Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Single-Use Plastics Are Simple to Do Without


by Jane Laping


Plastics have become ubiquitous in our environment. Not only do we find them on the shelves in retail stores and for sale online, but they are also litter on our roadways, in streams, rivers and oceans, and are quickly filling up our landfills. Furthermore, microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic that have been eroded from larger pieces – have been found in sea life as well as humans. We ingest a credit cards worth of microplastics every week.


Plastics are manufactured from oil and gas that are subsidized by our government. There is an equity issue too. Plastic factories are usually located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.


Plastics have become a huge problem across the globe, especially since China stopped taking plastics for recycling in 2017. Beaches in SE Asia are covered in plastic waste, mostly waste from shipping.


The responsibility for all this waste falls on us as Americans. In 2019, US plastic waste generation was approximately five times more than the global per-person average.


What can we do about all this plastic? LOTS. The first step is to stop buying it. Remember the meaning of the chasing arrows in the recycling symbol? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Now there are six more Rs in the updated list for the 21st century: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Repurpose, and the last option – Recycle.


When shopping, look for items packaged in glass, metal, or cardboard instead of plastic. If you cannot find them, purchase a larger container and refill it. A good example of that is liquid hand soap. Or you can simply refuse liquid hand soap and use bar soap that is usually wrapped in paper.


Liquid laundry detergent comes in very large plastic containers. By not using more than the manufacturers instructions, you can make the amount last longer. You can often get by with less than recommended. If you purchase powdered detergent in a cardboard box, you are refusing that giant plastic jug. You can also buy detergent sheets that dissolve in water.


If you can pay a little more for a reusable product, there are many options to replace single-use disposable plastics. The most obvious is to carry your own reusable water bottle. There are also reusable sandwich and food storage bags made of silicone. Beeswax wraps can replace plastic wrap. Or use repurposed plastic tubs (margarine, yogurt) to store food at no additional cost. Better yet, invest in glass food storage containers.


If making changes to your shopping list and routine sounds overwhelming, you can advocate for controls on single-use plastics by using your voice. Read as much as you can, search the web, and attend webinars and meetings about plastic waste. When you feel confident in your knowledge, then it is time to make your voice heard.


If your local store doesnt stock non-plastic containers, talk to your store manager and tell them you arent the only person who wants them. Post a request/complaint on the stores FB page. Talk with your family, friends, and neighbors about your concerns.


Call/text/email your local and state elected officials about banning specific plastic items such as plastic bags, Styrofoam take-out containers and cups, plastic straws, and stirrers. More than 500 states, cities, and counties have banned plastic bags at point of purchase.


If you need help, join a local group involved in single-use plastic reduction and take your cues from them. Whatever changes you can make will be appreciated by all of Gods creatures. No more straws up turtle noses, no more plastic filling up whale stomachs, no more six-pack rings around turtlesand gullsnecks.


The biggest impact of eliminating plastic production will be less oil and gas production and refining. Extraction of fossil fuels such as oil and gas and manufacturing of plastics is a major contributor to climate change. We are now witnessing the climate impacts that scientists have been telling us about for years: more intense hurricanes, more frequent flooding and wildfires, rising sea levels caused by increased water temperatures, and extreme temperature fluctuations.


We need to act to stop this desecration of Gods creation and we need to act quickly if we are to maintain a habitable planet where humans can live as God intended.


Jane Laping is the current Vice Moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care and is active in environmental issues from a faith perspective at the local and regional level. For more than two years she has been involved with Plastic Free WNC, a regional group with the goal of getting state and local laws passed that would limit the use of single-use plastics.

Plant a Native Garden in Your Neighborhood!


by M. Courtenay Willcox

The importance of native species is echoed not just in garden clubs and botanical gardens, but by homeowners who can increase the number of native plants in their gardens while reducing the size of their lawns. This can also happen on church, business, and corporate campuses. Native species are central to sustaining biodiversity, and I’ve taken an idea that was birthed at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Plant Native/Native Plant, on the road by creating a community pollinating garden. BMPC’s Environmental Justice Committee is committed to supporting native plantings on the church’s campus, bringing attention to those plantings, offering resources, and encouraging members to plant native at home.

For my spin-off Plant Native/Native Plant project, I reached out to neighborhood families with young children and gauged their interest in a community garden, which now sits between properties and faces the sidewalk, letting anyone who walks by witness the efforts of the neighborhood’s youngest residents.

