offer them very reasonably—as in $1-3. Recycling plastic ones, though safer for animals than not recycling them, actually takes more energy. Reusable bags also carry about three times more groceries, which means less trips to the car.
5. Consider cloth diapers. This option has really improved—no rubber pants, no swishing in the toilet—and they’re put on as easily as disposables, with snaps or Velcro. Once you’ve paid for the initial cost—about six months of disposables—you’ll be saving about $40 a month. (Weigh this carefully if you live in an area where water is more precious than landfill space. Either way, solids from any diaper go in the toilet by law.) Reusable wipes are also available (great for children with sensitive skin), made of flannel or bamboo, a very rapidly renewable resource.
6. If every home replaced just one regular lightbulb with an energy-saving bulb, it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. Plus it saves you energy costs that exponentially outweigh the cost of the bulb (from www.energystar.gov).
7. When it’s time to water your lawn and garden again, water at night. You’ll need far less because the sun won’t quickly evaporate the water, which will instead soak the soil all night. As an added benefit, the sunlight’s reflection off the water won’t scorch your plants.
8. Wait to run your washer or dishwasher till they’re full. Shut off the faucet when you’re rinsing dishes, or while you’re shaving or brushing teeth.
9. Buy recycled, local, or organic items (including produce that’s in season in your area—less gas for transportation). Toilet paper, copier/printer paper, and many other products are priced competitively and can be found even at large chain stores. The Mennonite cookbooks More with Less and Simply in Season offer solutions in the kitchen.
Keep in mind that when you’re investing in fair-trade goods or organic goods, you’re often investing in products and people who aim to be responsible not just in business practices, but in ways that use people and resources with justice, compassion, and/or an eye on the future. (I have to ask my cheapskate self, isn’t the extra $.20 for this brand of fair-trade tea worth even the possibility of upholding “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18)? Those decisions acknowledge our God-given responsibility to “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).)
10. Drive more efficiently. Check tire inflation (a significant gas-waster), unload your trunk, and ease off the accelerator (cruise control helps); your dashboard’s mileage calculator may be a good reminder. Reconsider carpooling or mass transit—and a possible ministry opportunity as you get to know coworkers, neighbors, or schoolmates and their parents. (See www.fueleconomy.gov or http://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/fuel-economy/ten-green-driving-tips.htm for more ideas.)
For more energy-saving ideas, there’s a free booklet to view online from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Many Christians argue that this world is passing away—and thankfully, it is. God will soon make all things new (Revelation 21:1-5). But that doesn’t excuse us from loving people here, whether through goods, promoting justice, or leaving our children a godly legacy … and as little of our messes as possible. We wouldn’t allow our children to trash our home, to use its resources selfishly, or to leave their waste for others to clean up. Eternity also doesn’t excuse our fulfillment of God’s command to care for what He created, reflecting the fullness of His love to the world. We must think globally––think eternally––and act locally.