Photo by Denis Collette
This talk was prepared for a live presentation I made on Wednesday, October 21, for a local mom’s group. I post it here for reference for these ladies in addition to inspiring others to join us in pursuing a good stewardship lifestyle.
Aaron and I and our two little ones took a weekend vacation to the beach in Sept. I have had a life long passion for the ocean. Growing up we would take annual vacations to the beach and enjoy the beauties of the Oregon Coast. Watching the rhythm of the waves, cuddling up and enjoying a good book, digging for agates, hiking, and exploring. It is simple and beautiful. We find rest and refreshment in the beauty of God’s creation. Nothing brings me as much pleasure as just being out in nature. Fall is here and we see the glorious changing colors of the earth.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and it was good. He made man in His own image, in His own likeness and gave him dominion over the birds of the air, the fish of the seas, and called him to care for His creation, to steward it, to protect it, because it was good! “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry around the ground.” (Gen. 1:28)
There is a truth in this first command that is often overlooked! God has made us rulers of the earth and we are to be stewards, caretakers of the world around us. What does it mean to “reign” as Genesis describes?
Cornelius Plantinga’s says it this way in his book, Engaging God’s World:
“God gives human beings authority in the created world, what we might call ‘responsible dominion.’ Let them take responsibility for keeping the earth, for respecting the integrity of kinds, and times, and seasons. Christians and others have sometimes taken dominion as justification for the ‘conquest’ of nature…the Bible speaks of dominion, not in the sense of conquest, but in the sense of stewardship…To have dominion is to act like the mediator of creation. This means that a human steward of God’s good creation will never exploit or pillage; instead, she will give creation room to be itself. She will respect it, care for it, and empower it. The person who practices good animal husbandry, forest management, and water conservation shows respect for God by showing respect for what God has made.”
Did you catch that? When we care for His creation, we are showing honor and respect to the Creator. This is a high calling…a royal assignment! Being good stewards and caretakers of God’s glorious creation is a wonderful privilege entitled to each person on this earth. Not just me, not just you, but all of us together as a united force.
As Christians, we cannot ignore our environment. I use to make fun of those environmentalists out there to save trees…but the more I meditated on this passage, the more I realized the significance for us as Christians to take the lead in caring for the world around us. This is our opportunity to be a witness to the world around us that we serve a Creator God. When we demonstrate careful concern for the earth, we are opening up doors to communicate why with a lost world around us. How can we think to share the truth of the gospel with others if we are not concerned about the things they are concerned about.What opportunities to share the gospel!
As Romans 1:20 says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for knowing God.”
Isn’t that a beautiful reminder that God’s truth is communicated as we observe His glorious creation? He uses His creation to draw people out of darkness and into His marvelous light as they see His beauty displayed in His landscape. Should we not together actively seek to preserve the beauty of His creation by good stewardship?
Martin Luther once said, “Now if I believe in God’s Son and remember that He became man, all creatures will appear a hundred times more beautiful to me than before. Then I will properly appreciate the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, apples, as I reflect that He is Lord over all things.”
He indeed is Lord over all creation! Being concerned about His creation, the environment, is one simple way of offering up worship to our King! He entrusted this earth to man’s care from the beginning of time…let us seek together to care, grow and nurture it as He intended.
The two main concepts I want to encourage us to see is this: Our level of Consumption & Waste.
We live in a consumeristic and rushed society. We work hard, to buy more, only to find it doesn’t satisfy and run the rat race again. In the US alone, we represent only 5% of the world’s population, and yet we consume 30% of the world’s resources, and produce 30% of the world’s trash. Our houses have grown larger (the average house doubled in size since the 1970′s) as our families have shrunk in size. The more space we have the greater tendency we have to buy more to fill it. Stuff that just accumulates, needs time to be managed, cleaned, organized, and then disposed of when we no longer find pleasure in it. A never ending cycle. We receive our primary value based upon our level of consumption. We shop and shop and shop…and keep the materials flowing.We consume twice as much as we did 50 years ago. We are bombarded by 3000 advertisements per day…what is the result? We are being tempted to buy more stuff. We are not happy. We are on a work, watch, spend cycle.
Let’s talk about waste. Do you know how long this stuff remains in our homes? Only 1% of the products we consume are still in use 6 months later. Each person disposes of 4.5 pounds of trash per day! In the US alone, Americans generated nearly 390 million tons of trash last year. Almost 100 landfills across the US closed last year because they were crammed to the brim. Most of this trash will not decompose anytime soon and some waste is releasing toxic chemicals into our soil, streams, groundwater, and ultimately back to us.
How can we stop this cycle? Now is your time to jump off the rat wheel and focus on the important things in life…relationships, service to others, etc! Our family vision is to live simply in order to give generously. We want to cut back on our spending, so we can give more to bless others, through monetary giving, hospitality and service. We have more time and energy to serve and bless others because we have less stuff that consumes energy to maintain. Consuming less is better on the environment, and better for our marriages and all our important relationships.
