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Action Steps | Sunday March 1, 2015


Taking Personal Action



Our Lenten practice this week is to reconsider our relationship to stuff.

Everyday life is sustained by materials from the Earth – food, clothes, cell phones, cars, and even toilet paper. In the United Sates each of us daily consumes 120 pounds on average. But we live on a finite planet. There is only so much timber for paper, steel for cars, silica for computers, and other materials to go around. The more we consume, the less is available for others.

On average, one American consumes as much as: 2 Japanese, 3 Mexicans, 4 Chinese, 8 Tanzanians, 11 Indians, or 18 Haitians.

Since 1950, U.S. consumption of energy, meat, and lumber has doubled; use of plastics has increased five-fold; use of aluminum has increased seventy-fold; and airplane mileage has increased thirty-three-fold per person. The average size of a new house has doubled and we own twice as many cars as in 1950. With every bite we take, every drive across town, every swipe of the credit card, we leave a bigger and bigger footprint on the face of the world. 

Christian simplicity doesn’t mean giving up everything good. It does mean cutting back, reducing harm, choosing wisely, and acting on Gospel values whenever purchasing or disposing of anything.

If you can only do one thing …

Stop unwanted junk mail. The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year. Overall, U.S. consumers receive 19 billion catalogs annually, taking 53 million tress and 56 billion gallons of water to produce. They’re given a glance and then end up in landfills. Visit www.41pounds.org to stop unwanted junk mail. Less clutter in your mailbox means less pollution and less waste. 

Avoid Unnecessary Consumption

  • Shop less. Resist the urge to shop as entertainment. Avoid accumulating more clutter. Replace recreational shopping with Sabbath time for family or quiet prayerful listening. 
  • Ask: “Do I really need it?” Greed drives much of the consumption which depletes the planet. We usually don’t need as much as we buy. Advertising stokes desires and can make us feel we're being left out if we don’t have something. When a desire arises, give yourself a 48-hour waiting period to eliminate impulse buying, enabling you to live within limits. 
  • Reuse stuff. Our disposable culture encourages toss it out when it easily could be fixed or reused. 
  • Borrow, don’t buy. Borrowing saves resources and money, plus builds community. 
  • Use paper responsibly. Americans consume more paper than anyone else on the plane – annually, 663 pounds per person (448 pounds in UK; 136 pounds in Mexico). Conserve by printing on both sides, set default margins wider, and use recycled paper. Read more. Watch video 5 ½ minute film on “The Secret Life of Paper” 
  • Clean the closet. Discover what’s forgotten. Donate or clear out with Freecycle, a network of people who give away their stuff. 

Buying: Paying Attention to What Comes In

  • Buy conscientiously. Understand the environmental and social impacts of products you buy with the Better World Shopping Guide book. Find online information on products that help you live a more creation-friendly lifestyle at http://www.betterworldshopper.org/
  • Buy good quality products that last; avoid disposables. Over its life span, a reusable ceramic mug is used nearly 3,000 times.
  • Buy in bulk. It reduces packaging waste and doesn’t fill the planet with trash.  
  • Buy products from environmentally and socially responsible companies. Who you buy from is a significant choice. Is the company a polluter or good steward of God’s creation? Does it run sweatshops or provide just wages for workers? Let companies know you care. 
  • Buy from locally owned businesses. Help your community maintain its individual character while you support your neighbors and neighborhood.
  • Buy Fair Trade products to ensure a just wage for farmers, workers, and artisans around the world. Learn more at www.fairtrade.net

Trash: Paying Attention to What Goes Out

  •  Minimize landfill waste by selecting items with the least amount of packaging. Encourage manufacturers to use minimal packaging. According to the EPA, packaging materials make up more than 30% of all consumer waste.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. 1st – reduce your consumption. 2nd – use reusables; give up disposables such as paper towels, napkins and plates. 3rd – recycling puts waste back into the natural cycle. Nearly 75% of our trash can be recycled, but we only recycle 25%.
  • Paying bills online minimizes paper consumption, saves trees and reduces fuel consumed by vehicles that transport paper checks. 
  • Join the Zero Waste movement, an anti-garbage strategy: produce less waste; avoid polystyrene foam containers or any packaging that is not biodegradable, recycle or compost whatever you can. We use 25 billion Styrofoam cups a year, which are difficult to recycle.


  • Purchase nontoxic cleaning products. “Green” on the label is no guarantee the product is safe. Follow home cleaning tips. Make your own cleaning products. The average American uses about 25 gallons of cleaning products a year. Simple recipes for nontoxic all-purpose general clearers, disinfectants, and window cleaners are available online.  Save money and protect our waterways from pollution.  
  • Avoid toxic pesticides. Organic alternatives are much safer for you and the Earth. Find out more.
Imagine if the Earth were divided equally among all of us. Each person would receive 4.5 acres. Now imagine that everything you need – food, energy, home, clothing, gadgets – must come from those 4.5 acres. But it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle.There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God’s creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources. Moving in the direction of 4.5 is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.

Our Ministry

Lent 4.5 is a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to apply the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.

This Week...

If There’s Only One Thing You Can Do …

Stop unwanted junk mail.  

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