Sustainability can be defined as functioning/living in a way that meets the present needs and the needs of future generations. A healthy environment, realized through sustainable practices, constitutes a fundamental part of peacebuilding. Only when people have access to clean water, clean air, fresh food, and proper waste conditions, is peace possible. In 2017, just over 70% of the global population received drinking water from a safely managed water service, according to the World Health Organization. Difficult access to clean water has always been a reason for conflicts among populations of people.
Sustainable living is also required to guarantee environmental justice for future generations, often termed intergenerational justice. When lifestyles damage the earth in ways that render it less healthy or safe for future generations, which is what we are witnessing with the changing climate, the rights of future generations are impeded. Consequently, these generations will likely realize a greater struggle for peace.
The shopping season, which coincides with Advent, is often difficult to reconcile with sustainability and peace. When shopping becomes an extension of the materialism and greed that have led to the over-consumption we now recognize in our large waste containers, common storage units, over-sized closets and more, sustainability is discarded. However, when gift-giving is directed by love and care, it coincides with the peace of the holiday season.
According to a Stanford University study, Americans generate 25% more trash from Thanksgiving through the New Year. This amounts to an extra 1 million tons of garbage each week. Here are a few ways to avoid generating excess waste over the holidays: use reusable bags/recycled wrapping paper, shop with reusable bags, reject over-packaged products, reduce the number of gifts you give, offer gifts of hope and aid by donating to a great cause, skip frivolous/gag gifts, and donate unwanted gifts. Mostly, keep sustainable living at the forefront of your mind. Sustainable living is a way of giving the best gifts for humanity: love for one another and the earth, a necessity for peace.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.