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Earth Day - All Year Long

By: Mary F. McCoy
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Woodstock, GA

In previous articles we have been reminded why Earth Day was established and how as Lutherans we are called to be stewards of God’s Creation. The next step is to take action. Sometimes this can be a most daunting step. “What can I do?” “Where do I start?” “Can one person make a difference?” Questions or doubt rise and often can lead us to non-action.

In this article we will look at 10 activities each one of us should take, some of which you may already be doing or can be expanded upon. And yes, one person CAN make a difference. “Certain people have said that the world is like a calm pond, and that anytime a person does even the smallest thing, it is as if a stone has dropped into the pond, spreading circles of ripples further and further out, until the entire world has been changed by one tiny action.” - Lemony Snicket

1.      Pray and Reflect on God’s Word: If you don’t already, include God’s creation in your prayers and daily conversations with God. As Lutherans we are taught “prayer is the intimate communication with God and can be offered at any time the need or opportunity arises. Prayer is also taking the time to listen to what God is saying to us. So offer your prayers with confidence; God listens to all prayer and responds. Breathe deeply, relax and be open as the Spirit leads you.” (The Lutheran Handbook)

2.      Get out in Nature – Build a Relationship: Simply put – get out and experience nature. Take a walk or hike, picnic in the park, tour a garden. Listen to the sounds, and appreciate the intricate balance of the natural world around you – be sure to follow the “Leave No Trace” principles.

3.      Recycle, Reduce & Reuse: As simple as it sounds, it is still one of the most important concepts to care for God’s Creation. The 3Rs help keep the resources we have already harvested or mined in the production stream, allowing less land to be mined or cut and putting less waste in the ground. Reducing and reusing are the most important. They negate all need for energy use in the production of materials. Yet, sometimes recycling is the only plausible option. Spend time examining your current habits, and identify steps you can take to improve – at home and in your congregation.

4.      Eliminate the Use of Plastic Bags and “Styrofoam” (expanded polystyrene bead) Products: Each year Americans throw away more than 25,000,000,000 (that’s 25 BILLION) “styrofoam” cups. Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill. And that coffee cup will be right next to that plastic bag you threw away this morning as well. And if you grocery shop once a week, in five years you will have used anywhere from 250 to 1000 grocery bags, waiting there for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

5.      Upgrade Your Lighting: For many, whether at home or at church, upgrading your lighting can be “low hanging fruit” for energy savings. Replacing older fluorescent tube lights with LED (light-emitting diode) tubes can reduce associated energy use ($s) in half. Incandescent lights can be replaced with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs. In addition, incandescent lights generate more heat – which causes fixtures to deteriorate faster and can increase your cooling costs. The best place to start depends on specific needs of your particular space: areas with security or safety concerns, lights that are used most often, lighting fixtures that experience ongoing or repeated failures, and obsolete lighting technologies. With energy costs rising, and technology advances reducing costs on the newer bulbs, it makes “cents” to investigate your current lighting options.

6.      Schedule an Energy Audit – at Home or at Church: In many areas, government or local utilities offer free or low-cost energy audits. When you have your home or church audited, you are having its energy efficiency evaluated. The results will show you exactly where you are saving money and where you could be wasting it. Typical audits will look at all your utilities – gas, electricity, water. You are then provided with a written result of the audit. The audit will list trouble areas and develop a plan for you to decide how to best make your energy improvements, based on your specific circumstances.

7.      Plant (a tree, a bush or an entire garden): In David Rhoads’ article for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics “From ‘Church Property’ to ‘Earth-Community’ Ethical Actions for Restoring Land”, David provides several insightful opportunities for us to help heal creation. Here are just a few points to consider: choose trees that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen; plant native plants and grasses – they root deeper, require less water, withstand extreme weather and need less care and maintenance; and practice organic gardening principles. Also, consider including plants that attract bees and butterflies as our pollinators are rapidly declining in numbers.

8.      Monitor Your Water Usage: Do you know the average household can lose 10,000+ gallons of water a year from leaks (enough to do 10 months of laundry)? A common cause is a worn toilet flapper. Check yours for wear and tear; they are easy (and inexpensive) to replace. Additional savings can be found by not allowing the water to run while you are brushing your teeth. Little changes can make a BIG impact. In addition, I invite you to revisit Randy Moser’s “Earth Day and Creation’s Water Supply” article published in the March 24th edition of the Southeastern Synod Newsletter.

9.      Increase Your Awareness: There are so many informative sites to learn more about what you can do to care for creation. My top two recommendations would be to explore the Lutherans Restoring Creation website (Lutherans Restoring Creation) and the studying of the ELCA “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” social statement. Lutherans Restoring Creation has arisen out of a long Lutheran tradition of reflection and action on addressing environmental concerns from the perspective of our faith and theology. Most recently, this new initiative grows out of the important foundational work of the Lutheran Earthkeeping Network of the Synods or “LENS,” a small, dedicated network that has existed in one form or another since 1997. On the website you will find information regarding the Energy Stewards Initiative. This is a 1 to 2 year program to help your church or outdoor ministry save energy and money. Application Deadline: May 15, 2015.

The “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” social statement can be found on the ELCA website (http://www.ELCA.org) with several pieces of supplemental resources (Study Guide, Introduction, and a Brief Summary). This statement provides a Christian understanding of the human role to serve in creation, and a hope rooted in God’s faithfulness to the creation from which humans emerge and depend upon for sustaining life. The statement was adopted by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 1993 and remains relevant today.

10.      Start or Join a “Green Team”: Whether it is in your congregation, workplace, community, or Synod – find a place to network and take action with others. A perfect opportunity will be at the Caring for Creation Retreat at Lutheridge November 13 – 14. The Southeastern Green Team is always looking for additional team members! Reach out to any of the members, and we can offer the assistance you need.

In closing, please join me in the offertory prayer (Lutheran Book of Worship): “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, maker of all things. Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts. With them we offer ourselves to your service and dedicate our lives to the care and redemption of all that you have made, for the sake of him who gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Peter Bakken,
Apr 11, 2015, 6:56 PM