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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.” Deuteronomy 10:14

The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1-3

“For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” 1 Corinthians 10:26

Since I wrote about the carbon fast sponsored by St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church of Bethesda a few weeks ago, many people have asked me to explain the connection between my interest in environmental affairs and  my beliefs as a Christian. The answer is fairly simple. I believe that God, as the Divine creator, provided Earth as His gift to us. Mankind, the beneficiary of this Divine largess, is the designated as caretaker of His property.

Over 2,500 years worth of inspired writings by biblical authors leave no doubt about who has Divine ownership rights over the planet.  Even a cursory review of the above passages indicates that mankind’s authority is based his role as an occupant and caretaker on the Owner’s behalf.   (This is not a consensus opinion and I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming post.)

In that regard, care for the Earth isn’t merely casual hobby.  It’s a legitimate expression of my love for and relationship with the Creator of the universe.

I’m an avid hiker. Part of the attraction is the privilege of getting up close to my favorite venues like the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainer and Denali. Those breathtaking views always affirm my belief that those are works of Divine artistry, not a random circumstance of nature. As such, I want to demonstrate my gratitude by helping to preserve the splendor of this precious gift.

It’s taken a long while for our society to grasp that reality. A charitable analogy would be to compare our regard for the planet to a tenant of a highly desirable property whose care depreciates the value of the asset and threatens the well-being of the inhabitants.

Imagine how the Owner must feel.

Fortunately, a growing number of Christians are recognizing our responsibility to practice responsible environmental stewardship and to advocate public and corporate governing policies that are consistent with our beliefs.  It’s not yet a majority consensus among faith communities, but the emerging shift in momentum is encouraging.

For now, I”m  happy for the forum to share my passion in the hope that like-minded persons will be motivated to join the movement.

This weekend, I’ll be attending the annual Environmental Film Festival, held a various locations around Washington.

The festival features 140 films that celebrate the splendor of earth’s natural wonders, portraits of exotic cultures, and documentaries about deforestation, climate change, disappearing species and other environmental threats.

If you’re in the D.C. area for the next 10 days, I highly recommend you see these fascinating projects

The large purple banner affixed to St. Mark Presbyterian Church of Bethesda immediately attracted my attention. It read: “Join our Lenten Carbon Fast.” Because I’m both a Christian and a believer in sustainable living, it didn’t take long for me to contact the church to learn more about this event.

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During each of the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, St. Mark’s members are being encouraged to adopt simple lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint in recognition of Lent, a period of repentance, reflection and sacrifice. For instance, on Day 1, calls for members to remove one light bulb in their homes. Other challenges include turning central heating down by one degree and unplugging mobile phone chargers.

“These things are not meant to be grandiose or heroic. I see this as doing ordinary things that we are called to do as Christian stewards. I hope this will make a difference in our lives,” said Roy Howard, St. Mark’s pastor.

I made the connection immediately. It’s a great way to highlight the traditional call to recognize God’s gift of life while raising awareness that we, too, have a responsibility show our gratitude by being good stewards of the earth.

“During the carbon fast, participants will focus our discipline on caring for God’s creation,” said Alison Bennett, a church elder. “For generations, Christians have given up things during Lent as part of our discipline. Scripture and our tradition call us to care for the natural world so that all may live abundantly.

“All of the things we are asked to do over the 40 days are small. They will not have big effects, but changes to our hearts and minds are just as important,” she said.

So far there has been a good response the congregation. In addition, 75 people have signed on the church’s Facebook page, Friends of St. Mark Presbyterian Church.

I’m excited to learn that the church is committed to remind its members that there is a link between Christianity and concern for the environment. Some people may view this as a departure from traditional Christian values. I agree with Rev. Howard and his congregation, and their belief that there is an inherent call to environmental stewardship in the Bible.

It’s a simple concept. Earth is God’s gift to man. The only appropriate response should be to treat God’s gift with the kind of loving care that is commenserate with the value of the gift. St. Mark’s carbon fast engages participants to bring those convictions to life in their daily activities.

Miscalculation

A few months ago, I launched my ‘buy used” commitment with the purchase of a new-to-me television at an estate sale.

Initially, I was excited because it appeared to be a great deal. The price was right — $50 for a 3-year old, 40-inch model in very good operating condition.

Big mistake

I neglected to look for the Energy Star logo. If you’re not aware, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sponsors Energy Star, a program that helps consumers identify energy-efficient consumer goods.

I nearly always choose products with the Energy Star logo when I’m shopping at a retail outlet.

It turns out that the new-to-me television is not at all efficient. That became abundantly evident when the next electric bill indicated my consumption increased noticeably.

