As I drove down to my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, a few weeks ago, I noticed hundreds more wind turbines than we saw the previous year. I was in awe at these spinning giants spotting the horizon, impressed at this amazing source of green energy--and the fact that people in central Illinois are putting the technology to use.
The fact is that I'm a greenie, and I have been for a long time. In high school, though, when I started following Christ, green living took on a new purpose and urgency. Reducing, reusing, and recycling were no longer just nice things to do--they were part of loving God, the creator of everything.
Green living is part of following Christ for two reasons: 1) We know the Creator and He has called us to care for his creation and 2) We are called to love our neighbor, and green living seeks to ensure that our consumption of natural resources doesn't negatively affect our worldwide neighbors.
Lately I've been struck by our culture's need to consume. We have to have newer, bigger, and more. We need more clothes so that we're dressing to the current trends. We need more water to wash those clothes and take longer showers. We need bigger homes to hold all our things--and those bigger homes require more power to heat, cool, and light.
The problem with more is both an environmental issue and a neighborly issue. It's environmental because more paper and furniture means more deforestation. More garbage means more landfills and contaminated water and soil. More meat means more corn to feed the livestock, more land destroyed to house them, and more air pollution from their . . . ahem, gasses. (Sounds like a joke, but it's one of the major contributors to global warming.) The problem of more is also a good neighbor issue. More smokestacks from our factories means more air pollution for all the global neighbors we share the air with. More clothes means more cotton--which means more deadly pesticides for the workers and land in poor countries who grow our cotton. More oil meant an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which meant hurt businesses, tourist attractions, and livelihoods all around the Gulf. Our more even means destroying some of the most beautiful sights on earth from mountains to the rain forests, beauty and splendor that reflects God.
We are told that we need more, and we agree. My clothing fast and spending fast taught me that I truly am part of the culture of consumption--even more than I believed I was. And it scares me because I think about the millions of people in the world who don't even have what they need, and yet I'm consumed with having a newer shirt, more scrapbooking supplies, and a longer shower.
Yesterday during church, our speaker said that as we look around our world, at the events of this last week including the Boston bombings, at the injustices in our communities, and the needs we see even in our friends and family, we know that this isn't the way things are meant to be. There's no question in our minds. But what we need to realize and remember is that this isn't what God wants either. He is on a mission to restore the world, to make it a place where people know love, care for one another deeply, share what they have, and sacrifice so others can have what they need. God has this beautiful dream for the world--even the physical world--and he's restoring it to that vision. And we get the privilege of helping in that mission. Tears welled in my eyes as I considered both how wrong things are and how beautiful God's vision for the world is. And I was reminded, once again, that God is on mission and he invites us to join in, knowing that we can all help if we'll just join in.
So this Earth Day, in the harsh reality of living in a culture of consumption, I'm reminded that God has a better plan, and that we--you and I--can make a difference. Even today. It's why I'm passionate about buying organic cotton towels and sheets and buying quality clothing that will last for years and can be passed to others. It's why I'm a bit ridiculous when it comes to recycling--carrying home cans and bottles and bags used at work or at restaurants to ensure they're recycled. And it's why I'll always buy the item made from recycled materials over the conventional product. It's why fair trade, organic coffee is on my shelves and I drink it out of a fair trade, handcrafted mug from Vietnam. It's why I limit my purchases of certain brands known for not being environmentally friendly and why I invest in organic skincare products in beautiful recyclable containers made in an eco-friendly factory. It's why I use eco-friendly laundry detergent, swore of plastic water bottles a few years ago, and often carry my own bags to stores. It's why I consider my purchases carefully and I'm learning to say no more than I say yes to purchases. It's even why I reluctantly made the switch to a Kindle instead of paper books (although now I lovemy Kindle). It all matters to the kingdom. If I say I love the Creator and my neighbor, it should affect my decisions--even in an environmental way.