Yesterday was fantastic. The larger part of our afternoon was happily spent on friends and fellowship at the home of the senior pastor of Manor BIC, our home church. We enjoyed the warm weather and bright sunshine from the sturdy, wooden deck in his backyard while we sipped lemonade and nourished ourselves on primo foods graciously served to us by his lovely and beyond hospitable wife. It was a remarkable day filled with fun, friendship, and conversation.
Conversation always remains after an event is spent, at least if it was good conversation. Yesterday’s conversation was good. It was “sticky,” to use savvy web designer/developer lingo; much of it remains with me to this very moment. Particularly sticky was the conversation shared concerning the pastor’s planned alternative mode of morning transportation. He was going to ride a bicycle to church.
This pastor lives several miles from the church he pastors, mind you. He preaches two services too! Yet, he was prepared to wake up much earlier, leave much earlier, and peddle all the way to the church instead of driving. Why? Well, it turns out that a few young people decided the church should do its part to be more than environmentally conscious and actually act in ways to tangibly reduce natural resource consumption. So, this morning was declared “non-gasoline Sunday.” The pastor peddled.
This conversation has stuck with me to this moment because we all - as Christians - not only need to be environmentally conscious, but also need to act in way that actually reduces our natural resource consumption and consequent ecological damage. I’m not one to suggest a knee-jerk spin back into a stone age way of life of living, but I do think we are responsible to actually reduce consumption and help instead of harm the ecology God painted for us. Sustainability is the key. Sustainability is the point. We must limit our consumption to standards naturally set by our planet. In other words, we should only use resources at a rate that doesn’t exceed the planet’s natural ability to replenish them.
Contextually, this is a stewardship issue for Christians. We should take stewardship very seriously. God does, right?
What is an Ecological Footprint?
Many people have never heard the term “Ecological Footprint.” Christians, for the most part, have no idea what the term even means or implies as regards social responsibility. So, what exactly is an “Ecological Footprint?” What do we do with it?
Ecological Footprint is the moniker attributed to an attempt to measure or gauge human demand and effect upon nature (our actions impact the ecosystem). It is a resource management tool that tracks human consumption of natural resources and compares and/or contrasts that information with the planet’s ecological ability to regenerate them. So, basically the term “Ecological Footprint” points to a methodology that identifies a potentially irreversible pattern of human behavior here in the West that can be summarized with a few strung words of wisdom: “Don’t Spend What You Do Not Have!” Unfortunately, given our marriage to credit card debt here in the West, it may be too late to change detrimental behavior. Will we also spend more natural resources than the earth offers us? It seems so. Presently, it takes our planet more than a year and two months to regenerate the resources humanity consumes in the span of one year. We are spending what we don’t have! We are consuming resources faster than they are regenerated! It must change!
This sort of change should start with Christians. It is a stewardship issue.
Practical Steps to Reduce Your Church’s Ecological Footprint
Reducing your church’s ecological footprint is not as difficult or life altering as you may think. It’s not hard at all. Here are a few steps to help you start thinking and acting ecologically:
1. Swap your old light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and Lamps. Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) is energy efficient lighting. CFL will also save your congregation money. CFLs last much longer than incandescent generators and use far less energy. CFLs also will swap in and out of most existing incandescent fixtures. This is very convenient and leaves one with no excuse, to be completely honest. Too, the quality of light produced by CFLs is equal or even better than your old incandescent generated light. Switch your light today. Suggestion: when you remodel, build in a way that maximizes the benefits of natural light.
2. Heating and cooling can be done naturally too. No, you don’t have to discard you old systems just yet, but you can limit your use of them far more than you may realize. There are incredible technologies in existence today that rely upon solar energy to produce heating and cooling. Solar energy used in conjunction with other forms of heating can seriously reduce the levels of resource consumption. Zoned heating and cooling is another conscious alternative. Zoned heating and cooling is a really conscious way of using energy resources where they are most needed, rather than wasting energy by cooling or heating spaces not in use. Why make totally unused spaces comfortable? A zoning system, with sensors in each room or group of rooms, or zones, can monitor the temperature according to the setting, which is set according to the use of the space. Suggestion: Invest in the technologies above and research more (e.g., Geothermal Heating & Cooling Systems. You can actually save hundreds - even thousands - of dollars and be ecologically sound.
