As Christians, we believe that God created the Earth and us and has entrusted us to care for the planet and each other. What practical things can we do at home to care for the Earth’s environment? Before you step into action, pray individually and with your family about what God desires you to do in caring for His creation. Perhaps He will lead you to start with simple steps, like the following.
Be Involved with Nature
The more time we spend out in God’s creation, the more likely we are to treasure and feel compelled to care for it. Teach children to love what God has created and care for the environment. One simple way is to take children on nature hikes. You can teach them to observe animals and plants and use books to identify birds, plants, trees, animals and their tracks. A fun activity for the family while hiking is to make plaster casts of animal prints you find. You could also visit state or provincial parks, either for overnight camping or special programs or hikes where you can learn about the sky at night, animals in ponds or streams, the plants and birds nearby, and how you can help these plants and animals continue to thrive.
Recycle, Reuse and Reduce
Is there a recycling program in your neighborhood or city? Some household items that are commonly recycled are glass, paper, cardboard, metal cans, and plastics. Some places offer money for your old aluminum. It is easier and less expensive to recycle used aluminum than it is to mine and process it.
Many cities have a public recycling center where you can deposit your recyclable items for free. Talk with family members about where in your home you will temporarily collect your items for recycling, and start a biweekly habit of making the trip to drop off your recyclables.
Consider reusing items and reducing your household waste. One easy item to reuse or reduce is your grocery bags. Use reusable cloth bags for your shopping, and avoid plastic bags. Other ways to reuse and reduce the amount of garbage you produce are to cut old clothes into rags for household cleaning or donate used clothing and household items to a thrift shop so someone else can reuse them.
By making the choice to buy food locally grown, you are supporting your local economy and lowering the amount of gasoline or diesel used in food transportation from a distance away. The price may reflect lower transportation costs. Also, buying fresh produce means it might taste better, since it was more likely to have been picked when it was ripe. Your local market may indicate which produce was grown locally. You may have a local “farmers’ market” or food co-op near your home that you can patronize.
Be a Vegetarian
Choosing to eat a diet that includes less or no meat and more plant-based foods will mean less pollution from animal feed lots (urine, antibiotics, and other waste materials from factory farms can seep into rivers and ground water). In addition, if fewer animals are raised for slaughter, the amount of grains that go into animal feed can be reduced and used for people instead. The amount of food the animals eat is huge compared with the amount of meat obtained from their slaughter. (See pp. 26, 27 for more on the benefits of a plant-based diet).
If you live in a place where clean water is not readily available, consider capturing rainwater in a barrel or cistern for later use. You may use it to water your vegetable garden or other plants, or even to bathe. If captured water is used for drinking, the water should be properly filtered, boiled, or treated. Even where drinking water is clean and readily available, it makes environmental sense to capture rainwater and use it for lawns and gardens, instead of using processed drinking water.
Use Wind and Solar Power
Energy from both the wind and the sun can be harnessed to produce electricity. Burning less coal for household electricity consumption is better for the environment. If you live in a location where ordinances don’t prohibit wind turbines, consider buying and installing a roof- or tower-mountable vertical axis wind turbine. If your home doesn’t use all the energy produced by your wind turbine, the generator can be tied into the electrical grid, or you may store the energy in a battery. Some countries, including Canada, give tax credit for installing wind turbines.
Solar panels are becoming more efficient and available for homes. You can purchase solar panels for your home and/or use solar power to make hot water and for heating the home. Technology to make flexible solar cells is now also available for personal use to charge portable electronic devices, such as cellular phones and small computers.
Involve Your Community in Conservation
Help your community become more sensitive to environmental concerns. Share with your community the reasons for taking care of our planet. Educate and work with your friends, local leaders, and other community members to do simple things to care for the environment together: creating among members an appreciation for nature by organizing walks and camps; printing community flyers on post-consumer, recycled paper or going paperless; placing and using recycle containers in local buildings; and arranging seminars on some of the environmental concerns mentioned in this article, such as recycling, composting, and catching rainwater.
There are multiple ways to begin your practical care of the environment. Let God impress you on which direction to take your environmental stewardship responsibility. Perhaps you will start a recycling system in your home; or spend time learning how to reuse more items instead of throwing them away. You might donate your time or money to an environment-friendly organization to help advance their work; or consider the possible use of wind or solar power for energy in your home. Whatever you decide, remember your first duty is to be a good steward of God’s creation.
Dr. Carrie A. C. Wolfe, Ph.D