At Least 10% for God's Creation:
Living the "Environmental Tithe"
A 40 Calendar for Lent or ANYTIME
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Use this 40-day guide for your personal inspiration and growth. Share it with others! Make as many copies as you like without paying any royalty under the Creative Commons attribution, not-for-profit license.
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Changing wasteful, extravagant habits into Creation-Conserving, Earth friendly ones.
For people at any age, at various levels of commitment and ability. Some changes may come easily; some will be more challenging. Caring for God's Creation is an invitation for all of us, no matter what level we are at.
- Use the calendar during any 40 day period or during the 40 days of Lent - from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Some of the key days of Lent are included for those who choose to use it then. (Sundays are additions to the 40 days, so they aren't numbered. Sundays are time for reflection. )
- Use the calendar for six months. Each week on the calendar becomes a month of life. Sunday starts a new month.
- Use the calendar for a year. Each day on the calendar becomes a week of life. Stretching out the calendar for six months or a year allows more time to think about and implement each action.
The word "tithe" means "a tenth" or 10%. The Bible speaks of "tithes and offerings." So, 10% is a minimum; hence the title, "At Least Ten Percent for God's Creation." To give an additional offering would mean life changes that would save even more resources, that would get even closer to our fair share, that would cut even more of our over consumption.
In our world, 20% of the population - the Overconsumers - uses 80% of the resources and the other 80% - the Sustainers - uses only 20%. Our planet cannot sustain life if everyone lived like the Overconsumers. The motto of voluntary simplicity begins to make sense: Live simply that others may simply live. This calendar challenges the Overconsumers - virtually every person in North America, Western Europe and Japan - to offer up an Environmental Tithe, to reduce consumption of all resources by 10%, the part that belongs to God. God put us on Earth to be stewards of Creation, not abusers, not dominators.
This is a practical calendar. Living as a disciple of Jesus is highly practical. It is not merely an idea, a philosophy, a belief. It is a disciplined life - disciplined, not punished or deprived or joyless. We are given great freedom to care about all of God's Creation, rather than nurturing the perversions and idols that our society has created and worships - our "stuff." Stuff exists to meet our needs. But if we spend our time, energy and money nurturing it instead of our relationships with God, others and ourselves, it will own us, control us and ultimately destroy us and the Earth.
The 40 days are divided into six key resources of our lives - water, energy, etc. Go through the calendar day-by-day. Or use a random approach by choosing a different number each day. Cross off a day after considering its options and acting on them.
Maybe we can't make the economic system more equitable in our own life time. Maybe we can't stop the power of the advertising industry that pressures us to over consume. But we can take control of our own buying and consuming patterns! We can beat this addiction of overconsumption little by little, day by day.
The Five Life Principles of Voluntary Simplicity are: 1. Do Justice, 2. Nurture People, 3. Cherish the Natural Order, 4. Learn from the World Community, 5. Non-conform Freely. These Christian principles infuse this calendar. To learn more, read Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre.
Consider and try each day's options. Then bring along options from each previous day, so that after 40 days, our tithe - our 10% reduction in consumption - will involve a broad spectrum of our lives.
1 - On this day we are reminded of our mortality, our eventual death. What do we really want to accomplish in our lifetime? Daydream about people living in harmony in a clean environment. Make the fantasy as positive and fun as possible. Focus on the people and the Earth interacting, not on "stuff," things, possessions or money. Ash Wednesday
2 - During a family or community meeting ask, Are we committed to work through this calendar together? What is our "comfort level" in reducing consumption? (10%?) How far are we willing to stretch? How do our faith and church help us or hinder us to make a Commitment to God's Creation?
3 - Conduct a Personal Environmental Audit. How much waste do I produce? How much of how many resources do I waste? How do I over consume? Make a list. Add to it as you go. [For help, try EarthScore. See Resources.]
4 - So many positive changes can be made. Don't try to do them all at once. Start now, even if you're unsure of the result/impact. Getting started is what's important. As we succeed, we're more open to try something new. Consider taking this pledge or write your own. "For the sake of myself, of others and of God's Creation, I pledge to learn about my overconsumption and to do what I can to curb it."
First Week - Water
Read the Story of the Creation in Genesis chapters 1 & 2. Reflect on "And Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." [to serve it and keep it: KJV] -Genesis 2:15
5 - Our water is both precious and finite. While water covers 3/4 of the Earth's surface, 97.4% is salt water; 1.8% is frozen; only 0.8% is fresh water. Let's challenge wasting or poisoning of our water supply. Over 1.5 billion people lack safe drinking water. Might this be an invitation to me to conserve?
6 - Turn the water off when not needed while washing hands, shaving, brushing teeth. Washing hands with tap running constantly takes two gallons; only one with the tap off and on. Shaving, tap on, 20 gallons; tap off, only one; brushing teeth, tap on, 10; tap off, only 1/2!
