A happy green New Year

A notepad its on a desk near a pen, laptop and phone
 on January 1, 2015

When I go to parishes for confirmations, sometimes with baptisms, I find that many services have not yet included the newest baptismal promise. It was authorized by General Synod in 2013 and subsequently commended for use in our diocese.

“Will you strive to safeguard God’s creation, and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the Earth?” asks the officiant. Whenever I ask it, it calls forth an eager response. “I will, with God’s help,” answer the confirmands. This new responsibility is eagerly embraced by the young, who understand the fragility of the Earth’s environment, and our responsibility to protect it.

The road to reverse humanity’s heavy footprint on the Earth is long, arduous and complicated. God’s people must be engaged in many aspects of it, including technological, financial and political. None of it will work, however, without some sort of personal effort to lighten our footprint.

I do not claim to be a thorough-going environmentalist, but I have been striving for over 10 years to be more responsible. In this brand new year, I would like to share how we have attempted to do this at home. These are easy steps that you may wish to try at home as well.

  1. We have responded to government incentives for energy efficiency. From time to time, different levels of government have offered assistance for home renovations that will result in energy saving. We availed ourselves of them twice after we bought our house in 2005. It started with an energy audit, which informed us of the degree our old house can improve in energy efficiency. It would not reach the level of newly built houses, but if we followed the recommendations, it could make a substantial improvement. It turned out that increased insulation in the attic and a simple fibreglass insulation wrap around our unfinished basement made our house warmer and easier to heat. I did the work on the basement myself but hired a professional to do the attic. Subsequently, I have made use of government subsidies to upgrade my furnace and air conditioner.
  2. Kathy is religious about watching the clock when she washes clothes and dishes; she does them at night and on weekends. This evens out power generation for the producers and also lightens the load on our pocketbook. I keep a record of our hydro use and made it a game to shift electricity use from peak to off-peak hours. My hydro bill is lower this year than the last.
  3. One by one, we are switching to LED lights. The bulbs are still expensive but the price is coming down, and from time to time one can find bargains. The most notable saving is on the candelabra over our dining table. Its seven bulbs of 25 watts each used to consume 175 watts each time we turned it on. I have replaced them with 9-watt LEDs and so saved 102 watts of energy each time we turn it on. Unfortunately, meals are often in peak hours. It may still be a luxury to light up the house for Christmas, but we feel less guilty because we’re using LED lights, which look just as good.
  4. It bothers me to turn on the basement light during the day, when the sun is shining outside! I have installed first one, then two more, solar panels in my backyard. I got my first 20-watt panel on sale at Canadian Tire to charge my batteries. When the price came down, I bought two additional 40-watt ones and connected them to a growing battery pack in my basement. Over a period of a year, we now have a modest 100-watt system that pretty well lights up my basement workshop, exercise area and computer desk during the day. I have since connected the batteries to an outlet on the main floor, so all our cell phones and rechargeable batteries can be conveniently charged by the sun. An added advantage is that when there is a power outage, there will be light for a while before we have to turn on the generator. It is difficult to be completely off-grid, but it is easy to assist the grid.
  5. We connected our downpipe to three rain barrels and use the water to water the flower and vegetable gardens. Again, we still water the lawn with city water, but reduce its use by this simple measure, which also moderates surface runoff during a downpour.

These are some modest measures of one family. It would be wrong to claim that such small steps by themselves will solve the problem. What I find, though, is that they made me get into the habit of thinking about my impact each time I drive or fly or turn on the light, and help me pay special attention to policy issues or new inventions that will reverse our unsustainable march towards catastrophe.

There will be a motion on the environment for discussion during your annual vestry. I hope these ideas give some practical substance to the discussion.

For a long period in the West, our theology about the Earth was formed by an interpretation of the first story of creation. It puts humans in the role of subduing and dominating the Earth. Biblical scholarship help us to understand that there is a complementary narrative in the second story of creation, when God both created and called human beings to be gardeners. Christians look for a renewed world redeemed by the Lord Jesus. “He shall come in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom shall have no end.” The new heavens and the new Earth are, metaphorically, presented as a city, but a city built on the banks of a river, on each side of which trees are planted. As we move into the New Year, I hope this will be a guiding image for our lives. Next time there is a baptism or confirmation, watch for the newest addition to the affirmation of faith, and respond enthusiastically with word and deed, “I will, with God’s help.”


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