The Common Good
May 2005

Create in Me a Green Heart...

by Emily R. Hershberger | May 2005

Resources for a sustainable life.

Creation and Christ

Creation and Christ

Churches looking for Christian leadership in the area of environmental justice should check out the work of the Evangelical Environmental Network, a ministry whose aim is to help Christians and society at large "understand the fullness of Christ’s reconciliation" among God, people, and creation. The EEN produces Creation Care (www.creationcare. org), a quarterly magazine, offers online resources for hosting an annual Creation Sunday celebration, helps coordinate a creation-care small group network, and offers fact sheets on topics ranging from air pollution to the harmful effects of mercury. Of particular note is the ministry’s biblically grounded call to action, "An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation," signed by hundreds of clergy, theologians, professors, and organizations.

Stamp of Approval

Looking for information on the most earth-friendly household cleaners, appliances, or industrial products? Green Seal, an independent nonprofit, certifies and recommends environmentally sound products ranging from household cleaners and paper to windows and paint. If you’re looking for lodging while on an earth-conscious vacation, the site also lists facilities across the United States that have earned the GS-33 mark—Green Seal’s certification that a hotel, motel, or resort has adequate policies and practices for dealing with waste, energy, water, and hazardous substances. www. greenseal.org

Zero Waste

Feeling adept at recycling? Take on the zero waste challenge and consider ways to prevent the generation of waste altogether. According to the Zero Waste Alliance, a project of the International Sustainable Development Foundation, "the entire concept of waste"—including solid, hazardous, toxic emissions, material, energy, and human resources waste—"should be eliminated." The site www.zerowaste.org helps universities, businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies use materials in ways that "either return [them] safely to a cycle within the environment or remain viable in the industrial cycle." Check it for publications, links, and the facts, theory, and strategies of zero waste.

Or visit the Grassroots Recycling Network (www.grrn.org) for tips about introducing zero waste projects in your community. GRRN’s zero waste advocacy includes campaigns to end landfills and subsidies for wasting, as well as a recycling program for kids (complete with organizing tips for K-12 students and teachers). Downloading a Zero Waste Community Activity Kit makes it easy to organize a zero waste event or challenge your local government’s waste policies. College students in particular should heed GRRN’s Zero Waste Campus page, which offers links to notable green campus campaigns and projects.

Eating Well

Buying "industrial" food means ingesting additives, cancer-causing hormones, and antibiotics, squelching small farmers, limiting biodiversity, and being complicit with bad labor policy, according to Sustainable Table, a consumer campaign of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (www.sustainabletable.org). The organization advocates sustainable food production and consumption and offers dozens of practical resources to help you eat, shop, and cook sustainably. Use its helpful Eat Well Guide, www.eatwellguide. org, an online directory that locates stores and restaurants according to your zip code, to find out where you can purchase meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy items that have been raised in a sustainable way. Visit its Shopping Guides section to access lists of farmers’ markets, buy the greenest seafood, avoid the most pesticide-soaked vegetables on the market, or support local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects—country-wide share-buying relationships between consumers and small farmers that promote land stewardship and strengthen the local economy. The site’s countless features include recipes and cookbooks, tips and toolkits for making school cafeterias sustainable, as well as access to the popular flash-animation film "The Meatrix."

For additional information on sustainable agriculture and CSAs, visit www.sare.org, the site of Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. This organization researches and promotes sustainable farming—and has real-life success stories to show for it. Check out its "For Consumers" section for tips on how even city dwellers can support the cause.

Recycling 202

Refresh your reducing, reusing, and recycling skills with the help of Earth 911’s directory of sustainability-minded services near you. This nonprofit environmental organization, dedicated to offering community resources on sustainability, provides information on where to recycle paper, ink cartridges, and computers; where to take batteries, tires, or motor oil for ecologically friendly disposal; how to fertilize your lawn with grasscycling, start your own compost, or allow vermiculture worm buddies to eat up your organic waste. Visit www.earth911.org, type in your zip code, and relearn your three (green) R’s.

Earthy Churches

From placing ads urging the United States to support the Kyoto Protocol to publishing an anthology of denominational environmental statements, the National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program (www.nccecojustice.org) supplies a plethora of ideas and resources for churches that wish to actively promote eco-justice. Its work includes everything from national faith-based trainings on clean water advocacy to resources for congregational study. Its Capsules: Eco-Justice Views and News newsletter will keep you and your church updated and energized.

Java Justice

Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, reminds us that what we eat is only part of the question. Where our food—or, in this case, our coffee—comes from, and how it gets into our markets, is another part of sustainability. The organization’s answer is fair trade, "an equitable and fair partnership between consumers in North America and producers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean." Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Coffee Campaign (find it at www.globalexchange.org) provides links to 20 companies that market fair trade (and often organic) coffee and chocolate, fair trade news and media reports, and targeted campaigns—that you can support—urging Starbucks and other corporations to make the fair trade switch.

For another excellent synopsis of the fair trade "whys"—and for practical tips on working with the media, fundraising, building coalitions, or consuming coffee responsibly—download Oxfam’s 2004 report "Just Add Justice: Bringing Fair Trade to Your Community," available as a PDF at www.oxfamamerica.org.

Think Globally

"As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning," states the Earth Charter, a 2000 document that, according to www.earthcharter.org, expresses hope, advocates "global interdependence and shared responsibility," and outlines "fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century." Available in 32 languages, the document draws on religion, science, philosophy, and international law, has influenced the United Nations, and facilitates a youth initiative and programs in education and community-based sustainability. The document’s writers meant for it to start discussion. So download a copy and get talking!

Read All About It!

For cheeky and refreshingly grassroots environmental news and commentary, check out Grist Magazine, a Seattle-based online publication whose credo is to "Pull no punches, take no prisoners, eschew the wealth and fame that so often seduce online environmental journalists." Grist’s columns—which feature book reviews, keep tabs on breaking news, follow the sustainable energy movement, and host question-and-answer sessions with activists—inspire and entertain hot discussions within the environmentalist community. Access articles, published daily, at www.grist.org.

Emily R. Hershberger was editorial assistant at Sojourners when this article appeared.

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