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” ~Henry David Thoreau from notes written 1856-1861

Thoreau’s quote was read before planting began, mostly for the benefit of the parents who were in attendance. Then the neighborhood children, ages 1-12, started digging into the dirt to plant 18 native plants that included: Penstemon digitalis, foxglove beardtongue; Carex stricta, tussock sedge; Aster divaricatus, white wood aster; Allium cernuum, nodding onion; Penstemon hirsutus, hairy beardtongue; Solidago rugosa, wrinkleleaf goldenrod.

Before planting, the families received a children’s rewrite of Doug Tallamy’s Natures Best Hope: (Young ReadersEdition) How You Can Save the World in Your Own Yard which, among other things, explains the importance of planting native plants to attract and feed native insects and how this type of nature conservation can happen right outside your backdoor. Planting a native plant is such an easy thing to do. Our garden is proof that anyone, at any age, can plant a native plant.

Native plants also work to create a native greenway that sustains and increases biodiversity, which, in part because of lawn monoculture, is in peril. I was inspired by Doug Tallamy and Home Grown National Park, which provides a blueprint of ways to increase biodiversity within your yard, linking it with a neighbor’s yard, and the ribbon of green grows to support native species. HGNP followers are encouraged to regenerate biodiversity by planting native with no experience required!

Our community native garden was an easy project with just a little investment. The payoffs were huge! Pre-education happened in individual households from Tallamy’s book. Then, purchasing an inexpensive 8’x4’ cedar framed raised bed, toting free fill-dirt from our township’s leaf compost (amazing!), and ordering Bloom Boxs native plant fill-a-flat consisting of 18 beautiful plants that were delivered, was easy. We also planted mountain mint, milkweed, and cone flower seeds which are sprouting.

Through texts, the neighborhood arranged to come together and plant at 5:00 p.m. on a May afternoon. My granddaughters were in attendance as I stood on the sidewalk and looked hopefully down the street. It was empty. And then, just like in the movie, Field of Dreams (if you build it, they will come), the sidewalks filled with children, trowels in hand, and their parents, for the planting festivities.

All the participants have helped water through dry times, and after a deer nibbling, I covered the bed with some netting which has deterred bunny and deer munching. The plants and seeds are flourishing!

This was such a gratifying project that produced a beautiful result and raised neighborhood awareness around the importance of native planting. My heart is full. Anyone can use this model to start a native garden in their own neighborhood. It is an easy lift to support creation care and give a much-needed boost to native insects. Let’s keep the ribbon of green, that will support native pollinators, unfurling throughout our neighborhoods and communities. And remember, Plant Native/Native Plant.

Courtenay's passion around environmental issues is the third leg of a stool that also includes family and God.  She moderated her church's Environmental Justice Committee, founded a local interfaith green group, and partners with PA IPL to share resources with regional faith institutions.  A recent seminary graduate with a certificate in environmental theology, she currently serves Tree of Life Church in Springfield, PA as a transitional pastor.

Inspirational Reading

 by Janet Storts


I first became aware of Paul Hawken in the 1980s when he was selling garden tools and writing books to convince businesspeople that you could make ethical decisions and still make a profit.


If we had all followed his trajectory of insight, study, and commitment to action, we would be in a much different place now regarding global warming.


The following two books, which Hawken edited, give both practical ways to influence climate and new ways to think about our relationships.


Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation


In addition, a search for Regeneration Paul Hawken on YouTube will return more than one hundred presentations and interviews.


To find a source that is practical, inspiring, realistic, and thoughtful gives me hope that we can change our hearts and take action.


Janet Storts is a founding member of JOY New Worshiping Community and Ecumenical-Eco Justice in Saint Joseph, Missouri. She received her MASJ (Social Justice) from Phillips Theological Seminary.

Going (sort of) Car Free


By Eric Diekhans


In an earlier Earth News, I profiled Matt Walker, a Presbyterian choir director who lived a car-free lifestyle. He was able to get anywhere he wanted to go using his bike and public transportation.


Giving up the automobile isn’t practical for many people. We are a car-dependent culture and our transportation system caters to drivers. Public transportation in much of the United States is scant or non-existent. Extremes in temperature can make cycling unpleasant or impossible.


