God’s design for our lives includes stewardship of everything we have received. Most followers of Jesus give of their finances and volunteer their time, but stewardship also means responsible living with our cars, homes, energy consumption, water use, and so on. In these areas God provides an opportunity for wisdom and discernment on our part. At the very beginning of scripture, in Genesis 1, God outlines a partnership that is wider and greener than many of us realize. It is inconsistent if we slap our 10 percent into the collection plate and then head home in a gas-guzzling car and flip on all the lights.
Environmental stewardship is hard. I do not want to skip the luxury of a long hot shower, especially in February, and hauling my old computer and cell phones off to the proper electronics recycling center is a complete inconvenience, especially when it adds one more thing to my Mommy Do List for the day. I would rather secretly bury them in my curbside trash and get on with my life. And spending a few bucks more for the biodegradable laundry soap irritates me (but not my skin or the local wildlife). We may have to make adjustments to our spending habits and use of time, but the payoffs are eternal.
My family lives in a modest suburban community. I serve part-time in ministry and full-time at home. Church work is not known for fat paychecks, so we basically live on one income. Jetting off to the Bahamas or owning a condo in a ski town is not a reality we experience. And in a shaky economy, with a husband who works in what is left of the American manufacturing industry, like most people we are not exactly in a place to haphazardly toss money around. Yet in all the stretching we do to make life work, I have found that greener living opens up some space in our budget. Try a greener journey and you will likely discover the same thing.
I will confess that I wince when paying for organic produce and almost vomit at the cost of properly harvested salmon. I’ve dreamt of a celebrity lifestyle that boasts a personal chef who dotes on my every earth-friendly culinary wish. Most of the time I am convinced that we cannot eke out another penny to support green causes or buy organic produce, but when I rethink how we spend our money, I find that there are always ways to support the things that matter to God and to my family.
When I began fully pursuing a greener life, grocery shopping took twice as long. I became fanatical about reading labels. For example, some green cleaning products come in smaller bottles but are highly concentrated, so I had to whip out my dusty math skills to figure out number of uses and cost per use. I was desperate to know whether organic foods really were better, so I would sneak out for the occasional thrill of an evening alone in the grocery store reading labels. Anything for some space, I suppose.
And while, overall, an environmentally sound life, taken comprehensively, is actually cheaper to live, I will not lie to you and say that I figured out a way to make earth-friendly grocery bills lower—unless you are able to grow, preserve, and can all your own food on a quarter-acre slice of the suburbs. In many cases, the price tag for organic/fair trade food and green products is simply higher, but the payoff ecologically and socially is also higher, much higher. In the end this seems like a great bargain to me, the sort of bargain that matters to God. The sort I am willing to sacrifice for.
Beyond their recyclable packaging, many eco-friendly products are born from companies with integrity. They pay their employees fair wages; justice matters to God. Their corporate policies are aimed at enhancing the planet rather than finding the deepest hole in which to hide waste; honesty matters to God. And these companies care about leaving our children a healthy planet rather than coaching them to consume; families matter to God.
The benefits of thoughtful, earth-friendly consumption for our children are vast. Let’s just say that the year we greened our cleaning, my oldest son’s seasonal allergies almost disappeared. My middle son’s eczema outbreaks slowed to a manageable pace. And I slept better knowing their bedsheets and pajamas were no longer washed with toxins.
Green cleaning products may have initially cost us more, but they paid back dividends the same or greater than their price tag. Our medicine cabinet is nearly void of allergy medicine and hydrocortisone, so we’ve made up the difference. My mindset shifted to one of stewardship. I’ve rearranged my budget and know that each purchase makes an impact far greater than the dent in my debit column.
Adapted from Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet, by Tracey Bianchi. Copyright 2010, Zondervan.