I also find I save money by seeking to be a good steward! Isn’t that interesting? Frugality and good stewardship of our environment go hand in hand! I want to share ten steps towards pursuing a good steward lifestyle. I am going to give you a lot of information…but I want to encourage you from the beginning…just take one step at a time. Refer to this list at home and prayerfully seek to make your own list, step by step. Don’t try to do it all at once! Don’t try to change everything. This will only lead to stress. Let it just become a hobby! Make a goal to make one change each week or each month. Figure out what works for you.
Your part is valuable! We are the body of Christ…we can make a difference!
1. REDUCE WASTE BY BUYING LESS
So we dispose of 390 million tons of trash…We can help lower this amount of trash through careful recycling. Recycling is definitely helpful, but it does not eliminate the source. It starts at the level of consumption.
It starts with a change of heart. It starts by changing your mindset. We go by in life just seeing everything as something to be consumed and disposed of.
It starts by asking yourself these questions before you ever make a purchase: Is this a need or a want? Write it down and take a month or two to evaluate it. What purpose will it serve? Can this item serve multiple purposes or is this just another little gadget that takes up more space? Can it be reused? Do we ever consider the long term impact of each decision to purchase something? It starts by stopping the consumption. It starts before you make the purchase. Christmas is around the corner…how can you begin now to adjust your mindset? Can you cut back on your budget, focusing more on spending quality time with family this year?I keep a running amazon wishlist. I never buy right away. More often than not, if I take time to think about it, I realize it really is not a need. This is another reason I avoid malls and browsing outings. I avoid the impulsive buy. We also got rid of our credit cards. This significantly cut back on our consumption.
I want to encourage you to take a little more thought to the longterm implications and consequences of each decision. Use discernment. Pursuing a more green lifestyle is a way to serve the next generation. The more things we have and money we pursue, the less grateful and more stressful we become. That is the result of consumerism. My challenge to you is to simplify.
2. CHOSE REUSABLE OPTIONS instead of disposables.
Before buying those paper towels, consider using some old kitchen towels that have lost their glamor. Before picking up those napkins, consider buying a set of cloth napkins that can be used again and again (or make your own). They also add elegance to your dinner table. Ask yourself the question, “is their a reusable alternative to this? Will this just be going into the trash after one use?” This is what green living on a budget is all about – it saves money! If you do not want to use reusable napkins, paper plates, etc. look into biodegradable or products made from recycled products. Just pick one item per month to begin replacing with a biodegradable or reusable alternative.
- Ziplocs - although the company wouldn’t want you to reuse ziplocs (because they want you to buy more!), you would be surprised how many times these storage bags can be washed and reused. I buy a box at Costco and it lasts me an entire year. Read more tips on preserving the life of ziplocs here.
- Razors - Small thing, but each item adds up. We love Mach3 razors and just buy the replacement blade pack at Costco.
- Menstrual products - Yes, I was with you…turned off at this one! But let me just tell you…reusable actually makes that monthly cycle far more comfortable. 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually. Tampons and pads are expensive! Individually, easily spend between $300 and $400 every 5 years on these products–over $10,000 a life-time! The health hazards of disposable products is also worthy of evaluating. Diva Cup or GladRags are great alternatives, depending upon your preferences.
- Cloth diapering - Diapers made up 3.4 million tons of waste, or 2.1 percent of U.S. garbage, in landfills in 1998 — the last year this information was collected. Despite popular belief, the biodegradable alternatives offered through companies like Seventh Generation do not decompose. They are safer for your babies bottom, but don’t help the waste issue. Cloth diapering has advanced! There are diapers available on the market that are just like disposables! No pins any more! Read more recommendations here.
- Nursing Pads - reusable options are so much more comfortable! Learn how to make your own here.
- Grocery Bags – reuse your plastic bags, or even better…buy a few canvas totes and keep them in the car. These bags are sturdy and can handle anything (especially IKEA editions!)
- Produce Bags- instead of collecting all those plastic produce bags, check out green bags! They are a great alternative that is reusable for a much longer period and will also preserve your produce longer.
- Reusable water bottles (Kleen Kanteen) AVOID BOTTLED WATER. Plastics leaching into your water is not a pleasant thought, plus they really cannot be recycled. It isn’t good for you anyway! We use Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Colored Water Bottles for Aaron and I and NALGENE Tritan Grip-N-Gulp BPA-Free Water Bottle for kid’s sippy’s (does not leak like others we have used!).
- Change your shower curtain liner- polyester or hemp are great reusable alternatives. PVC, the toxic chemical in many plastics, is that horrible stenck you smell when installing a new shower curtain liner. Polyester is a frugal reusable option that works beautifully. Croscill Fabric Shower Curtain Liner is what we use and it has been a great product.
