There have been many news items about our planet as of late, from climate change to dying oceans. It is clear we are headed for change, even if we can be the change. The other day, I had run out of grocery bags at the store and I asked the cashier not to put the rest in plastic, because I was trying to not use plastic shopping bags (even though you can recycle them at the store, but my goal is no extra harm). She said to me, “Thanks for saving the world!” I had to reply I wasn’t saving the world, that I was worried about my impact. I think this is one of the damaging things we have told ourselves-that our small acts mean something. We have to think bigger globally, but I think personally, it is about our relationship, our personal relationship with the earth.
So what is our role as Christians? I can think of two things. First, we hold on to hope. If there is one thing that Jesus taught us from his baptism on is that we can choose to go a different way. Jesus left carpentry (a safe, and probably steady job) behind and walked in a way that has shown us a path closer to God. Maybe it is time we take that seriously. Donna Schaper, just wrote a great devotion that rings true here, all related to stuff.
One of the things he preaches in the Sermon on the Mount is to not store us for ourselves earthly things, where moth and rust destroy (it isn’t even a question of might destroy-it happens). Our invitation is to live more simply. But true simplicity can, and actually must, be complicated for us. It is going to take more of our time, but I think it must if we are going to participate in the change we need to save our planet. We live in the age of convenience, and it is clear even our lawmakers assume that we aren’t going to change from that direction. What is it going to take to prove them wrong? A spiritual shift-one that says slowing down is worth it, and one that doesn’t treat ourselves as machines nor the earth as a waste machine.
My mind has shifted that the issue of most importance is not recycling, but reducing-a lot of reducing. It is going to take a lot of work to think about bringing grocery bags, and bags to put fresh produce in. I need to be mindful to bring my own cutlery from home (this great bamboo set rocks and is dishwasher safe). And my own dishes that I can reuse, and I am trying harder to remember to bring to-go containers when I eat out. I say no to straws now, but I also have started asking restaurants who regularly serve straws to stop using them in all drinks. Might you do the same? Let’s admit it is going to take courage, but this is where your voice makes a difference.
But this is also realizing how much plastic we use. We have started making our own yogurt. We buy less meat, always covered in plastic, and we try to buy it locally where it might come wrapped in paper instead. We try to buy strategically-in bulk, in boxes instead of plastic, and if we have to choose plastic, we think of a way to reduce or reuse, but what if we looked to see if we could recycle it before we buy it.
This month, do a survey of your garbage-how much is plastic? What are two things you can do to reduce it. Maybe a spiritual way to think about it is this: do not store up for yourself busyness, which will only reduce you to less than human. But instead, look toward heaven, where time is not a bully, and be in the moment. You do not have to do everything, only something, that is meaningful.