After Rich’s recent talk (listen here from 31mins50) that spoke of our responsibility to care for creation as God’s people, we asked a few people in the church who have a passion for these issues to share their wisdom. These are not commandments to see as a burden, but more helpful ideas, from those with some insight, as to how we can practically act on what we’ve heard. If your conscience has been provoked, here’s a blog with a few ideas from Kate, James and Verena, members of our South Site.
Looking after God’s creation is something we believe is important, because his creation is good, and he has given us responsibility over it. And when God’s people across the world are suffering as a result of the damage to creation, whether from climate change or pollution, it is our responsibility to seek justice.
Sadly, the way humans are living on this Earth is unsustainable and the evidence is clear that unless we make rapid changes, the consequences are only going to get worse. For example, scientists are telling us that we need to halve our carbon emissions in the next 12 years to keep global warming within 1.5°C (and thus avoid the worst effects). And if we don’t rapidly curb our plastic usage, we risk losing a huge number of marine species to extinction. Consumerism and the throw away culture has become the norm driven by the low cost of materials, but with a high price for the environment.
So, we wanted to figure out what things we could do differently in our day-to-day lives to try and tread carefully on the Earth. Of course, changing our habits and going against the norm can come at a price and we recognise that not everything is affordable for everyone. But here we have put together a list of what we see as some of the practical things we can try to do, as Christians, to minimise our impact and care for God’s creation.
Firstly, something to encourage you. Remember when every single time we went shopping anywhere we would be given a brand-new plastic bag? But now, since the 5p charge came in, and through you (when you can!) using a reusable bag / a bag for life – there has been an 83% drop in carrier bag usage nationwide. That’s amazing. And encouraging. It shows that small things can make a difference if we take those steps.
And recycling. This, not that long ago, was unheard of, but now most of us feel empowered to use our recycling bins. Even if you committed to doing these things, that’s a start. It might seem incredibly small, but actually it’s a start. And if you want to more and more reflect the God who cares for his creation, then beginning here, even if it doesn’t change global environmental statistics (!), is worthwhile and valuable and to be encouraged.
If God is speaking to you though, here’s a few more suggestions:
Think about your meat and dairy purchases
Recent research has highlighted the huge impact agriculture has on the environment, with some recent headlines declaring that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ . Livestock is estimated to take up 83% of farmland and contribute 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contributing to water and air pollution, yet provides only 18% of calories. Of this, beef has been shown to have the highest impact, while plant-based products such as tofu and nuts are significantly lower.
Going vegan may seem like a dramatic lifestyle change, but the truth is that simply reducing your meat and dairy consumption a little bit at a time can have a big impact. In fact, even swapping out beef for chicken or fish will reduce your carbon footprint, and ‘reducetarianism’ has become a real movement for those who don’t fancy the ‘all or nothing’ pressure of vegetarianism but are still wanting to reduce their meat intake.
Consider using re-usable or recyclable products
Annie Leonard has a helpful quote that is quite terrifying to think about! She says: “There is no such thing as away. When you throw something away, it has to go somewhere”. That means, in practice, that everything plastic we’ve thrown away actually still exists, it’s just not in our eyeline. It’s somewhere. That sharpens the mind. Could there be ways we could reduce the amount we throw ‘away’?
Disposable plastic is a big problem but there are many ways we can try to cut down on using it by opting for re-usable over disposable materials. Reusable coffee cups are a fantastic way to stop using disposable coffee cups, as any coffee shop will happily serve your drink in them and some even offer a discount for doing so. So we encourage you to buy one if you haven’t already. Similarly, reusable water bottles are much better than plastic bottles, and even work out cheaper in the long run.
Although avoiding plastic seems impossible when even the food we buy is covered in it, there are some shops which have made an effort to avoid this, such as The Clean Kilo: the UK’s largest zero waste supermarket, and it’s only in Digbeth! Simply bring your own containers to fill with any of their products. Not only do you get to reduce your plastic, but you will also reduce your food miles as much of their stock is produced locally.
And of course – recycling our plastic whenever we can is a great way to reduce plastic pollution.
It’s not just plastic waste which is a problem and buying second hand can be a great way to reduce waste and pollution in other areas. Unfortunately, ‘fast fashion’ – cheap clothing with a quick turnover which we find on our high streets – is a big problem. The way clothes are designed, made and discarded has a huge environmental impact due to the use of toxic chemicals, water pollution, textile waste and greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the ethical issues of fast fashion. We can try to reduce how much clothing we buy and throw away, and opt for shopping from sustainable and ethical clothing brands and charity shops. We have recently been amazed by how many nice clothes we’ve been able to find in Harborne’s charity shops!
We can do the same for technology and try to think before we throw things away and replace them with something new. For example, should we always get a new phone simply because our mobile contract says we can? And before throwing things out we can ask: Is it broken? Could it be fixed? Can the parts be recycled?
And even in simple things around the home, there are reusable options or refillable options.
It feels like a mindset shift, but cloth nappies and cloth wipes for our youngest are just one change that would actually make a big difference over a few years. Verena has some you can try out if you want!
Think about transport
Transport is a big producer of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. But vehicle emissions also cause a lot of air pollution and acid rain which can lead to serious damage to human health, particularly in cities, and also harm the environment directly affecting grassland, soil and waters.
Of course, the best way to reduce this impact is by walking, cycling, using public transport and sharing lifts wherever we can. Or even, if you can afford it, buying an electric car. Aeroplanes produce by far the highest emissions so finding an alternative means of travelling, such as Eurostar, is great if we can. And instead of heading abroad for your next holiday, why not consider staying in the UK and enjoy exploring some of the beautiful countryside and historic cities we are fortunate to have here?!
Look into renewable energy
Fossil fuel emissions (coal, oil and gas) are the main drivers of climate change, so replacing these with renewable sources of energy will reduce our carbon footprint. Although a bit more expensive, there are various energy companies now providing renewable options for your household electricity supply, such as Good Energy, Ecotricity and Green Energy.
Encourage wildlife in our local areas
Sadly, much of the wildlife in our country is in decline, mostly due to intensive agriculture and development. But there are many practical things we can do to help the species in our local areas. If we have a garden we could plant wildflowers to encourage butterflies and bees to flourish, put out feeders and nest boxes for the birds, and even make a hole in our fence for hedgehogs to pass through! We could even get involved in hands-on conservation work parties at our local nature reserves, such as with the Wildlife Trust who have several reserves in Birmingham and encourage volunteers to help. These things can also help us enjoy more of the beauty of God’s creation.
Get involved in advocacy
Although we believe that individual action is important and can make a difference in reducing our environmental impact, and is a way we can image God, changes from those in power are certainly needed. If you can, why not write your MP to try and put pressure on those in authority to bring about change. Speaking up on environmental issues and using your influence wherever you can could make a real difference.
Stop to appreciate God’s creation
We believe that it is important as Christians to go out and appreciate what God has made. Indeed, God says his creation is good, and he wants us to enjoy it! Whether we go and walk around a nature reserve or local park, or simply watch the birds from our window, the more we open our eyes to creation the more amazed by God’s beauty we will be. Although it’s perhaps not directly reducing our impact on Earth, this can help us to worship the wonderful Creator and may encourage us more to look after what he has given us.
Further places to look if you’re interested
- On Instagram, follow @zerowastemum – a Christian family in East London making steps towards zero waste.
- Follow @zerowastedoc – a Christian Doctor in London, trying to tread lightly
- Check out @togetherstreet to discover how our clothes impact people and our planet
- And look at the posts on the hashtag “#changefashionforgood”
Kate and James’ suggestions: