When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c]
5 You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[g] feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Being “green” to me isn’t just a cool idea or the in thing to do; for me it’s a commandment on how we are to live our lives. We have been entrusted to be good stewards of the earth, and it’s that gift we need to be grateful for every day. To me, being conscious of my carbon footprint is second nature and it’s a gift my husband and I aregiving to our nine year old son. He’s grown up this way and is quite aware when he goes to someone else’s home that not everyone makes these choices.
The start of my environmental awareness actually came out of a concert in the 1980’s. There was a concert for Greenpeace that featured a lot of my favorite bands, and because they supported that organization, it raised my curiosity about it. While I disagree with some of their practices, it did help me become more aware of the environmental damage that has been occurring around the world. It also led me to become a Sierra Club member, which I have been for almost 20 years, as well as supporting the WWF.
In college, I took a class on Environmentalism. It was the late 1980’s and it was the relative dark ages in terms of the environmental movement. No one had heard of global warming, and the general population looked at those sounding the warning bell with a level of derisiveness (hippies, tree huggers, etc) I learned about the butterfly affect-how a butterfly flapping its wings a continent away can impact my life here today. It is the same with being “green” and making “green” choices. Making a simple choice to turn off the water while I am brushing my teeth can allow for clean drinking water to be available in Sudan (crazy thought to some, but its true)
A Sunday Forum at my “home church”, Trinity Princeton in 1998 opened my eyes that stewardship is not just about charity, its also about valuing treasure-and our biggest treasure is our planet. Rev. Fletcher Harper, who later founded Green Faith, spoke during our coffee hour about what we as Episcopalians could do to save the planet. He talked about wind energy, solar power and collecting rain water. During his discussion, he demonstrated energy efficient products and talked about sustainability, but being low impact. It got me thinking about how to implement positive changes in my own life and not have to really “give anything” up in terms of modern conveniences.
My family has done a lot of the obvious ones: we recycle; we have been using CFL light bulbs for over ten years now. I bring my own cloth bags to whatever store we go to, and I make new ones out of old t shirts. We have our thermostat lowered one degree. We have electronic free hours. We have meatless Mondays (in same cases, more than that as my son is a vegetarian and I am for all intensive purposes, vegan. My husband still eats meat on occasion). I only use natural cleaning products and do not use pesticides. I shop local, utilizing the farmer’s market in season. I have a high efficiency washer, toilet, shower heads and faucets reducing our water consumption. We have our lights and HVAC systemon a timer, and use major appliances in off peak hours. My family brings their own lunches in reusable glass containers and use reusable water bottles. We compost, especially coffee grounds, to use in our garden where we grow our own vegetables and plants. Even our pets are green. I use shredded paper in our cat’s litter box, I make my own dog treats and use natural products for them as well (i.e. flea & tick prevention) In order to save gas, we combine trips when running errands and try to carpool as much as possible. We purchase products that are sustainable and fair trade. We donate our used clothing and other goods to pass along our blessings and to keep it out of the landfill. I try to buy vintage as much as possible. In fact, when I attended the Gala last month, I was able to find a vintage dress, shoes and evening bag for less than $20-and the store I shopped in uses the proceeds to benefit others.
I even had a green wedding before it was trendy. We used recycled pew bows and nave runner. Our wedding centerpieces were reclaimed vases with candles that we were able to be reused by another bride. We took our pictures on the church lawn instead of going somewhere else. Instead of giving out something that would wind up being tossed out as a favor, I made molded organic chocolates and we gave out scratch off lottery tickets. The leftover food from our reception was donated to Second Harvest and was served at the Trenton Soup Kitchen the next day.
Especially this time of year, we are conscious with our gift buying decisions. Instead of buying something that may or may not be useful to the recipient, we either give a donation to a charity that is special to that person, or purchase a Gift for Life from Episcopal Relief and Development. When someone we love passes away, instead of sending flowers to the funeral, we have a tree planted in that person’s honor. When we mark other milestones in our families and friends lives, we make a choice to give little to no impact gifts-and try to give as many handmade as possible or make a charitable donation to pay it forward.
It is much more difficult for this to translate to the workplace. I have a reusable coffee mug and water bottle at my desk. I recycle in my office, and limit the amount of things I print. However, I have not had much success in having my own container being used in the cafeteria instead of the Styrofoam take out containers. I try my best to reduce my carbon footprint, but there is only so much one can do in an office environment.