These are just a few ideas to get you started!
3. RECYCLE & REPURPOSE
Repurposing is just a creative word for reusing. Emilie Barne’s in her book More Hours in My Day, tells the story of her mother, who made a beautiful dress for her for special occasions. As the dress wore down, it became an everyday dress, and as she grew taller, rows of rickrack were added to the bottom. Then it became a play dress for outdoor play and then an apron, and finally it was torn into strips and made into a mop.
Every single part of this dress was used until it was no longer usable. There was no room for waste. Everything was valuable. Nothing was lost. How far we have strayed from this old-fashioned and yet much truer concept of frugality! How quick we are to discard of something that no longer suits its original use. To skillfully make use of all that God has blessed us with, and to ensure that each item is used to its full potential, rather than taking the easy way out by tossing it in the garbage because it no longer works for the original purpose.
- Composting - you can use all your food waste and a lot of your trash waste to make good soil for the earth. You can use cardboard, paper, tea bags, coffee grounds, and so many other things and produce great soil. Learn how to make your own composting bin here with a simple tote bin.
- Reuse Glass or plastic jars with lids – Old canning jars and glass jars from various food products work beautifully as food storage containers. I keep an assortment of quart, half gallon, and pint jars along with Wide Mouth Plastic Caps and we are set. They are incredibly useful for many other uses from organizing craft materials, office supplies, and other uses. In our home, we have replaced all tin foil and saran wrap with a useful collection of jars.
4. WHEN YOU DO BUY, BUY QUALITY.
This may be more of an expense up front, but in the end it will save you time, stress, and frustration. Buy things that are recyclable! When you buy quality, you are stewarding your money wisely. Cheap junk is a waste of money and resources.
- Chose lasting toys- less is more! Avoid the cheap battery operated toys that will be disposed of before the next birthday or Christmas. Wooden toys may cost more money, which will encourage you to buy less, which in turn will help teach our children contentment, and not building unrealistic expectations. If you limit your toy purchases, you will also train your children to be creative and content.
- Make sure it will serve multiple purposes. Instead of buying a copier, scanner, and printer…choose the 3-in-1 option! It takes up less space, works effectively, and if it does die, it would be less waste. I use a Bodum French Press for making tea and coffee…rather than having two or three different gadgets to make these beverages for ourselves.
I have already gone through two blenders while making my daily green smoothies at our house. I finally came to the conclusion it was time to be smart. Buy something that will last. I wanted something that would be durable plus be a multi-tasker. Enter…Blendtec Home Professional Total Blender! This was my birthday present this year after saving for the past year. What an awesome investment it has been! Takes the place of 9 different appliances. Less waste, less clutter, and all at a cheaper price than buying 9 individual purpose appliances. I can make ice cream, soup, grind grain, make peanut butter, salsa, and various other things with this one durable tool.
5. BUY USED INSTEAD OF NEW.
Check out your used options before you buy new – Craigslist, Freecycle, goodwill, garage sales, consignment stores, etc. Prevent others from wasting by reusing their products. We do this for appliances, furniture, children’s clothing, and decor. I love that quote from the Jim Carey version of the Grinch that Stole Christmas, “One man’s garbage is another man’s potpourri!”
6. KEEP THE AIR CLEAN INDOORS.
The EPA estimates that indoor air is 2 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air.
- Use non-toxic cleaning supplies – simplify & save! Baking soda & vinegar can do it all! Check out our household cleaning supplies here. Another new favorite is soap nuts for all our laundry needs. The cleaning agent that grows on trees!
Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, vinegar is a disinfectant. Shaklee’s Basic H2 is another option that we are just beginning to use and enjoy. It is a frugal all-purpose cleaner for everyday cleaning, windows and the like. I have also used club soda as a simple frugal window cleaner. You really don’t need tons of different products!
- Use houseplants – According to Renee Loux in Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home: “Two small plants or one medium size plant per 100 square feet will provide fresh air and healthy, mold-free humidity in any room so everyone can breathe deeply with ease.”
- PVC in shower curtains – Again, replace those shower curtain liners with a non-PVC alternative!
- Safe No-VOC Paint – Did you know that while adding color to a room, you are also slapping on lead, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and xylene-all potentially hazardous to your health? Check out safe alternatives here.
7. CONSERVE ENERGY & WATER
-Hang your laundry! Did you know that 6-10% of the nation’s electric bills are due to clothes dryers? How about 15 deaths, 400 injuries and 15,600 house fires caused by clothes dryers! What can you do to lessen this price? Let it all hang out! Clothes get disinfected by the sun and last longer! Even if you just hang one load a week, you are helping to reduce your consumption of electricity and cutting down your bill at the same time.
- Use less water at the sink.
- Wash in cold. Wash full loads.