7 - Normal toilet flushing uses 5-7 gallons. Fill a small milk jug and put it in the tank. Better yet, install an efficient toilet that uses less than 2 gallons.
8 - A small leak from a faucet can waste 50 gallons of water per day. Fix leaky faucets. When using public facilities, report to the proper authorities leaky faucets (shower, toilet, drinking fountains, garden spigot). Ask why automatic sprinklers are running in the rain. Why do we water the street? When appropriate, recommend a drip system instead of sprinklers for lawn and garden.
9 -The average washing machine uses 40 gallons per load. Can you wash fewer loads each week? Review your rationale for washing. Is it based on global solidarity, health considerations or advertising? "Sparkling clean" sells more soap but might do nothing for our health.
10 - Take only the number of showers you really need. Try one less this week. Need a shower to wake up? Wash your face instead. Install low flow shower heads. A regular shower uses 25 gallons; tub bath, 36. But a wet-down, soap-up, rinse-off shower uses only about four gallons! Turn off the water while soaping.
Second Week - Energy
Read the Story of Noah in Genesis 6-9:17. Reflect on 6:19-22 and 9:8-17. God does not want the Earth harmed.
11 - Heat only the part of the building - church, home, office - you are using, not the whole thing, with high efficiency ceramic space heaters.
12 - Set thermostats no higher than 68F in the winter and no lower than 78F in the summer. Dress appropriately. Style is no excuse to waste energy! Layers of clothing can be put on or taken off to keep comfy. This way we use the body's natural heating and cooling system.
13 - Did you ever consider using spot lighting rather than general lighting or converting incandescent bulbs to fluorescent or other high efficiency bulbs. Turn off incandescent light whenever not in use; turn off fluorescent lights if you do not expect to return within an hour.
14 - Wash the dishes by hand today; get somebody to help; tell jokes. Hang the clothes out to dry this week. Inquire about an energy audit from your local utility.
15 - Plan recreation that gives physical exercise and/or builds relationships but uses little fuel or other nonrenewable resources. Take only short trips or carpool, walk, bike or use public transit.
16 - Turn your water heater thermostat down to no higher than 120F. After heating and air conditioning, the water heater is usually the biggest user of energy in a house. Wrapping it in a thermal blanket will increase it's insulation and your savings.
Third Week - Consumables
Think of the implications for the Creation of John 3:16-21 - "For God so loved the world. . . ." The people, the animals, plants, the Creation.
17 - Share at least one newspaper or magazine subscription with a friend or neighbor or read it at the office or the library. Renew subscriptions based on need, not out of habit. It takes 17 trees to make one ton of paper from non-recycled sources. It takes about 280 gallons of water to produce a large Sunday paper (after the trees are grown).
18 - Use cloth napkins. Throw a paper napkin away only after its completely used.
19 - Buy only the paper products you really need. "Close the loop," by purchasing products made of recycled fibers, even if they cost somewhat more. Caring for Creation does not always mean "living on the cheap." Can we afford to do this for the Earth?
20 - Recycle paper, metal, glass, etc. Set up properly marked bins at home, church, work, school. Volunteer to help get the materials to the recycling center. As important as recycling is, it is not an excuse for waste. It's more important to REDUCE consumption and waste.
21 - Reduce the need for recycling by "pre-cycling." Do not buy products that use excess packaging. Let manufacturers know you care. Chide the wasteful ones. Praise the helpful ones. Go shopping with a cloth bag. If you forget, request a paper bag and later use it to line your trash can. Decline plastic bags. Reuse paper bags.
22 - Take your own mugs, plates and silver if you go to a fast food restaurant. Use them instead of disposable cups and plates. Keep these items handy in your car or on your bike. Make a list of other disposables to avoid.
Fourth Week - Food
Reflect on Luke 12:22-32 or Matthew 6:25-33. Don't worry about what you'll eat or what you'll wear. That sounds like encouragement to live more simply.
23 - Reduce processed food by at least 10% at each meal. Cooking "from scratch" takes more planning and time but it is more nutritious and fun when done together. Try to make menu planning, shopping and food preparation a social event, instead of a chore.
24 - Serve and take only what you and your household can eat. Go back for seconds if you're still hungry. Try to throw nothing away. Develop clever ways of using left overs. Be proud to eat chicken backs!
25 - Shop at Farmer's Markets. Eat mostly fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area. Today average consumers generally are far removed from the source of their food and the people who grow it. Our food travels an average of 1300 miles to reach our tables. Investigate sustainable agriculture, subscription farming, composting and rooftop gardens, especially for office buildings. If feasible, start a composter.
26 - Cook with the World Community. Investigate recipes from other countries, especially Developing Countries. [See Resources.] Organic foods are healthier for us, less dangerous to farm workers and less harmful to the soil. Their health benefits are worth the extra financial cost. Today we are in danger from the pesticides that have been banned in this country but exported to poor countries.
