Sunday, August 13, 2006

In Search of a New... Part III

Sustainable Living: More than Recycling and Sprouts?

I’m intrigued by this thing called “sustainable living.” I began doing a bit of internet research a couple weeks ago. I thought I might find echoes of wild and mystic over-the-edge alternatives... recipes for things like "cabbage ice cream" and "lentil smoothies"... 1001 beauty tips using backyard mud to achieve that healthy bronze glow. But the first website I found talked about “Sustainable Christmas” and it had practical, doable, sensible tips for healthier, smarter living.

But what exactly is it?

At one end of the spectrum, “sustainable living” looks like hard-core integrated environmentalism. Down and dirty sustainable types aren’t out to save a few trees or bullfrogs. They're on a back-to-nature crusade concerning everything they buy, everything they eat, everything they wear. Some are growing their own food and eschewing leather or non-hemp (non-drug variety) clothing.

Then there are the moderates who are trying to make environmentally friendlier choices. The faithful recycler. The families who choose hiking and camping over a Disney Cruise. Those who think twice about leaving lights on and running water or making unnecessary trips around town.

If there’s a core ethic to sustainable living, it seems to be this: “use our natural resources wisely.”

“The values of a simpler, less-acquisitive lifestyle, with respect for nature, can benefit anyone in any setting - urban, suburban or rural.”

People who've embraced sustainable living seem to approach consumer purchase decisions with some concern for the long haul. They make thoughtful, less-impulsive purchases. They’ve adopted a respect for nature. They’re wrenching the kids away from the X-Box and are teaching them about trees and birds and outdoor adventure. They’ve turned off the TV and can actually hear the crickets chirp at night because nature isn’t competing with the lady hawking face goop on QVC.

I learned of this movement as I was coming down from my first furniture shopping high. I was contemplating everything I “needed” to be cutting-edge and was having buyer’s remorse before I even bought anything. I knew this lack of peace wasn’t coming from God.

Maybe what I need is not so much major acquisition of all-new stuff, but a more clutter-free, peaceful environment. And perhaps there’s a biblical angle here.

We can look to God’s original plan for the role of man and his environment in Genesis:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2: 15

So from the get go, God established a custodial or, if you prefer, “managerial” role for man over the earth. Adam was to “work” his environment and “take care of it.” Yet it remained God’s property.

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was his name.”
Genesis 2:19

So God created the beasts and the birds. And he allowed Adam to name them. Much like the family that acquires a pet. Few parents walk in the front door and declare, “This is a hound dog and he will be called Sparky!” Most parents involve the children in the naming of the family pet, because that’s a loving, bond-building and gracious thing to do. But as it is in the home, when all is said and done, the pet is owned by the parent and, ideally, tended to by the children. As it was in the Garden of Eden where God gave certain license to Adam, but very much remained in control.

So here we are in 2006. God hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still the great Landlord. And we, the highest created inhabitants of Earth, maintain a responsibility to our environment to “work it” and “take care of it.” We are the tenants. And we should expect that God wants us making good choices with the resources He’s given us.

So what are some ways we can adopt “sustainable living” practices in our homes?

Check out final post in this series: Part IV: In Search of a New...


Chris Howard said...

Nice post.

I often drive by Grapevine Lake on the way home from work to take in one of the nicest views we have in our fair concrete-covered jungle.
It's one of the things during my week that seems simple and refreshing and not the least bit expensive (if you look at trading the extra gas money for the sanity time on account of avoiding the 121/2499 interchange).

Maybe I'll graduate to stopping at the lake and dipping the toes in on a regular basis.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

I especially appreciate the way you connect faith/religion with stewardship of the environment. Over the past few years there has been a lot of press about some Christians who want to see the degradation of the environment because it is part of bringing on 'end times'. I think this notion is rubbish, and I think most Christians would agree. But it helps to state your values, as you do quite nicely in your blog, to help others see more balance on the subject.

I think we honour our Creator when we respect the earth.

Greg Seaman,

Sarah Onderdonk said...

thanks, Greg. i agree! wonderful website you have, by the way.