I woke up today to the sound of a garbage truck making its way down our street. After scrambling to get our garbage out, I glanced at the headlines of the day and realized it’s Earth Day.

My sense is that some Christians are uneasy about this now nearly 50-year-old annual tradition of setting aside a day to bring greater awareness to environmental issues. Some may dismiss it as nothing more than a manufactured holiday on the order of National Milk Day. Others may see it as part of a movement to deify the planet and worship “mother earth.”

I see it as a helpful reminder that:

  1. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” – Psalm 24:1-2
  2. God has tasked us with the responsibility to care for his creation.

In other words, taking care of the environment is an essential part of good stewardship. And yet, there are countless signs that we aren’t doing such a good job with that.

Millions of tons of plastic have been dumped in the oceans, countless recyclable electronics are ending up in landfills, and in some cities, the air is sometimes unfit to breathe (Chicago had 28 “unhealthy ozone pollution days” last year — up from 18 in 2017). The fast fashion craze — the frequent purchase of inexpensive clothing — has created environmental problems and so much more.

What’s a good steward to do?

Living in more environmentally-sensitive ways requires new habits, and new habits can take time to build. For example, in our household, we own numerous reusable shopping bags, and yet I am not at all in the habit of bringing some into the store with me when I shop for groceries.

Despite endless articles warning of the environmental harm caused by plastic water bottles, we haven’t completely eliminated buying bottled water.

In a recent podcast, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, stressed the benefits of starting small. If you want to get in shape, for example, don’t try to run five miles on the first day. Just putting on your running shoes and getting outside would be a solid starting point.

I don’t know that I’m going to start carrying a glass straw with me whenever I go to a restaurant to avoid using disposable plastic straws. However, I do plan to put several reusable shopping bags in my car so they’re at least within reach next time I go to the store.

On my someday/one day environmental improvement list is beginning to compost whatever we would normally throw away that could be composted.

Christian minimalism

In recent years, I have found myself increasingly drawn to the topic of minimalism. I like the idea of owning, organizing, and worrying about less stuff. One of the tenets of minimalism is buying fewer but higher quality things. My more than 20-year-old pair of Timberland boots comes to mind. Buying higher quality items may cost more than a cheaper alternative initially, but over time, they’ll be more cost effective. Plus, buying things that last a long time means fewer trips to the store and less stuff in landfills.

If you’re intrigued by minimalism, I recommend reading Richard Foster over the newer celebrity minimalists.

So, those are a few thoughts about Earth Day 2019. I don’t plan to plant a tree today. But I am taking the day as one more reminder to think about how my family could do a better job of caring for God’s creation.

How about you? In what ways are you intentional about your impact on the environment?