Tuesday, April 22, 2014

eco-lent reflections

Yesterday marked the end of Lent, with the celebration of Jesus returning to life. The Eastern Orthodox church calendar now moves into 50 days of Eastertide, so maybe I'll become Orthodox for a bit, because after the 40 days of fasting during Lent, Orthodox Christians spend 50 days feasting! What's up with us Quakers who don't do the fasting or the feasting?! (I say this only partially with tongue in cheek.)

With the close of Lent comes the end of my personal Eco-Lent Challenge. It's been fun and I've learned quite a bit, and even changed some habits. I'll give a few reflections.

Affordability of Going Green
Throughout this whole experiment, I don't think I've actually spent any money on the challenges I chose to tackle. This surprised me, because a lot of times I hear people bemoaning the expense of becoming more eco-friendly. This is assuredly the case in some areas, such as organic products, but there are quite a few things that can be done without major expense. Some of the challenges took some extra time, and of course there were ways I could have spent money, but the small changes I made didn't cost me anything in the monetary sense.

I got rid of plastic containers, but I had glass jars on hand. If I hadn't, I could have saved up jars from pasta sauce or peanut butter as I used their contents, and come up with free storage jars. I did save a few such items over the course of the last couple months, and I also use a lot of glass canning jars.

Changing to less caustic chemicals is actually quite a bit cheaper than buying harmful cleaning products. I bought more vinegar and baking soda than usual, but those are incredibly cheap items.

Driving less costs less than buying gas (or even using electricity to charge a car), although you have to already be set up for biking, or live within walking distance of everything you need. This requires some lifestyle changes, but is cheaper. It also allows you to spend time outdoors more often! I did have to buy a tire repair kit recently. I haven't used it yet, but I'm going to see if I can repair my flat inner tube rather than replacing it. This is an area into which I have yet to venture, so we'll see whether I can get my bike back into one piece. Bikes, unfortunately, aren't completely without expense. This repair kit was only about $8, I believe, so it wasn't prohibitively expensive, especially when compared to gas.

Using less electricity obviously is a money saver. It's kind of annoying to unplug stuff and have to plug it back in each time, but it presumably lowers your electric bill at least a little bit. If you have the means and you want to get rid of some of the annoyance, you could purchase little switches for each outlet so you can flip the switch rather than having to unplug it each time, but I haven't gone that far yet.

Using food scraps for compost or chicken food also saves money, and, obviously, buying less new stuff costs less.

No matter how many gold stars I can pin on myself for doing my good deeds of taking care of the plan in these tiny ways, there are always people I'm friends with who have been doing this for a long time, or who have taken it a bunch of steps further. There are people who know more than me and who are doing a better job at all this. There are people who can't afford to NOT live in a simple way that is less harmful to the environment. It's humbling to realize that my small choices are so incredibly small, and to recognize that the fact that I think of these as "choices" belies my huge sense of entitlement.

Community is so important! I was really encouraged with people's comments, here on the blog or on Facebook, on your own blog or when I saw you in person, and you shared with me your thoughts and struggles, your ideas and successes. It was so nice to know I wasn't in it all by myself, but that there are others thinking about these things and making small, eco-friendly choices, too. It held me accountable to know you were all out there, interested in what I was doing, and wondering what more you could do.

It also takes a lot of community positive peer pressure in order for me us to change our lifestyles. When it becomes normative in a community to walk or bike, or to be vegetarian until the factory farm issue is resolved, or to buy organic and non-GMO food, we're able to support one another in these choices and hold one another accountable, to encourage one another to live by the values we espouse.

I feel like this issue of caring for the Earth is one of the major justice issues of our time, one regarding which we as Friends (or others) have the opportunity to hold the front line. With a little education and a lot of tenacity, we can make the small choices that become a movement. We can make these changes more affordable so they're not only for the wealthy. We can let the Spirit strip away our sense of entitlement, and truly seek after our Friends testimony of simplicity. We can speak truth to power: the truth of abundance and overflowing goodness, rather than the fear of scarcity, evil and not-enough. We can live in the Kingdom of God here and now, the new heaven and the new Earth manifesting in our choices of life for all. We can release our destructive hunger for more and live in the life and power that finds no need for wars, no need for fighting over resources, because we have enough and more than enough.

I learned the word "dayenu" when practicing the Passover with some Jewish friends a few years ago, and it means "enough." It's a yearly reminder at Passover (also last week) that God does immeasurably more than we expected. (OK, so that's from the New Testament, but it's the same idea.) It would have been enough that God released us from bondage in Egypt...it would have been enough that God provided manna and water for us in the wilderness...but the list keeps going on and on of the ways God has provided for us. Can we trust God and find satiation in simplicity? Can we experience dayenu in the overwhelming abundance the Earth produces for us? Can we remember how blessed we are in the midst of always-enough?

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