Fortunately, I’m not a huge television viewer, so my footprint won’t take a huge hit…until it’s time for recycling…when I’ll have to address other issues. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Note to self for future purchases: Look for the Energy Star logo…even when buying used electronics and appliances.

Recently, I’ve found myself trying to balance my desire to cut my carbon footprint with the harsh reality that I can’t continue to choose more expensive carbon-free options for daily commuting.

This sudden change is necessary because my job status has changed from full-time to part time. While that’s given me more time for blogging, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions regarding my sustainability options. That means I’ll be commuting to work by car instead of using public transportation.

A round trip using the preferred rail/bus option costs $4. 95. The same trip by car, even when adding maintenance and insurance costs, is just over $2. Normally, that’s not a big deal. Across an entire month, that adds up, and in the current environment, I simply can’t afford to ignore the additional cost. And unfortunately, there are no known carpooling options available.

I started taking public transit a few weeks ago. Montgomery County has a very good public transportation infrastructure, and Washington Metro is one of the nation’s best urban transportation networks. I can reach most of my travel destinations by bus or rail, even though it requires a bit more planning. And the longer trips offer a great opportunity for reading, one of my passions.

The other major snag is that there is no transit service to the church I attend in Centreville (a 31-mile trip); the same is true for another church in Vienna where I participate in men’s retreats (22 miles). Those also happen to be my longest weekly trips However, when gasoline prices return to mid-2007 levels; I may have to revisit those decisions if my job status doesn’t change.

This is probably an indication that my commitment to reduce my footprint will be severely tested, as my budget now dictates that cost will trump carbon commitment for now. Then again, times like these offer opportunities to employ creative cost-saving methods. And, as always, I’ll gladly accept suggestions anyone who has found useful ways to overcome this dilemma.

Now that Christmas is over, I’ve been thinking about buying electronic gadgets that I didn’t find under my holiday tree. News outlets have been filled with articles about retailers slashing prices to drive consumer traffic into stores. Based on traffic jams I’ve observed at Washington D.C. malls, the strategy seems to be working.

Specifically, I’m  thinking about purchasing a smartphone to support my work-related functions and my fledgling freelance practice. I’m also thinking about buying a television and replacing my recently-damaged iPod.

Since posting a blog about Andrea Gringo and Steven Posusta,  who recently completed a one-year commitment to refrain from buying new items, I’ve also been thinking about ways to apply sustainable purchasing principles without major lifestyle disruptions. In the fast-paced, business environment in Washington, it’s not easy to do without communications tools that help people stay competitive (which, obviously, doesn’t apply to the iPod.)

So when thinking about acquiring those electronic toys, why not save money and let my green-friendly principles drive those purchasing decisions?

Normally, I would never buy a used device. After all, the prevailing opinion is that buying used or reconditioned high-tech gadgets is risky because they have a short life span, and defects aren’t easy to detect until it stops working. If that’s true, buying used definitely wouldn’t be worth the investment, even if it costs less than the same item purchased new at a higher price.

However, there are a growing number of people who are successfully challenging the ‘always buy new’ maxim. Some savvy consumers have figured how to safely choose a pre-owned smartphone, mp3 player or iPod and avoid the pitfalls that make used items seem less desirable.

Craigslist and other online classified sites are doing a brisk business for people buying and selling electronic devices. I’ve also noticed that consumer technology providers are advertising their reconditioned items on high-traffic websites. Some are even offering attractive warranties.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be investigating this trend to see if buying electronic devices could work. I hope to gather information from consumer experts, tech bloggers and industry reps about the pros and cons about used and reconditioned electronics. Of course, I welcome comments from readers who want to share their experiences, both pro and con.

I’ll look forward to sharing my findings with you.

I’m finishing the final load of post-Christmas laundry, and among items to be ironed are my colorful cloth napkins. After they’re neatly pressed and folded, I’ll put them away until…lunch.

A few months ago, I took advantage of a great going –out-of-business sale to purchase about two dozen cloth napkins and utility rags for everyday use. It’s my intention to stop using paper towels and napkins. Even though I didn’t use much paper, most experts regard it as an unsustainable practice, so I made the change.

So far, the arrangement has worked well because I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with washing and ironing. That’s very important because the napkins would become stained and smelly without if I left unattended for too long.

This is one practice that will likely take a while to recover the initial costs. I paid about $50 retail for the napkins and towels (sorry, but buying them at a flea market or garage sale didn’t seem to be a viable option because they were hard to find (yes, I looked. Feel free to offer alternative views if it’s worked for you.) A bulk purchase of paper towels cost about $20 and lasts for about a year. Hopefully the cloth napkins will be good for a couple of years.

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