It is always a good time to engage in acts of kindness, and the opportunities seem to be greater during the holiday season. While we typically view these in the context of one another, acts of kindness should extend to earthly care. Pope Francis describes mother earth as the poorest of the poor, due to the harm humans have inflicted upon her. It is more important than ever to perform acts of kindness on behalf of the natural world. In fact, it is of paramount importance that we recognize the damage done to nature and implement a way of life that cares for creation through acts of kindness.
For the next few weeks, during the season of Advent for many Christians, (also the season of shopping/heightened messages of materialism), the Green Junction will offer several reflections and suggestions pertaining to acts of kindness for creation.
Reducing purchases of fast food is an example of an act of kindness to mother earth. The average amount of garbage produced per day per person in the United States is 4.6 pounds or over 2500 pounds every year (again, per person!). Fast food or take-out food generates a disproportionate amount of waste. In the purchase of one hamburger at a fast-food restaurant, the throwaway portion is the wrapper, bag, and napkin. The convenience and ease of fast food have turned into an environmental disaster of massive material and food waste. McDonald’s serves 60 million customers every day, which translates into the generation of huge amounts of trash. While the company is committed to shifting to more sustainable products over the next several years, all those who partake in packaged food must also take ownership of the problem.
Taking part in responsible recycling is another act of kindness to the natural world. The United States has the lowest recycling rate of advanced nations. Only about 10% of recyclable materials are sent through the recycling stream; sometimes, over-eager recyclers contaminate recyclable materials, which must then be diverted to the garbage stream. Many types of paper, plastic, glass and metal materials are recyclable. Municipalities that offer recycling post clear guidelines on what materials can be recycled, and it is essential to recycle according to these rules. Also, consider the packaging used in a product prior to your purchase. If it is not recyclable, make the effort to find the product in a recyclable or reusable (even better!) container. Then, clean and recycle the container as an act of kindness for mother earth.
In the bigger picture, acts of kindness to the world we share (Our Common Home) become acts of kindness to one another.
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.