While giving up our cars is a worthwhile goal, we don’t need to live 100% car-free to make a dent in the 4.6 metric tons of CO2 the average car emits every year. Thanks to the boom in e-bikes, we now have more options to change our mode of transportation some or most of the time.


I’ve used a bike for basic transportation since I was a kid, when I zipped around our subdivision and rode the two miles to elementary school. But when I got my driver’s license, my bike was relegated to mostly recreational riding as I enjoyed the freedom and ease an automobile gave me.


When I moved to Chicago and got a job downtown, I began occasionally using my bike for commuting, It saved me money (important to a recent college graduate) and I enjoyed the lakefront scenery while getting some much-needed exercise.


In 2019, I bought a Linus city bike with the express purpose of riding more and driving less. Its wider tires, rack, and fenders were more piratical than the road bike I used for recreation and allowed me to install panniers and take my bike to grocery shop, visit friends, go to the library, or grab a coffee at my local cafe.


I quickly saw the advantages of keeping my car in the garage. I save on gas and maintenance costs, and riding my bike is often faster than driving, Instead of circling the block or a parking lot looking for a space, I almost always park in front of my destination. While drivers sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I ride blissfully by.


In the last few years, e-bike sales have exploded. Whether the bike’s motor is pedal assist or operated by a throttle, e-bikes allow you to ride further, carry heavier loads, and arrive at your destination without breaking a sweat.


Cargo bikes in particular have surged in popularity. As more companies come into the market, prices come down and options increase. I often see moms and dads riding down my street on cargo bikes with one or two kids sitting happily behind them. Cargo bikes can haul a week’s worth of groceries and many can keep up with city traffic.


Cargo bikes may seem expensive, ranging from $1,500 to more than $8,000, but compare that to the price of a typical car. Maintenance is also comparatively cheap. Even if you keep your car, a cargo bike can expand your transportation options considerably while saving you money.


Bicycling magazine recently reviewed some of the latest cargo bikes. They highlighted several factors to consider when purchasing one.


1.     Buying your bike direct from the manufacturer has become a popular option. Online retailers can often offer lower prices because they cut out the middleman. You can also often customize your bike more. The big downside is that you can’t try before you buy, which is particularly important with a cargo bike. They all have different designs with different feels. Cargo bikes are also usually one-size-fits-most If you’re taller or shorter than average, that may be an issue. If you can’t test-ride a bike at your local shop, see if you can find someone with a similar model who is willing to let you try it.


2.     Bikes come in three classes. Consider which one fits your needs.


In class 1 bikes, the motor only works when you’re pedaling and allow a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. Class 2 bikes have a throttle and allow you to ride without pedaling. They still only have a maximum speed of 20 mph, (Though they still have the option of pedal assistance.) Class 3 e-bikes allow pedal assist up to 28 mph.


Class 2 e-bikes are great if you carry heavy loads or have difficulty pedaling, Class 1 bikes usually offer more range.


3.     Consider storage. E-bikes are heavier than non-motorized bikes. Most are 80-90 pounds, though large-capacity e-bikes can tip the scale at over 100 pounds. You don’t want to be hauling a heavy bike up several flights of stairs, so a garage or storage shed is ideal.


If you’re interested in exploring e-bikes and cargo bikes, talk to owners. There are many Facebook groups you can join. You can also join a local bike club or visit a shop that specializes in e-bikes.


One day, perhaps the United States will look more like the Netherlands, where bike infrastructure is common, 99% of people own a bicycle, and 28% of trips are taken by bike. But you don’t have to wait and you don’t have to sell your car. Using a bicycle for basic transportation has never been easier, and it can make a real difference in lowering your carbon emissions.


Eric Diekhans is an author, Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries, and a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

God Connections; the Spiritual, the Mystical and the Glory of Creation


By Diane Waddell


God has shared amazing goodness with God’s creatures from micro to macro, Yet in all the swirling of Creation, even holding God’s Creation in our physical grasp, there is such mystery that we are often left in awe. Even science is often left wondering as we continue to ‘discover’ many new wonders… from the bottom of the ocean to the farthest reaches of the Cosmos.


I am called to seek ‘Presence’ in Mystery/the Mystical’ to seek ‘Home’ in the Spiritual; to seek Fulness through Earth/Creation connectedness. I have appreciated hearing about many paths to God, from indigenous wisdom, through Celtic connections, to senses of the Cosmic…as we follow the Christ path on our journey.


