Written By Hannah Shoue, USA
In the past year, I’ve come to a new resolution that has been shaping the end of my 2019 and that I hope will shape my 2020: I want to reduce the amount of waste I produce.
Sustainability can feel like a heavy topic because of the climate change debate, but beyond the debate, I think we can all agree that the proliferation of waste is going to become problematic. I want to move beyond the large-scale debate about climate change and focus on why Christians should care about sustainability.
In investigating places where “creation” is mentioned in the Bible, one significant verse I came across is Romans 1:20, where Paul explains that creation reflects God’s character: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
In Genesis 1:26, our place as image-bearers of God is followed directly by God’s command for us to govern the creation: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” And in Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
I’ve realized that practicing sustainability can be a form of selfless worship in caring for God’s creation. The earth is part of a creation that reflects God’s glory, and part of our created purpose is caring for the earth and looking forward to the day when Christ returns to redeem it once and for all, just as we ourselves look forward to God’s ultimate redemption.
The way that I’ve been focusing on taking better care of God’s creation is by trying to reduce my waste, so I’d like to share five sustainable switches that I’ve found to be helpful:
1. Brush up your teeth routine
Switching to bamboo toothbrushes is an easy step to reducing waste. The number of plastic toothbrushes a person uses in a year piles up quickly, but bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable, and bamboo is sustainable because it grows quickly and can be harvested easily. Bamboo toothbrushes are cost effective, come in fun styles (mine have rainbow bristles), and can be shipped in sustainable packaging.
When I’m finished with my bamboo toothbrush, all I have to do is remove the bristles with pliers and then compost the handle to save my brush from the landfill!
2. Stay hydrated and caffeinated while on the go
Plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups can be easily avoided with reusable options that come in a variety of prices and styles. To be truly sustainable, I recommend buying stainless steel water bottles and thermoses with cork lids, which can be purchased from companies with sustainable products and will help you avoid the consumption of more plastic.
Bring your reusable drink container to the gas station or your favorite coffee place and enjoy your beverage while knowing you are reducing waste!
3. Toss disposables from your face washing routine
Making the switch to reusable cotton rounds for makeup removal felt expensive initially, but has paid for itself over time. Now I can avoid throwing away disposable cotton rounds or face wipes after just one use. I bought ten reusable cotton rounds, plus a laundry bag for washing them. The pads that I bought are super soft on one side and little coarser on the other, which is perfect for makeup removal.
Reusable cotton rounds are easy to find from many different companies. And, if you’re crafty or know a friend who is, they’re not hard to make yourself!
4. Maximize your carrying capacity with reusable grocery bags
Reusable grocery bags are a no-brainer. For starters, they are super cheap at most grocery stores, or you can sometimes acquire them for free since companies often use tote bags as promotional materials. The next advantage is that most of them are bigger than plastic grocery bags, so they actually fit more groceries, which means that the eternal struggle of how-many-grocery-bags-can-I-carry-at-a-time is simplified.
Gather together a band of your most trusted cloth bags and keep them in your car or by the door so you never forget to bring them to the store!
5. Cover your digital life in a compostable case
As I’ve been thinking about the waste I create, I decided to investigate sustainable phone case options and purchased a 100% biodegradable case made from plant-based materials. I don’t change my case often, so while the compostable case was more expensive, the switch was worth it!
Of course, a biodegradable phone case like mine is only sustainable if composted. Luckily, the company I bought mine from will actually compost it for you if you mail it back to them.
The above examples are small switches you can make to reduce waste. In general, when I run out of a particular product, I like to think about what alternative product I could buy that would be more sustainable. Because buying sustainable products can sometimes be expensive up front, I can’t always commit to making the switch, but little by little, I am trying to change my lifestyle.
Reducing waste is one way I’m following God’s call to care for the world He’s given us to live in. Though I know structural changes to our society are needed to truly make an impact in the proliferation of waste, as I try to live more sustainably, I am spreading awareness to others through my actions and also learning to spend less time thinking about myself and more time thinking about how my actions impact the world around me.