Lakeshore has made an increased commitment to recycling in the past several months, which has been met with several responses: I’m so proud of our church for being environmentally conscientious; I’m so confused about what to throw away and where; what’s the point of all this sorting when the collectors do their own thing anyway?
All of these are valid responses. Indeed, I’ve had each one of them myself. Recycling taps into a complex relationship we have with our stuff, our impact on the world and our responsibility as Christians to be good stewards of creation. As such, it also presents an opportunity to think about these complex relationships in light of what we truly believe about God, the world (God’s creation), and ourselves.
We live in a disposable society. As consumers, we are constantly encouraged to buy, buy, buy. But in order to do this, we have to keep throwing away what we already have. And products are made to be disposed of so that we can continue to purchase newer, better products. Perhaps before we wonder how trash became so complicated, we should ask how it became so abundant in our lifestyles.
As people of faith, how do respond to this? One simple way is to take some responsibility for the stuff we consume. Food waste can be composted, returning to the soil from which it came. Recycled paper, plastic and glass can be given another life in a new form. Both of these reduce the refuse that heads to a landfill or incinerator; messes that future generations have to clean up for us.
Recycling isn’t perfect, nor it is the only solution, but if it gets us to think a little more carefully about the stuff we so frequently use and dispose of, than it can help reconnect us to the physical world that sustains us. I encourage you, in addition to your own thoughts on recycling, to also think of it as a way to enact our faith – a grace-filled opportunity to take stock of how we utilize and care for the world around us.
P.S. If you want to learn more, check out the following.