3. Control your waste of paper! Churches are notorious paper consumers. We waste tons of paper every year. We must seriously search for alternative means of exchanging information. Technology has offered us more than a few ways to limit our use of paper. PowerPoint and LCD projection is one way. Announcements and orders of service can be put on the big screen for people to follow. The Internet is another way to limit our use of paper. Information can be posted virtually now. E-mail is also another way. No, not everyone is our congregations can access and/or use this sort of technology, but many, many can! We should intentionally differentiate between these two groups and use technology where we can use it and use paper where we must use it. It is completely doable! Suggestion: form a committee or team to differentiate and separate the congregation into “Access” and “No Access” groups; limit paper use to those in the “No Access” category.
4. Be intentional about your waste production! In other words, recycle everything! This is pretty self-explanatory. Recycle the paper products you do have to use and produce. Recycle al of your cans. Recycle your cardboard! Recycle your left over food products in the community garden! Recycle everything! Suggestion: Set up clearly marked recycle bins in the trash area of your church. if you don’t have recycle bins, get them!
5. Speaking of a community garden … grow one! A lot of churches have spacious and fertile areas on their property. Use a section to teach your children (and adults!) about ecological stewardship via planting and gardening! Plant a garden! Teach your young children to nurture it! Teach them to care for and nurture the earth. Suggestion: find a place to plant a community garden and actually go plant it with others in your church community!
6. Do not use plastic bags for anything. Get rid of plastics, as much as possible. Invest in a few fashionable reusable shopping totes. If you can’t find any near you, check reusablebags.com. They have a variety you can order online. Plastic bags are am ecological cancer. They do so much damage to the environment.
The Inherent Blessings of Intentional Stewardship
There is blessing to be found in responsible Christian behavior and intentional ecological stewardship. In the case of ecological stewardship, we are each blessed with sustainability and a livable planet for many years to come. Our children’s children will thank us for our dedication to intentional ecological stweardship and our mature attitudes concerning our planet’s resources. Sustainability alone is blessing enough, but there is even more!
Ecological stweardship has it’s financial rewards too! If the above suggestions are seriously and honestly implement in our churches and homes, we all would save hundreds - if not thousands - of dollars every year. Households will be able to give more; churches will be able to serve more. Here are a few examples of the financial benifits of ecological stewardship (Source:CSMONITOR):
By installing solar panels on the roof and changing lighting, Christ Church in Ontario, Calif., saw its summer utility bills drop from $600 to $20 a month.
All Saints Episcopal Church in Brookline, Mass., which installed a new boiler with zoned heating, programmable thermostats, and more efficient lighting, was rewarded with annual savings of $17,000. They’ve used 14 percent of the savings to buy 100 percent renewable energy, further reducing pollutants.
Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., revamped its lighting system, converting fixtures and exit signs. They’re saving $32,000 a year in church expenses and 450,000 kilowatt hours of energy.
Intentional Stewardship is all about Heart and Motives
So, clearly there are environmental and economic benefits produced by ecological stewardship. We should do our best to be good and honest stewards of all that God has given us. We should not embrace stewardship of any kind just because we want to gain financially, but in this case, reducing our Ecological Footprint actually results in improved environmental sustainability and financial savings. It’s the best of both worlds.
Stewardship is beyond important in the Christian worldview. We would do well before man and God to take our stewardship responsibilities seriously. I bet Ananias and Sapphira wish they could get a mulligan … We should aspire to bigger and bigger things as regards Christian stewardship.
Peddling to church is one way to do so.