Going Green Collegiate Style

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a college convocation. When I told the Director of Spiritual Life that I would share my creation-care journey and then ask students to work in small groups on a Good Steward Covenant — committing to specific actions they would take in a day, a week, a month, and a year — I could see he was a bit skeptical. No speaker had ever done anything quite like this in a convocation, but he was game. At the end of my talk, the host was delighted to see spokespeople from each group lining up at the podium to share their creation-care commitments. It was exciting for him — and for all of us — to see the students so engaged, and so eager to share.

After convocation, I visited a freshman seminar. We arranged our chairs in a circle and the students asked questions. My one regret is that we only answered about half the students — their questions were remarkable, but we ran out of time. Before we parted, I asked the students if they would be willing to share their personal credos. Below, then, is what one young woman wrote:

As a young adult in today’s society, I believe it is crucial to pay extra attention to keeping our earth green. I believe by not having my car this year, I’ve lowered global CO2 emissions, even if only by a fraction of a fraction of a percent. I believe that by carpooling everywhere, my friends and I aren’t damaging the air as much as taking separate cars to the same place would do. I believe that by shortening my shower time by two minutes and turning off the sink water while brushing my teeth as Nancy Sleeth suggests, I’m saving water and using less of the world’s limited resources. I believe that by having recycling bins all over campus, we’re making it super easy and convenient for young adults to make a difference without having to take time out of the day to think about how they can recycle; the opportunity is right in front of them, wherever they go. I believe owning and washing dishes is far more sustainable than purchasing and repurchasing disposable plates, cups, silverware, etc. I believe that making gifts and homemade goodies for friends’ and family members’ birthdays saves money and plastic resources. I believe that walking to class and church not only saves money I would spend on gas but also saves the air from CO2 pollution and allows me to appreciate God’s green earth; every day I find new things to be thankful for that I wouldn’t even have seen had I been driving.

Photo: www.blessedearth.orgInteractions with students like this give me so much hope for God’s Kingdom here on earth. I especially love her closing line — the unexpected gift of walking instead of driving has opened this young woman’s eyes, allowing her to see new things each day to thank God for, things she would have missed zipping by at forty miles per hour.

Imagine the things we would see if we started living our lives as if they were a journey of transformation rather than a mad dash to the finish line. My prayer is that we all slow down and appreciate God’s creation through the timeless eyes of our Creator.

Praxis for Students (and parents of students):
• Buy used. Visit consignment shops for clothes, dorm gear, and funky gifts. Save money while saving God’s creation.
• Print on both sides of the paper. If your school library does not already have two-sided printing as the default, talk to your student council or the head librarian.
• Carpool, carpool, carpool. Offer to help pay for gasoline if someone will share a ride.
• Stay in shape while saving fossil fuels — walk or ride your bike when possible, exchange screen-time for green-time.
• Make sure your school turns off computers at night, has switched to LED bulbs in exit signs, and has placed electronic equipment on outlet strips to reduce phantom loads.
• Adjust the thermostat by just three degrees to save 10% in energy costs.

Nancy Sleeth is an author, speaker, and co-founder of the faith-based environmental non-profit organization Blessed Earth. For more creation-care resources and practical tips, visit www.blessedearth.org.

Article adapted from Go Green, Save Green: A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money, and God’s Green Earth (Tyndale 2009)

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