27 - Learn about the power of "Cheap Food." Resist using foods that deprive other countries of food and have little or no nutritional value, such as coffee. Other beverages can be just as socially inviting. Consider fasting one regular meal or one day per week. Use the pain to deepen awareness of poverty. Offer the savings to the poor. Help supply soup kitchens by gleaning unsold produce from grocery stores.
28 - Reduce your consumption of red meat by 10%. It takes 2500 gallons of water and many pounds of grain to make one pound of beef for our table.
Fifth Week - Chemicals/Toxins/Waste
Reflect on the implications of the Prophet. "Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?" - Ezekiel 34:18
29 - Reduce chemicals on your lawn and garden, consider a low-maintenance lawn (like Buffalo grass) that requires less water and mowing. Reduce lawn mowing by at least 10%. An average gas mower cutting an average American lawn pollutes as much as a 300 mile car trip.
30 - Help reduce pollution. Educate yourself on the detrimental effects of golf courses. In Hawaii the runoff from the rapid growth of golf courses for tourism is killing fish and making many residents sick.
Avoid toys and products that use batteries. When batteries are unavoidable, use only rechargeable batteries.
31 - Reduce the use of make-up by at least 10%. Let your natural beauty shine! Be aware of the pressure on women to conform to "Madison Avenue's" standard of appearance. Read labels. Only use make-up not tested on animals.
32 - Reduce the use of chemicals for cleaning. Then use only biodegradable, "green" products. Are our standards based on health or appearance? Can our Earth afford the "whitest white?"
33 - Be aware of the false needs and expectations that advertising generates. An average American receives 16,000 commercial impressions per day. Cut your dose by 10%. Refuse to read the visual pollution of billboards. ZAP ads on TV. Don't wear commercial logos which attempt to convey status and promote overconsumption. Only wear messages that convey values that you truly believe in.
34 - It takes 1000 gallons of water to produce one pound of aluminum. If your state does not have a deposit on beverage containers, petition your state representatives to require it. If your community does not have curb-side pick up of recyclables, petition City Council to start it, even if it means an additional fee or tax.
Sixth Week - Alternative Giving
". . . And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. . . ." - Micah 6:8
35 - Translate your environmental tithe into cash. How much money have you saved so far by conserving resources? Give that amount to an environmental organization, preferably a grass roots Christian one. [See Resources.]
36 - Find out who your local, state and national government representatives are. Your local League of Women Voters or public library will have a list. Write at least one letter expressing your support for laws (and lawmakers!) that protect the environment, not degrade it.
37 - Educate yourself a bit about the subtle but powerful forces working against Earth. Petition state and national governments to require "full pricing" of goods, which includes the environmental impact of the making and disposing of goods. Or to make the manufacturer responsible for an item after it's been used. Or to make advertising a non-deductible business expense.
38 - Jesus washed others' feet and instituted the Great Meal as symbols of community. As a national community, our extravagant lives impact negatively on people around the globe. Besides prayer and almsgiving, what other ways can we work for Eco-Justice? Consider "giving of ourselves," volunteering time for groups that help the truly needy, tree planting, public education/information, protest letters and boycotts of polluters, lobbying governments, restoring housing, developing rooftop and community gardens. "Giving of ourselves" includes our special skills, like writing, carpentry, sewing, making music. What activity has little or no value in our lives? TV? Movies? Could we reduce some of these to allow more time for volunteering? Maundy Thursday
39 - Jesus experienced a slow and painful death for our sakes. The possibilities for new relationship with God and others that he invites us to can be lived out NOW with Creation. Pledge to make an effort to bring about change that reduces the negative environmental impact of our companies, churches or schools. Good Friday
40 - Jesus went through hell for our sakes. Are we willing to follow his example, to change our lives, to take personal responsibility, to break the cycle of addiction to the over consumption that degrades God's Creation and enslaves us and others less wealthy than we? Pledge to raise your children in an environmentally sensitive way and to set a good example for them. Holy Saturday
Have these 40 days helped us to feel more free from the burdens of "stuff" that creates a barrier between us and others, us and God, us and ourselves? How many of the ideas were we able seriously to try? How many can we continue? How can we share our experience with others in a friendly, non-judgmental way? How can we be living testimonials to a simpler, more God-pleasing life? Easter Sunday - Jesus' Resurrection.
©Creative Commons (originally 1996, Alternatives for Simple Living)
Simple Living Works! continues Alternatives' mission of "equipping people of faith to challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly." For more resources (some in Spanish) visit SimpleLivingWorks.org >> Archives.
Produced in cooperation with Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education, Division for Church in Society, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For more information, call 800-NET-ELCA, ext. 2708. Printed on recycled paper (50% post-consumer waste) without chlorine bleach using soy-based ink.
A few RESOURCES on Care of Creation - EarthScore: Your Personal Environmental Audit & Guide, 40 pages, $4.50; Let the Earth Be Glad: An Evangelical Kit for Caring for Creation, $30; More with Less Cookbook, 328 pages, $14; Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, 336 pages, $14.
Page updated 3 Jan. 2014
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