When the weather warms up, many people want to spend more time outside. You may see attendance at services dwindle a bit as families take weekend hikes or go camping over the weekend. When they return, the stories they tell may not be about the experience they expected to have, and they may be looking for something to do about it.
There are many reasons to care for the environment. Being good stewards of creation goes beyond just doing the right thing. It impacts your community and the opportunities that are available for them and future generations. There are several things that your church can do to decrease its carbon footprint and practice green living.
The first thing you should do is take stock of what you have. Clean out storage areas and list all the things that are already available to use. You may be surprised to find just how much you have. Start by organizing the items into things to keep and things to repurpose or donate. If you have to throw some things out, make sure you do so in an ecologically responsible way.
Next, make a list of what you are keeping. Divide these things into broad categories, such as seasonal decorations or communion supplies, and make note of where they are stored. A master copy of this list should be accessible to anyone who uses the supplies. It also doesn't hurt to post a list inside each storage space that details what belongs there.
You may find a lot of disposable items in your storage survey:
- Paper plates
- Plastic utensils
- Foam coffee cups
- Plastic shopping and trash bags
Of course, you're not going to throw these items out. You can, however, brainstorm ways to minimize your need for replenishing them when they're gone. Find reusable items that can replace them. For example, making time in the schedule after a potluck for washing dishes is ultimately preferable to continuing to buy and discard disposable items.
Promote Secondhand Usage
Many of the things you find in your inventory can be used again, even if you don't see a specific need for them right away. Start by talking to each of your ministry teams to find ways to use the things you already have. An item that doesn't seem worthwhile to one group may be just what another team is looking for.
When you do need to make a purchase, consider looking for new ways to shop. Secondhand stores offer more than just a good bargain. They can also help keep the things you buy out of landfills. It may not be as convenient, but it's a good way to practice the creation care that you preach. Another option is asking members to donate extra items they have at home. This is especially effective because it not only helps the church be more environmentally conscious but plants the seed of responsibility in the congregants too.
Sponsor a Cleanup Day
Another way to get members involved is to host a cleanup day. Invite them to bring containers they can use to collect trash around your neighborhood. Even children can pull a wagon and help out. As their containers become full, they can empty them directly into the dumpster so that you don't have to use extra trash bags. This event is likely to be illuminating as members discover how much waste goes on around them.
Your church cannot save the planet on its own, but you can guide your members into being more mindful of how their actions impact nature. What starts as replacing disposable coffee cups with reusable ones can blossom into activism that makes a real difference.