rain forests destroyed, the Grand Canyon engulfed in smog, dolphins found dead with dis carded plastic roped around their necks—these are the environmental tragedies we witness on television. Newspaper headlines trumpet similar tidings, yet many Christians ignore environmental issues. "And why not?" they reason. "Isn't Christ coming soon to destroy the earth Himself?"
The Bible warns: "You do not know which day your Lord is coming" (Matt. 24:42).* Until then we must remain faithful stewards of the resources en trusted us. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much" (Luke 16:10).
Here are seven simple things you as a pastor can do, along with your church, to be better stewards of the planet God has given us. The first four deal with ecological awareness; the last several with energy conservation.
1. Gather up the fragments: print your church bulletins on recycled paper.
Paper accounts for 40-50 percent of what we throw away, both in weight and in volume. By printing on recycled pa per your church is recycling—reducing waste before it happens. You're also increasing the demand for recycled pa per. So print all bulletins, brochures, study guides, and flyers on recycled stock.
You may have to ask your printer to place a special order for recycled paper. In some cases you will have to order it yourself. Because recycled paper is slightly more expensive than regular paper, consider making a group purchase with other local churches.
If recycling is still too costly, then recycle the paper your church currently uses. People in the United States use 50 million tons of paper each year, costing about 850 million trees. No one knows how much of that is church-related pa per, but you see how much is left on the pews after a service. Why not send it to a recycling center? Almost all paper can be recycled if it doesn't have a slick coating like glossy magazines and brochures.
To get detailed information on recycling paper, write the San Francisco Recycling Program, 271 City Hall, San Francisco, California 94102. For US$5 you will receive an office paper recycling guide. Make your check out to "City and County of San Francisco."
You can order recycled paper direct from Conservatree, 10 Lombard Street, San Francisco, California 94111; telephone (415) 433-1000. The company carries recycled white and colored pa per, copier paper, envelopes, and computer paper.
2. That nothing be lost . . . start a recycling program.
Only about 10 percent of all newspapers are recycled. Since less energy is required to make newspaper from "old" paper than from wood pulp, recycling makes ecological sense. It also raises money for equipment, special projects, or missions.
The most common recyclables are aluminum, glass, and paper. Aluminum dealers accept such things as soft drink cans, aluminum foil, and disposable pie tins. Glass should be sorted by color, and newspaper must be separated from slick-coated paper.
To learn how to start a recycling program, write for "Coming Full Circle," a publication of the Environmental Defense Fund, 1616 P Street NW., Washington, D.C. 20006 (US$10.00). For a free pamphlet on recycling glass, con tact The Glass Packaging Institute, 1801 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.
3. Let your ministry branch out: plant trees.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and re lease oxygen into the atmosphere. Planting trees around your church combats pollution as well as the threat of global warming. Clusters of trees around your church also act as insulation. In summer they cool the air by as much as 10 percent. In winter when branches are bare, they let the warm sun shine through. Your church benefits from lower cooling and heating bills.
If you want to know more about planting trees around your church, call a local nursery. You could also contact the American Forestry Association, Global Relief Program, P.O. Box 2000, Washington, D.C. 20013; telephone (202) 667- 330.
4. Whether therefore ye eat or drink . . . don't use Styrofoam at potlucks.
Polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is non-biodegradable. In other words, the Styrofoam cup from which you drink your potluck punch could be on this earth until the Lord comes. As if that's not enough, the gases used to manufacture Styrofoam deplete the earth's protective ozone layer.
Consider using paper cups and plates. If your church is really progressive, ask members to bring reusable plastic dinnerware to potlucks and save paper products for visitors.
5. Whenever two or three gather together . . . let them carpool to church.
In recent years even rural areas have suffered an alarming increase in air pollution from automobiles. The carbon dioxide emitted may also accelerate global warming.
Carpooling in our churches can make a difference, even though it's impractical and in some cases impossible for every one to stop driving and start walking to services. Scientists estimate that if every car carried just one more passenger we would save 600,000 gallons of gas a day and prevent 12 million pounds of carbon dioxide from polluting our air. Small families can double up, singles can offer rides to elderly neighbors, and large families can arrive together in one car instead of three.
6. Whither thou goest; drive a fuel efficient car.
Cars and trucks emit 20 percent of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels in the United States. Carbon dioxide pollution is directly related to the amount of fuel our vehicles consume. A car gives off 20 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gasoline consumed, whether it travels 15 miles or 50 miles on that gallon.
Fortunately, fuel-efficient cars are still affordable. You probably already drive one. Keeping it well-tuned assures good mileage.
Plan trips wisely. Think about stops you can make on the way to your destination in order to save extra trips. When ever possible, walk or bike to nearby places. If necessary, pretend you're in the mission field.
7. Let the lower lights be burning: conserve energy around the church.
Heating, cooling, and lighting your church use up valuable natural resources. Although you need not conduct church services by candlelight, a few basic steps can reduce utility bills and conserve energy. For winter, make sure your church is well insulated. Eliminate drafts. Keep your furnace working efficiently. While gas furnaces should be serviced every two years, oil furnaces need an annual tune-up. With a forced-air system, change air filters regularly. In summer, don't turn on the air conditioning unless absolutely necessary.
Lighting your church with compact fluorescent bulbs also saves energy. They cost more than incandescent bulbs, but they last 13 times longer and consume much less energy.
Energy stewardship is much a matter of common sense. Lights in Sabbath school classrooms need not remain on during the sermon. Smaller services can be held in smaller rooms.
Besides saving your church money through lower utility bills, concern for the environment fosters community goodwill and may even garner your church positive media attention. All of this can help you be faithful in the bigger things, such as evangelism and church growth.
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