September 17, 2023, was the third Sunday of Creation Season at St. John’s. The Church service was full of hymns and prayers giving thanks for, and asking for the care of all creation, including the skies, the earth, and the waters. These were beautiful messages which made me think, and also worry, about our fragile ecology.
One of the most depressing things I’ve ever been through was an ecology class I took in college. Each week we were tasked with clipping news articles about the ecology to discuss in class. I can tell you that it wasn’t difficult to find news articles about the ecology back then and sadly, many of the issues seem to be the same today.
I was a teenager in the 60s. We were so full of ourselves back then. We were going to change the world. Some years later I realized that was a big, big goal and learned that maybe I couldn’t change the world, but I could make changes in myself, and help make changes in my close circle of family and friends. I view making change like tossing a stone into a pond; the ripples spread out from the center and get larger the further they go.
So, we can make change, maybe smaller change than we may have liked, starting with ourselves. The lyrics from Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” say it best:
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror I’m asking him to change his ways And no message could’ve been any clearer If you wanna make the world a better place Take a look at yourself and then make a change”
If you are interested in helping to change the environment here are a number of ways you can help”
- Consume less. Curbing consumption can have a huge impact on the environment. Next time you’re tempted to purchase or accept a non-essential item, think about whether it would truly improve your life. If not, it’s ok to just say, “No, thanks!”
- Let your food and yard waste rot naturally in the soil instead of sending it to the landfill. It keeps an incredible amount of trash out of the waste stream, and it produces free, rich soil to use in your garden.
- Choose reusable over single-use. Change from disposable cups, bottles, sipping straws, plastic grocery bags, plates, containers, and utensils to reusable ones.
- Upcycle more. Get creative with your useless or unwanted items by upcycling, or “turning trash into treasure,” by creating something new such as artwork, toys, or jewelry. Kids love artsy projects so instead of heading to the craft store, check out your recycle bin first.
- Recycle properly. Learn what can and cannot be recycled and where it goes to make sure your items can be recycled. Some items like electronics, paint, and batteries require special handling. Here is a Wake County resource for more information: https://s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/wakegov.com.if-us-west-1/s3fs-public/documents/2023-05/waste_and_recycling_guide_march23_english.pdf
- Shop secondhand. Did you know it takes over 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make just one plain t-shirt? Consider looking in a thrift store or vintage shop, or trading clothes with friends. You can also find children’s games and toys, shoes, appliances, furniture, cars and more.
- Buy local. Think about all the packaging and fuel needed to ship goods. Instead, check out the local farmers market for fresh, package-free food; buy from local artists, clothing makers, and retailers before you click for that two-day shipping.
- Use fewer chemicals. It’s hard to be sure about the long-term negative effects chemicals can have on our bodies and on the planet, so it’s best to avoid them if possible. Opt for chemical-free lawn and garden care, all-natural beauty and hygiene items, natural household cleaners, and organic food.
- Use less water. Conserving water at home is one of the easiest ways to protect the environment:
- Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
- Fix leaky faucets.
- Make your water use more efficient by aerating faucets, using sprinklers that reduce runoff and installing low-flow toilets and efficient shower heads.
- Collect and use rainwater for watering plants.
- Shorten your shower by a few minutes.
- Only run your dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full.
- Use your purchasing power for good. We have the ability to choose where we spend our hard-earned dollars. Spend wisely on goods, services, and experiences that leave a smaller carbon footprint. Choose to do business with companies that support sustainability efforts, utilize renewable energy sources and walk the walk when it comes to protecting the environment. If enough people use their purchasing power for the good of the Earth, it will create a demand for more sustainable practices. Businesses will either have to comply or be left behind.
- Conserve electricity. Any time you can use less electricity it’s a good thing.
- Trade incandescent bulbs for more energy-efficient LEDs.
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat.
- Maintain your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
- When it’s time to buy a new appliance choose an Energy Star-certified model.
- Seal air leaks around doors and windows.
- Make sure your home is properly insulated to the recommended level of heat resistance (R-value) for our area.
- Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer.
These are just some of the many ways you can help the environment and even save some money in the process. Going back to that teenager in the 60s, we all want to make the world a better place. So take a look at yourself and make that change.