10 (more) ways Catholics can protect creation

One way to celebrate the Feast of All Saints is to learn how you and your parish can honor, praise, and protect God’s life-giving creation

I've been thinking of the Feast of All Saints, and about how our journeys on earth should help us on the road to sainthood—of joining God and all those in heaven. That got me thinking about how we live here and now, and that reminded me how important it is to practice virtues like temperance and prudence when we labor to protect the created order.

In other words, there's a connection between striving to live holy lives and caring for our common home.

Certainly we see this connection from the lives of great saints like Giles, Francis, Kateri Tekakwitha, and John Paul the Great.

Perhaps that connection explains why one of the most popular posts here at Catholic Ecology is the August 2013 “10 ways Catholics can protect the environment.” And so with the secular hyper-consumption of the holiday season approaching, it seems time we add to that list.

1. Explore clean, renewable energy

Chances are that your diocese, parish, and home can benefit from some form of solar or wind power. Local energy companies and state and local energy regulatory agencies typically have programs that can help you generate power on your own property or buy power produced elsewhere. All it takes is a little networking to find out more about such possibilities in your local market. And if such opportunities do exist, it’s a good feeling to know you’re turning on the lights with help from renewable energy.

2. Take a look at cleaning up your investments

Add to your clean-energy efforts by not supporting dirty power. Divestment from fossil fuel companies is a growing trend in the Church and the world, and it may be something to consider. Check out the Global Catholic Climate Movement for more on divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting in clean ones.

For general help making moral investments, check out companies like Ave Maria Mutual Funds. There’s also this guidance on sound investing form the bishops of the United States.

Less is more on the journey to heaven, as it is on the pathway to sustainable lifestyles.

3. Support the rights of indigenous peoples

As the tragedy here in the States at the Standing Rock reservation is highlighting, many of our eco issues are linked inextricably with justice issues for indigenous peoples. With the Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations seeking to protect sacred lands and waters from the Dakota Access pipeline, we see in real life what Benedict XVI noted in 2010: “Relationships between individuals, social groups and states, like those between human beings and the environment, must be marked by respect and ‘charity in truth.’”

Many Catholic charitable groups are especially interested in helping the indigenous peoples in their countries (such as here in Australia and here in New Zealand). It’s worth all our time to stand with the indigenous peoples around the world or close to home—corporeally and spiritually—to protect them from forces that would take from them what little they may have left.

4. Stop using plastics

We’re drowning in a sea of plastic wastes—literally, as seen in the tons of plastics floating in our oceans and killing wildlife across the globe. One way to help reverse this trend is to use our buying power to choose products that are not made with disposable plastics, or any plastics whatsoever. Chewing gum is still sold in paper wrappers, so you don’t need those big plastic containers of gum. And tell your favorite take-out restaurant that you do not want their plastic utensils. Pay attention throughout the day to how much small plastic items you use, and then be creative about how you can live without them.

5. Stop replacing your e-products so often—if at all

I’m always amazed at the quantity of latest-and-greatest e-products we ecologists own. The making of these products come with often dirty and questionable supply chains (does the term “blood minerals” sound attractive?) as well as disposal issues. So lets keep our older model phones and computers a little longer and work a little harder for better, more eco-friendly and socially minded alternatives.

The choices we make when food shopping not only affects our bodies, it helps shape our local economies

6. Stop using so much of everything else

That goes for everything for those of us in cultures and nations that consume much more than we have to—whether in our residential construction practices, our super-big vehicles, or in our diets. Less is more on the journey to heaven, as it is on the pathway to sustainable lifestyles.

7. Buy Fair Trade

Continuing the theme of using our buying power: finding and buying Fair Trade alternatives to the products provided by large multi-national organizations supports small, often-family owned companies. It will also support growing economies in ecologically friendly ways. Catholic Relief Services has much to offer about Fair Trade, including how to get your parish involved in supporting it.

8. Buy local, organic, and hopefully both

Following on the theme of Fair Trade: The choices we make when food shopping not only affects our bodies, it helps shape our local economies. Buying from local growers—especially those that grow organically—encourages them to grow more, and incentivizes the market to do so all around. And when you’re shopping, make sure your store managers know you prefer local and organic—one or the other, and preferably both. You’d be surprised how much impact customer requests have on shaping our economy.

9. Plant wildflowers for the bees

Given concerns about the decline in bees and other pollinators—critters that keep our crops thriving—we ought to provide habitat for these unsung heroes of the food chain. Allow me here to vent: it kills me when my state transportation department spends so much money mowing median strips and the land around on- and off-ramps. It's as if the interstate must look like some version of Versailles. Crews routinely level fields of wildflowers and leave nothing for the bees. Most suburban residential landscaping is equally barren when it comes to food for our pollinators. The answer is simple. Not only should we advocate for bee-friendly landscaping of our roads (or just letting them go natural), we can plant bee-friendly landscaping at our homes and parishes, too.

10. Control stormwater with rain gardens

My friends at the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake do some great work helping faith communities better manage their own impacts to the Chesapeake watershed. The organization empowers folks to do their share when it comes to water pollution—and their message is one that can be shared far and wide. Depending on where you live, the rain runoff from your home or parish may be impacting the local waters, and if so, there are lots ways to redirect and treat the water—and add some beauty to your landscaping. Projects like building rain gardens and using other “green infrastructure” approaches are not only good for your local environment, they help show others how easy it can be to care for our common home.

Well, that should keep us all busy for a bit. But keep an eye out for future posts with more ideas. Better yet, share your ideas or projects at your own parish in the comments below.

And as always, check out the Parish Eco-Guide form the Global Catholic Climate Movement. The Guide has lots of detail and makes for a great starting document for any budding parish eco-steward group.

And for now, a blessed All Saints Day to you and yours.

Saint John Paul II, Kateri Tekakwitha, Francis, Giles, and all you Holy Men and Women, Pray for us!

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.