Part 2 in an ongoing series on Zooming Out.
The other day I was at the gym. I never take a pre-workout before I workout unless it’s offered to me for free, and this day it was. My gym had a rep from a supplement company come in and offer free pre-workout drinks, so I took one when I walked in, gulped it and threw the little plastic cup away.
Halfway through my workout I started to slow down so I went back to the table at the front and got another cup, filled it with the blue liquid, downed it and threw it away.
And then something happened.
It clicked for the first time that no one else will ever use those cups, and I had just used two when I could have used one.
I realized that there is a somewhat literal pile of trash somewhere that only Ethan Renoe has used, and every time I throw something away I am adding to the pile. (Is that what they mean by ‘carbon footprint’??) But this realization had to do with more than tree hugging environmentalism. It wasn’t just about the small plastic cups, but the attitude behind the action. I realized that as an American, it is of no cost to me to use and dispose of two plastic cups because someone else will take care of it. The little cups may be ruining the earth, but someone else will be affected, likely a few hundred years from now. And I realized that cups add up. I may have only used one extra cup that day, but how many days of my life have I taken the extra cup? Multiply that by the millions of Americans like me who think nothing of rapid use and quick disposal, and we have a huge pile of unnecessary plastic.
I recently read an article about how every piece of plastic ever created is still in existence. And I read my friend Benji’s response to it about people always making fun of him for his mason jars and wool coats but maybe he’s onto something.
I forget where I read it, but Mother Teresa once said that only one thing in the world makes her angry:
She said that violence and wars can be traced back to hurt and pain, and to a degree they’re understandable, and also much harder to fix.
But waste? Waste is not only easy to fix but it’s intentional. It’s harmful but it does not come from hurt, it comes from laziness. The problem is that we as Americans are oblivious to the effects of our own waste because it doesn’t affect our lives in the least. We are essentially partitioned off from seeing the results of our waste for the sake of our own comfort.
I mean, I don’t want to think about how many plastic Starbucks cups I’ve used because I couldn’t be bothered to bring my own cup or bottle and it’s more CONVENIENT to just take a new one…
At this point you may be thinking, Gee, Ethan is starting to sound like one of those turtle-kissing hippies who wears only clothes made of hemp, marches in PETA protests and takes delight in making his friends feel guilty. I only read this blog because of the warm and fuzzy Jesus vibes he usually gives… and you’re right, this is a slight departure for me. But it all ties back to
Because God cares about the environment. He said so when He called it “good,” and he reinforced that when he instructed Adam to care for it and maintain it. That initiative remains to this day. We were not given the world to take advantage of it, squeezing every last drop from it for our pleasure. As Christians, we should care the MOST about the world God has given us. Because how we treat the creation reflects how we perceive its Creator.
Yet for some reason this has been largely overlooked in America in favor of tying Christianity to the issues of sexuality, pornography, anger management, and similar scruples. It’s easy to walk into an American church building and not see a trace of environmental care. Whether it’s the styrofoam coffee cups or the gargantuan power consumption (how many stage lights and fog machines are needed before the Holy Spirit arrives?), Christians have somehow divorced their faith from the environment.
I think that when Jesus says He’s going to make all things new, He does mean erasing our addictions, shame and sin. But I also think He means trees and oceans and porpoises and marmots. I think that when we talk about joining Christ as He makes all things new, we must also talk about caring for this world we’ve been given. It means we should be aware of when we use two plastic cups when we could have used one, because that plastic goes SOMEWHERE. We need to
Because when we are so zoomed in on what makes MY life easier, it’s easy to generate waste without thinking about it. It’s easy to consume
I think solutions can be easy to start out with. Things like taking a mug to the coffee shop with you, or riding your bike. My roommate and I compost everything we can, burn everything that burns, and only throw away what won’t burn or compost. Since we moved in together in September, I think we’ve thrown away about a dozen bags of trash. It’s still a lot, but we’re trying to get creative in the ways we consume and dispose.
I don’t want to reach the end of my life and look behind me to see this imaginary—but very real—mammoth pile of trash in my wake. I want to be able to say I did the best I could with what I had been given. That I did my best to join Jesus as He painted visions of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
So join me. Let’s be people who are conscious of the waste we produce and who strive to zoom out in order to see the effects it has on the world, not just the ease it contributes to our lives.