I never intended to become an environmentalist. It doesn’t run in my blood; I wasn’t grandfathered in. I grew up in a small town where the only recycling center was a cluster of rusty green dumpsters off the highway about 30 minutes beyond the city limits. I was well into adulthood before canvas tote bags and green initiatives became fashionable. The greater sum of my understanding of environmentalism came from Saturday morning cartoons like Captain Planet.
Despite my limited background, I always hated waste. As a child, I ignored painful hand cramps and used pencils down to the metallic band which held the eraser in place. In high school, I wore the same clothes every year until they mysteriously disappeared during one of Mom’s “room raids.” When gas prices first started to spike, I walked to work, saving a few gallons each week.
Several years ago, I purchased a few reusable tote bags in an effort to control the exploding population plastic bags, hoarded in the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink. I used my totes everywhere, refusing to accept another plastic bag whether it came from the grocery store, the farmer’s market, the library, or even the local mall. This small change snowballed, leading to other habits such as using natural light during the day and turning off lamps when not in the room. I converted a three-sectioned laundry hamper into a recycling bin for paper, plastic, and metal. I purchased previously owned furniture and upgraded electronics only when necessary. When my husband and I moved into our house, a real fixer-upper, we installed energy efficient windows and appliances, slashing our electricity bill by 30 percent. After our second vehicle became irreparable, we bought a fuel-efficient hybrid.
Environmentalism is a way of life. It’s about using less, buying less, and making things last. We used to be a people that fixed things; we darned socks, mended clothing, and repaired our vacuums and television sets. But now, we toss them out, enjoying our shopper’s high as we bring home the latest, sleekest models—now with touch screens! Going green is about stepping away from that mindset, to a degree, and admitting, “I am content.”
Admittedly, using canvas totes and recycling may not save the rainforest, but it makes a difference. These actions cultivate attitudes of stewardship. It keeps us thinking about our impact on the environment; it reminds us to care about this beautiful planet we have been given. That way, when it’s time weigh in on major environmental issues, such as the regulation of carbon emissions and fracking, we’re bound to make the right decision as good stewards of the earth.
“Because God created the Natural—invented it out of His love and artistry—it demands our reverence.” -C.S. Lewis
Date of original publication: July 30, 2013