Confession: This month of 7 has been really hard for me. Like, really really hard.
You may recall that last month I wore only 7 items of clothing for a month. The process of giving away excess clothing, seeking God’s face in light of how much I have and reducing my wardrobe by half felt sort of epic. I could feel God working in me in really tangible ways. He was providing avenues for me to give and share, He was changing my heart about my feelings of need, and my butt was getting seriously kicked about having a whole lot more than one tunic.
But this month? Man, I’m just not feeling it.
Month two of this whole 7 journey for me is Waste. Meaning adopting seven habits for a greener life and, as Jen Hatmaker says in her book, “a fast from assuming I am not a part of an integrated earth but somehow above it all, expecting that sacrifices necessary to accomodate humanity should be made by species other than me.”
So the first part of the problem with this month is that I live on the west coast. We’re already fairly hippy in our feelings about the earth and how we treat it. It’s just a part of our culture. So we have recycling programs and composting programs and farmers markets and all things necessary to care for our earth. I’ve just never fully bought it.
Sure, we can feel good about recycling that juice box. Yay, us! Pat us on the back for our huge contribution to greening up our planet! Or so they say. But recycling that juice box truly doesn’t change the world. That juice box now has to go through a huge process to be changed into something else. Simply said recycling always seemed to me like a bandaid on the problem of overconsumption and waste.
But of course, we recycle. We compost. We don’t even buy bottled water or juice boxes. I complain about Costco’s over packaging. (Yes, let’s put three boxes of crackers into another box! Great idea!) We use natural laundry detergent and soaps. We have high efficiency appliances and we turn the water off while we’re brushing our teeth. We have a double soaker jacuzzi tub in our ensuite that no one has ever filled or used. We shop second hand when we can. Things like spices and baking supplies are bought bulk and stored in jars. We support local farmers for much of our food. We hang our laundry to dry when possible. We don’t buy our children toys that break in one use and then end up in a landfill. We grow mint and basil and oregano and so many more right on our porch. What more could one family do?!
I thought long and hard about it and then came up with this list:
1) no buying pre-packaged things that you could technically make yourself. (within reason. I’m not buying a goat.)
2) no plastic grocery bags. You forget the reusable ones and you carry your groceries out one by one.
3) only reusable drinking cups. (read: no starbucks cups. if you forget your reusable – no coffee for you!)
4) recycle every single last little possible thing. No cheating. No lazy. No, “noone will ever know if I put this one can lid….”
5) compost every single last little possible thing. No cheating. No lazy. No, “noone will ever know if I put this one little rotten grape…”
6) cut down on laundry. Make sure we’re only washing when things are dirty. Like actually dirty! Not, well I wore it for an hour…
7) no buying if you still have. (ie. you have books you haven’t read yet? No buying more. You have 5 lip glosses in relatively the same shade? No more. You have that shampoo in the bathroom cupboard that you just didn’t love? No buying more until it’s gone.)
For the past three weeks this has been my life. But my heart is not in it one little bit. It’s so hard to see that it’s doing any good. It’s so hard to know that it’s even making a difference.
Sure, we’ve cut our garbage down to only one can every two weeks. That’s good! But it doesn’t feel like it’s saving the planet.
And yes, our water use has gone down. We’re now those crazies who dump our half empty, lukewarm glasses of water into the plants outside or into the dogs bowl to cut down. But it doesn’t feel like the rain forests are better because of it.
Plus, there have been frustrations along the way. Like, I start using only my reusable grocery bags and then suddenly I have to purchase (like put out money!!) for little baggies to pick up the dogs poop. What a waste of cashola. I admit I ditched the reusable grocery bag idea a week ago cause I can’t pay for dog poop bags when I could be getting them for free! It just makes no sense.
So three weeks in and I feel like I’ve accomplished little. I feel like I may be a better hippy but not a lot more. I feel like my heart hasn’t been impacted the way I wish it was and I think I know why.
I forget. I forget that the earth is the Lord’s. I forget that my Creator also created this space. I forget that the earth can’t handle our gross misuse of it and I turn a blind eye to that fact most of the time. I forget to connect that each purchase in a plastic container is harming God’s creation. I forget that each time I dump a glass of water into the sink because it’s gone warm I’m harming something made so specifically, so lovingly.
I’ve completely disassociated my use of this earth with my love for God. I’m failing to see that each action I take that has harmful effects is harming the Creator’s handiwork. And that Creator? Well, he also made me. I’d kind of prefer that He be pleased with the way I’m treating his stuff.
Tracey Bianchi, author of Green Mama, said this, “There are a limited number of resources in this world, and when we take more than we need, simply put, we are stealing from others. By pillaging the earth for more than our share, we break the eighth commandment…To my dismay, I realized that even in my own, sort-of-green world, I was stealing from people, present and future. Turns out I constantly steal from my kids (and yours). I’m snatching up goodies like clean air and water while millions of families clamor for a drink and struggle with disease. I’m throwing away excess paper and packaging while rain forests disappear. I’m a kleptomaniac. But I am determined to address my failings.”
Those failings, if we are to call it like it is, are my sin. And what makes it even worse is my oblivious nature to it all. My, “oh it’s just one cracker box”, thoughts or my, “what’s one nice long shower, hey it’s the weekend,” tendencies are actually robbing future generations of seeing the glory of what God has made here. Those future generations are my grandkids. My kids grandkids. Little’s running around with the same last name as me but unable to enjoy it like I did for the smog and the pollution and the toxins leaching into the earth from the landfill sites.
When I recognize my tendencies for consumption and my general lack of care for this earth as sin it requires a whole new level of obedience. It requires me to seek forgiveness for my ignorant and harmful ways and it means a turning from this old and to a new way of living. It means that caring for creation which, by the way, God spent 6 days making needs to matter. Not because David Suzuki said so or because my community gives me a bin for my food waste but because I’m a child of the creator and as such I have a responsibility to care for all that he has made. Not just the human part of it but all of it. The land, the air, the water. The birds and the fish and the mountains and trees because the earth is the Lords and everything in it and it’s up to me to be responsible for what I can be. It doesn’t mean the world will change by our one little family changing our practices but I’m quite certain that doesn’t give me license not to do it.
As we tell our children time and time again, you are responsible for your actions. Nevermind what he said or she did. What did you do?
I’m praying with a renewed heart that this family would live our short time here on this earth in a way that is honouring to God and that includes not just our words or how kind we are to people but also how we are caring for what God has given us in creation. I’m asking God to give us a heart and a love for his world and to give us a desire to live in a way that is obedient to him. To steward this land well. To not be wasteful, indulgent or excessive leaving a wake of clean up for those generations to follow. I pray that we would act now and try to minimize the mess we’ve already made.
We have SO far to go and I know there are areas that we may be misusing that I’m not even seeing! Would you help us out? What do you and your family do to care better for our earth? What practices have you adopted that make a difference? I’d really love your input on this one! I truly believe it’s the small every day changes that will make the biggest impact long term and I want to be aware of more of them. Help?!