Going Green is Not a Gray Area
By Alyce Gilligan
February 24, 2010
Nancy Sleeth is a co-founder, with her husband, Matthew, of Blessed Earth and author of Go Green Save Green. Her mission is to inform people of the spiritual and financial benefits of living an environmentally conscious life. We spoke to her about how conservation creates community, small changes that make a big difference and her response to those against talking about creation care.
You say that one of the main incentives for people to conserve resources is that it adds to community activities and family time. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Yes, community has been lost. We have a culture now of hyper-individuality. And part of that is because of money. Part of us thinks that because we have money, we can do everything ourselves. We are an incredibly rich society in America. It’s good to learn to receive as well as to give, and that it’s OK to ask for help. Those relationships are what the body of Christ is. When it’s all about us, it’s not a community of Christ. If you look back at the language of the OT, it’s our God, it’s a plural language. It’s not about my God.
What is the one major change people should make if they want to begin a sustainable lifestyle and conserving resources?
The answer I’m going to give you is not the one you’d expect, but they should start observing Sabbath. People in their 20s are just so focused on this 24-7 life that needs to be a 24-6 life. That’s the life God has set up for us and there’s a reason for it. It’s our mental health prescription, and it’s the most important thing they can start doing right now. We generally save 10-14 percent of the resources you use by observing Sabbath. So yes, it does have an environmental effect, it does have a monetary effect, but the most important effect is that it gives you time to be still and know God, to get to know your neighbors, to spend time in community, to have people over for dinner, to take a walk in nature and see the face of God. Romans 1:20 says that we are without excuse, if we just spend time in the world of nature, we will get to know God. And those things happen on the Sabbath. You know, it’s about guiltless naps. I take a nap almost every Sabbath and I could not get through the other 6 days of the week if I did not have the Sabbath to look forward to.
What are some of your most practical and effective tips for going green?
There are many people around the world who do not have access to clean water. Change the way you use water. Turn the faucet off while you’re brushing your teeth. Anybody can do that. Just think before you use this precious resource called water. Transportation is the biggest use and it’s also something you can control. Can you hop on your bike instead of driving two miles that you don’t really don’t need to get into a car for? Can you slow your life down just a bit so you can hop on your bike and run that errand, or can you combine errands together so you’re not running all over the place and so you just do all your errands once a week? If you live in an urban area, absolutely, use public transportation. Again, there’s community involved in that.
What do you feel the Church’s responsibility is regarding creation care?
Any time that you make a decision or are about to purchase something, we recommend that you ask two questions: Will this help me love God, and will this help me love my neighbor? And if you’re even asking those questions, you’re on the right track. You’re at least thinking about it. You’re living a conscious life. God does not want to find us sleeping. He doesn’t mean physically asleep—He means not using our brains, not living a conscious life, not making conscious choices.
What is your response to Christians who don’t feel as passionate about creation care, or who even seem to be against it?
In the last three years, we have seen a remarkable change within the most resistant churches. Most of our time is spent speaking in what people would call "conservative" churches now. This is not a political issue, and it has nothing to with national boundaries, and it has nothing to do with denominations. We all drink the same water and have rights to the same quality of life. And the people who are being hurt the most and the soonest are the poorest. The people we are told to take care of are the least among us. So when we are not using resources responsibly, when we are not being good stewards of the resources that God has put under our responsibility, we are harming our neighbors and we are not showing love and respect for God the creator.