5 Things Everyone Should Do to Live More Sustainably

In her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, author Jen Hatmaker mentions this tweet from @xianity: “Today is Earth Day, or as conservative evangelicals call it, Thursday.”

I grew up in a suburban, middle-to-upper-middle-class Christian family. Although I can’t quite pinpoint where it came from, I definitely held what I’ll call a “dominion view” of the relationship between Christians and creation. God created the world, and he gave man dominion over it. So those hippies who threatened to make us all recycle had it wrong; we could use the earth and everything in it as we pleased.

As an adult, I see things differently. I live in the mountains of western North Carolina and parts of our neighborhood have amazing views of the Blue Ridge. When I stop in wonder and breathe it all in, I’m amazed at God’s glory. The beauty of God’s creation points me to Him, and as a result, my instinct is to care for it, not to use it and discard it.

So what now?

It can be intimidating to know where to start as we begin prioritizing creation care. The voices of those well-versed in all things eco-friendly can be a little overwhelming; making it feel like the only option is rushing out to dig a compost toilet and buying, or better yet making your own family cloth. But to quote G.K. Chesterton, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Doing something is better than doing nothing.

If you’re new to the idea of creating less waste, being a thoughtful consumer, and caring for this beautiful planet that points us back to the Creator himself, here are a few easy first steps.

1. Start Recycling.

It’s that easy. It doesn’t matter if you do it perfectly, just start. Most cities have a recycling program you can opt in to, and some even require it. Look up what’s accepted and what they can’t recycle, and fill your bin! Challenge yourself to have more in your recycling receptacle than in your waste basket.

2. Work On Minimizing Waste Overall.

While recycling is an important tool in the environmental toolkit, it actually takes a lot of energy to run recycling plants. Minimizing what makes it there in the first place is important.

Disposable kitchen products are big time offenders in the world of unnecessary waste. Commit to eliminating disposable plates, napkins, cups and cutlery from your kitchen (even when you have large groups over often, like we do). Spend the money normally allocated for paper towels on a few more dishtowels instead, and be amazed at how easy (and budget-friendly!) it is to eliminate paper towels completely.

Buy a few sets of cloth napkins and use them every day, not just for special occasions. Buy food in bulk when you can, rather than purchasing food in prepackaged servings, which create significantly more waste just by requiring more packaging. Pack lunch in a Bento style box with compartments for different foods, which don’t require any of those little plastic sandwich bags.

3. Conserve Energy.

Do simple things like turning out lights when you don’t really need them, not letting the air conditioning or heat run with your windows open, and so on.

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But don’t be afraid to go even further, like installing a digital thermostat with a programming option. Schedule your system to be used only when you’ll be home (have the heat come on around 4 p.m. if you get home from work around 5, so it’s ready and waiting). Think about energy-free solutions like leaving the temperature a degree cooler in winter, and investing in a great pair of socks. Yes, I’m serious. The great thing about conserving energy is no matter what route you take, you’re saving money too. It’s a total win-win.

4. Buy Smart.

If you’re preparing to purchase a home or car, look at the energy efficient options. While often they cost more up front, the savings come quickly after and it’s worth it. Some cities and states have tax breaks and rebates for purchasing energy efficient products, so be sure to check out what’s available in your area.

5. Buy Local.

Buying local products is a great way to support your community, but it’s almost always better for you, too. Small, local farms are often committed to raising animals and crops in the cleanest, most eco-friendly ways. This means cleaner food for you and cleaner land and water for the surrounding areas.

But there’s another side to this—buying local means you aren’t requiring cross-country transport for your food. The environmental impact of getting food from one place hundreds of miles from another is significant. So when you can, cut that out. Again, it’s a simple win-win.

I’m not an expert in creation care, but I’m trying to do the work of figuring out where I can help, instead of harm. I want to honor the Creator by caring for what He’s created. As Wendell Berry said, “The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good, and He loves it. It is His world; He has never relinquished the title to it … If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it?”

What simple first steps have you taken to glorify your Creator by caring for creation?

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