Our New Worshiping Community, JOY — Justice, Outreach and Yoga — has worked and worshiped together in gathered community for about four years. As we gather, we express gratitude to those indigenous tribes who walked the land before us. As we seek to connect with Spirit, we have enjoyed appreciating God’s gifts to us through music and visual and literary arts. Last year we grew deeply by studying several of the ancient mystics, such as Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, and St. Thomas Aquinas.


This year, we are embarking on Pilgrimage, including sharing stories of pilgrimages taken; some were through the PCUSA related to social and environmental justice. Our pilgrimage journeys will include walking the Labyrinth as well as absorbing the vibrations of Tibetan singing bowls…as we pray and send prayers of healing and strength through those vibrations to Earth, and our neighbors on Earth, both near and far.


Of course, there are many resources which we use as we share, but some which have been particularly helpful are the following;


Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation, by Sam Hamilton-Poore

Life Prayers from Around the World, Ed. Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon

Praying with the Earth. A Prayerbook for Peace, by John Philip Newell

Seven songs of Creation: Liturgies for Celebrating and Healing Earth by Normal C.Habel


We have also been grateful for The Inclusive Bible, the First Egalitarian Translation.


We are so grateful for the opportunity to grow and BE together, and to share God’s glorious Creation…day by day.

 We send peace, wisdom, and JOY to our PEC community!! Our JOY NWC is a part of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities of the PCUSA. We are located in St. Joseph, Missouri; Heartland Presbytery.


Diane Waddell is a leader of JOY NWC and a member of Earthkeepers of Heartland Presbytery.

A Way to Love the Earth: A Sabbath Practice to Nourish This Intent


by Nancy Corson Carter

 Dear Friends in Earth Care,

 Here are some notes from a retreat Ill be leading soon; it is teaching me about perhaps the foundation of the Earth-loving that we intend. As I plan A Time of Sabbath in Mid-Winter” at a nearby camp, I am convinced more & more about the absolute necessity of Sabbath practice for our Earth Caring.

 Note 1: A Call to Prayer

We who have lost our sense and our senses—our touch, our smell, our vision of who we are; we who frantically force and press all things, without rest for body or spirit, hurting our Earth and injuring ourselves: we call a halt.


We want to rest. We need to rest and allow the Earth to rest.

We need to reflect and to rediscover the mystery that lives in us, that is the ground of every unique expression of life, the source of the fascination that calls all things to communion.


We declare a Sabbath, a space of quiet: for simple being and letting be; for recovering the great, forgotten truths; for learning how to live again.


(Author unknown; from Creation Justice Ministrys Earth Day mailing)


 Note 2: Walter Brueggemanns Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW (Westminster John Knox, 2014) speaks directly to these thoughts.  The limitless pursuit of consumer goods (and the political, cultural, and military requirements that go with it) in the interest of satiation necessitates over-production and abuse of the land, and the squandering of limited supplies of oil and water. Thus, the environment is savaged by such restlessness; the ordering creation is skewed, perhaps beyond viability. It is long since forgotten that rest is the final marking of creator and creation.”


In his final chapter, 6, The Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment” (where greed is rejected) Brueggemann presents Psalm 73 as his final text: he sees it as a report on a journey from the world of commodity to the world of community.” Verse 23 is his chosen refrain from the repentant psalmist as he turns to address God:


Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”


Brueggemann warns us (89) that This is no casual hand-holding. This is a life-or-death grip that does not let go.”… “Sabbath is the regular, disciplined, visible, concrete yes to the neighborly reality of the community beloved by God.”


Note 3: as I thought of the idea of Practical Steps we might take to love the Earth,” I looked up practical” and found this list:

practical (adjective as in realistic, useful) Strongest matches. businesslike constructive down-to-earth efficient factual feasible functional possible practicable pragmatic rational reasonable sane sensible sober workable.


As I pondered whether Sabbath is “practical” for Earth keepers, I found this poem by Wendell Berry from his book SABBATHS (quoted, p.19, in a great teaching book on Sabbaths, Don Postema’s Catch Your Breath: Gods Invitation to Sabbath Rest2016, still in print):


                        The bell calls in the town

                        Where forebears cleared the shaded land

                        And brought high daylight down

                        To shine on field and trodden road.

                        I hear, but understand

                        Contrarily, and walk into the woods.

                        I leave labor and load,

                        Take up a different story.

                        I keep an inventory

                        Of wonders and uncommercial goods.


Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.