Reduce and Reuse First!

This past week I discovered something I had never heard of before- zero waste living. I stumbled across a blog last Saturday and have not been able to stop thinking about it since. Since then I have searched around and found other blogs and websites that promote this and I am more and more blown away. The concept is that people live their lives in such a way as to create zero waste for the landfill. Zero as in none. How on earth do they do this? They say no to everything prepackaged in plastic, they are intentional when shopping to avoid unnecessary packaging, they buy second hand, patch and repair things that are broken, they recycle packaging they cannot avoid, and they compost. One of the families shows a picture of a mason jar of true trash (unrecyclable) that they had to take to the landfill after one year of filling it.

Now my family has always been somewhat conscientious of being responsible for the earth. We recycle paper, cardboard, cans, etc. We buy a lot of stuff secondhand and we do not do a lot of impulse buying or eating out. We do the minimum, but it amazes me how some people see us as really dedicated. I remember once being in a class of 40 people when teams of three were giving presentations and had to give a handout to each person. After the class, I offered to take any of the handouts people did not want to the recycling bin. I got some strange looks and people asked me if I was part of the Green Team student organization. No, isn’t it just a no-brainer that we should recycle 450 pieces of paper that people looked at briefly in class and are not going to look at again?

I do not know if I could ever be completely zero waste, but I have been convicted that this deserves more attention. I am going to try to find a place to recycle in my neighborhood. I am not going to get plastic bags from the store anymore, but bring all of my own totes (which I discovered actually make carrying groceries back home a lot easier since the totes are so much bigger). I am going to start looking for glass jars of food instead of plastic bottles or jars. Something I learned while browsing these blogs is that plastic can only be downcycled a couple times, not truly recycled. .

The thing I like the most about these blogs is that recycling is the last thing on their list. They are making such a difference in their consumption because they are actually reducing their use of packaged items or refusing them and learning to live without. Then, they are reusing items as much as possible before it goes to the recycling. Clothing that cannot be worn anymore is cut up for rags or napkins or other purposes. I think the reason Americans generate so much waste is not that recycling is unavailable or inconvenient, but because they are not willing to say no up front.

So how does this apply to Christians? Our earth is a precious gift from God. Yes, I do believe that it is cursed because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God (that was the first thing man did to harm the earth) and that the earth will one day be remade for His glory. However, while we are waiting for the renewal of the world, are we not still the stewards of the present earth? Most western Christians are not acting like it. There are quizzes you can take online, like this one  that can give you an estimate of how much sustainable your lifestyle is. I took the quiz, and even with the recycling, reusing, and secondhand shopping I do (and the fact that I am currently walking to work and live in a house with solar power) it would still take approximately 4 Earths to support this kind of lifestyle for the total population. So let’s think about this. God created all people and loves them all equally. Political and economical issues aside, I think it is fair to say that God intended all people to have equal rights to food, water, energy, and other natural resources. Therefore, God did not intend us to live the way so many Westerners live. We are not only hoarding resources, we are wasting them and misusing them. We act like the earth is disposable and that everything is for us and we have no responsibility. Most of the blogs I have read are not written by Christians, which is a shame. Why don’t more Christians embrace this lifestyle as a testimony to their commitment to their responsibility as Christians?