- Take shorter showers.
- Turn lights off when you leave the room.
For other energy efficiency tips, check out: Kitchen Energy Saving Tips
8. EAT REAL LOCAL FOOD.
Did you know that most food travels 1300 miles to get to your dinner table, that can be seven to fourteen days before arriving at your supermarket (that’s a lot of preservatives)? This is a huge impact on the environment with all that carbon dioxide output. Buying locally provides you with the freshest food and ingredients, making it significantly more nutritious and a better investment of your money. It is also beneficial for your local economy.
- Start a garden. Container gardens are great alternatives if you don’t have the property.
- Dine locally. Some of our favorite date nights have been to restaurants here in Vancouver and Portland that support local farmers and have seasonal menus. The quality and taste is superior in every way. Our favorite restaurants here include: Woody’s Tacos, Burgerville, Mon Ami, Heathman Lodge, Roots.
- Make it yourself. Cooking from scratch can help reduce packaging waste, and provide you with more nutritiously dense food at the same time. This is how I seek to live naturally on a budget, I explore learning how to make my own butter, bread, deodorant, etc.
LOCAL FRIENDS: Check out my local food resources page for a complete list of where I find the majority of my food, local restaurants, and other resources. Check out the Chinook Coupon book with tons of coupons for making green natural living possible on a budget.
The Chinook Coupon book also makes editions for Seattle, Denver, Twin Cities, East Bay, and Silicon Valley. So if you live in any of these areas, check out this resource!
9. WHEN POSSIBLE, BUY ORGANIC
- When you buy organic, you can be assured that it is free of pesticides and chemicals that are not only harming the food we eat, our bodies, but also hurting our soil and contaminating our waterways.
- More nutritionally dense for your money…more value for your money!
Michael Pollan shares in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, “In addition to higher levels of minerals, organically grown crops have also been found to contain more phyto-chemicals – the various secondary compounds that plants produce in order to defend themselves from pests and diseases, many of which turn out to have important antioxidant, anti inflammatory, and other beneficial effects in humans. Because plants living on organic farms aren’t sprayed with synthetic pesticides, they’re forced to defend themselves, with the result that they tend to produce between 10 percent and 50 percent more of these valuable secondary compounds than conventionally grown plants.” pg 120
- Dirty Dozen - There is a helpful list online called the Dirty Dozen. It helps you evaluate which produce items are more important to buy organic based upon the level of chemicals. Green peppers, pears and peaches for example should be purchased organic, whereas bananas, avocados, squashes, and such can be purchased non-organically.
- If organic is not an option, ask about pesticides. There are many excellent farmers that cannot afford organic certification but practice eco-friendly gardening.
- Watch out for organic junk food. Organic pop tarts are not real food. It may not have HFCS, but it lacks any nutrition.
10. PASS ON THE VISION TO THE NEXT GENERATION
If we do not in turn pass on the vision of being good stewards to the next generation, than our efforts will be in vain.
- Start with the Word of God. Start with teaching the cultural mandate. Study God’s creation, emphasizing how He made us stewards of it. Teach them that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and thus it is important to eat well and exercise. As we teach more about His glorious creation, we can begin planting seeds of valuing the earth as we see His glory on display through it.
- Begin practicing it yourself and they will follow.
- Exercise and Cook healthy meals together – again, doing things together can teach these ideas! Practice what we preach and they will catch a vision!
- Creatively Reuse – be creative and get your children involved in thinking up creative ideas for reusing things in your household before throwing them out. Have an old sheet? What could we make with that? Cloth napkins maybe? Washclothes? You can search practically anything on the web and find alternative ways to reuse it.
- Pick up trash together – Carry a trash bag around with you wherever you go. If you taking a walk and see trash around the pathway, pick it up and dispose of it properly. As our children observe us doing it, they will follow.
- Buy less stuff for your children – the less you buy the more you allow the creative juices to flow! Your children will be more content and learn good stewardship of the little they have. When you choose to buy something, make it yourself or buy from a local or homemade source (Etsy.com for example). Encourage savings.
Many of these ideas may take more work…but is our goal convenience or good stewardship? Many of these options will provide a more healthy and safe environment for your family as well, thus you will be taking good care of your family!
“Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect…Let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses.” – John Calvin
Lastly, stay focused on the goal. The goal is to be a good steward. To consume less. To cut back on waste. To simplify in order that you might spend more time and energy on the important relationships in your life and in order that you might live more generously….for the sake of others and the next generation. And remember, baby steps!
May God bless you in your journey towards being a good steward of His creation!
I highly recommend the following materials for further learning, ideas and knowledge!
Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home by Renee Loux
Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan
Home Enlightenment: Create a Nurturing, Healthy, and Toxin-Free Home by Annie Bond
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck
Simplify by Paul Borthwick
Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation by Edward Brown