50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference
The green movement has taken root among Christians, with individuals and churches embracing eco-justice as a vital part of discipleship. In this four-part series, we will be excerpting chapters from 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference by environmental activist Rebecca Barnes-Davies, who makes a clear connection between caring for the earth and living one’s faith. Taking action is important, but it’s also about “not doing,” says Barnes-Davies. Knowing when to let go of control, doing no harm, resting, celebrating, and trusting that God is doing the work to care for creation, are all essential elements to her approach. Each chapter offers seven action items, ranging from individual efforts to activities that encourage the involvement of church and community. There are practical suggestions, relevant facts and background material, success stories, additional sources of information, and appropriate scripture references.
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Reduce Energy Consumption
Many of us grew up being told to turn off the lights when we leave a room or to not hold the refrigerator door open while looking for a snack. While small, these and other suggestions to conserve energy are still important. Those who have taken any of the various online “ecological footprint” quizzes have learned that it would take four to ten Earths if everyone were to consume energy the way a middle-class American does. Knowing that we only have one Earth, and that most of our energy right now comes from nonrenewable, unsustainable sources, it is essential that we learn the most important ways to reduce our personal energy consumption. Small commitments add up.
- Turn off lights, electronics, small appliances, and chargers when not actively in use. Unplug those with an “always on” clock or “standby” red light. A TV set that’s on for three hours and in standby for 21 hours uses about 40 percent of its energy in standby mode.
- Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) or, where available, light-emitting diodes (LEDs). CFLs use 60 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. For church use, there are many overhead and exit lights now available in LED, a highly energy-efficient lighting technology.
- Update your appliances and heating/cooling systems. Buy EnergyStar electronics and appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Recycle or dispose of old appliances in proper ways to keep heavy metals out of landfills.
- Insulate. Most homes and churches could be drastically improved with insulation, weather stripping, caulking, and other means of making sure that the warm air in the cooler months or the cool air in the warmer months doesn’t leak out.
- Recycle! It makes a difference. An aluminum can made from a recycled can, rather than from new aluminum, saves the same amount of energy needed to run a television for three hours. Recycled paper uses only 60 percent of the energy used when making paper from new resources. Steel recycling in the United States each year saves enough energy to supply Los Angeles with nearly a decade’s worth of electricity.
- Keep it clean! Replace filters on your furnace and on the air conditioner in your car.
- Adjust yourself to your environment. Program your thermostat to not stay as warm or cool when you are not around. By moving your thermostat up two degrees in summer and down two degrees in winter, it is possible to save approximately two thousand pounds of carbon dioxide from the previous year.
- Avoid the dryer, especially high heats. The EPA does not rate dryers as EnergyStar compliant because all of them are huge energy consumers. Use a clothesline to dry your clothes when possible.
- Choose food, transportation, and housing options wisely. The more local the food, the more fuel-efficient the transportation, and the smaller the house, the better for climate change.
- Mow your lawn with a reel or electric mower. A gas-powered lawn mower puts out nasty particulate matter that you inhale, and it pollutes in one hour what it takes your car to pollute in twenty miles of driving (at best estimate)!
Make me to know your ways, O God; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
How does it change our attitude about energy conservation and energy efficiency if we approach them as ways to wait on God? As God instructed humans to keep the creation in Genesis 2:15, how might caring for creation through energy conservation be a faithful following of God’s path?
Walking the Talk
In Dacula, Georgia, Hebron Baptist Church installed new energy-efficient lighting (almost a thousand new bulbs!) and not only has reduced its carbon footprint by a million pounds but is also spending $32,000 less each year in electricity bills. Congregations of many different denominations have done similar replacements and are finding that the economic and environmental payback for their investment is well worth the effort.
From the Earth Day Sunday 2008 resource “The Poverty of Global Climate Change,” National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program.
Excerpted with permission from 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference by Rebecca Barnes-Davies, published in 2009 by Westminster John Knox Press.
Enter for your chance to win a copy of 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference. Email your name and address (only once, not 50 times) to email@example.com with 50 Ways Contest in the subject for your chance to win! Winner will be chosen at random, good luck and remember, Busted Halo will be excerpting other sections and offering more chances to win in the near future so don’t get too down on yourself if you didn’t win, though really, you should have won, shame on you!