‘Orangutan friendly shopping’ - the loud orange lettering on the jute bags at the checkout caught my attention. As the queue shortened, I was now close enough to read the words under those bright letters - ‘the first UK supermarket to commit to removing palm as an ingredient from all its own label food’.
This company has hit two birds with one stone. First- they are selling reusable bags to reduce single use plastic in the UK and second- their bags serve as canvases to feature their opposition to the infamous palm oil industry that is destroying rainforests and orangutans further afield.
It is encouraging to see individuals and companies all around us taking steps to care for the planet. Refillable water stations seem to be springing up (pun intended) everywhere, MPs are giving up plastic for lent and at my office, I get to feed orcas (the food waste recycling system, not the whales).
Perhaps you have also been thinking about ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Have you paused to consider what inspires you to do so? Is it fear? Is it guilt? Is it to be trendy? What if I told you that as Christians we can access a better motivation?
The Bible says that we and the natural world around us are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 19:1). He made it with wisdom (Proverbs 3:19, Jeremiah 10:12), said it was good (Genesis 1:31) and set us who are made in his image to care for it (Genesis 2:15).
Last summer, at a climate march I joined in London, I was immersed in a crowd of people who were chanting:
‘What do we want?
When do we want it?
Have you ever thought about caring for the environment as a social justice issue? And that its integral to caring for the poor?
The impact of us trashing our environment disproportionately affects the poorest the most. The sad irony is that the poorest often contribute the least to climate change but are affected the most.
The No time to waste report that was published last year revealed that one person is dying every 30 seconds in developing countries from diseases and illnesses caused by plastic pollution and uncollected rubbish dumped or burnt near homes. As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbours (both our local and our global neighbours) and to stand up against injustice. This should also motivate us to consider the impact of our lifestyles.
We can stand firm on the certain hope that God will renew all things one day but not use that as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the injustice we see around us today. We are invited by God to be part of his redeeming work.
Maybe you are reading this in a cafe where you got 50p off your coffee because you brought your own reusable cup. Maybe you are trying to cut meat from your diet or are wearing clothes purchased at a local charity shop.
These are encouraging steps you are taking but if you are thirsty for more change- large scale change- why not sign up to the Rubbish Campaign to call on multinational companies like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to take responsibility for the millions of items they are producing in single-use packaging in countries where there is no waste collection.
Psalm 24:1 in the Bible says: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Psalm 95:4-5 says: "In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land." Don’t these verses renew your awe of God and inspire you to handle his creation with care?
It’s time to put our faith into action, to love God and our neighbours through caring for our environment!