This summer, remember to care for creation

By  Lisa Petsche
  • June 27, 2008

The current warm, sunny weather invites us to spend as much time as possible outdoors, taking in nature with all of our senses.

Families typically enjoy activities such as gardening, visiting local parks, going to the beach, attending sporting events, picnicking, hiking, cycling, attending outdoor concerts and festivals, stargazing and vacationing in the woods or by the water. We also enjoy the many fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables available locally, some perhaps from our own garden.

Such experiences refresh us, body and soul, and heighten our appreciation of Earth’s resources. What better time to reflect upon how we can help protect these sacred treasures God has entrusted to us, especially in light of the growing ecological crisis?

Although industry is a big offender when it comes to pollution, individuals and families also do much to harm this planet. In fact, researchers have calculated that if everyone on Earth consumed as much as the average Canadian, four additional planets would be required to produce the necessary resources and absorb the waste generated. That’s pretty sobering.

At a workshop I attended several years ago, Sr. Paula Gonzalez, an American environmentalist, urged us to think of Earth’s precious, finite resources as life support systems and practise CPR — conservation, preservation and reservation.

Critically examining our patterns of consumption — which many of us don’t give much thought to — is the first step. For instance, how much new or nearly new stuff gathers dust in our closets, garage or attic? How many cups of coffee, bottles of water and fast food meals do we buy in an average week? How much trash do we put out on garbage day, and could any of it be diverted (reused, recycled or composted)? How often do we water the lawn, wash the car or hose down the driveway? Does the air conditioner run virtually non-stop from June through September?

We can no longer deny that the way we live has a significant impact on our environment. A change in habits is in order.

Since driving motor vehicles accounts for more air pollution than any other personal activity, transportation is a good place to start. (The escalating cost of gasoline is an additional — and, sad but true, for some people necessary — motivator.) Try reducing your family’s vehicle dependence by walking, cycling, using public transit, carpooling or telecommuting more. (Bonus: you may see an improvement in your physical and mental health.) Consider, too, moving closer to where you work or working closer to where you live.

To decrease the environmental impact of your vehicle, plan ahead to combine several errands in one outing, listen to the radio for traffic reports so you can avoid congested areas, practise energy-efficient driving habits, avoid unnecessary idling (don’t use drive-through services) and follow the maintenance instructions in your owner’s manual. When buying a new vehicle, rethink extras like power windows and mirrors, sun roofs, etc., which all add to fuel consumption.

The following are some other eco-friendly suggestions:

  • repair rather than replace;
  • buy second-hand, from consignment stores, thrift shops, yard sales and classified ads;

  • sell or give away anything unwanted that’s still useful;

  • avoid buying heavily packaged goods;

  • choose products made from recycled materials;

  • provide drinks in reusable or recyclable containers, rather than throwaway packaging, for picnics, day camp and sports;

  • teach your children that littering is unacceptable and be a good role model;

  • research ways to improve energy efficiency within your home and gradually implement them;

  • get a composter and educate yourself on how to use it properly;

  • plant a tree or a garden and share responsibility for it;

  • teach your children to appreciate and respect green spaces;

  • join community groups concerned about industrial pollution or development of natural areas;

  • demand ecological accountability from businesses and eco-friendly policies from all levels of government.


Pope John Paul II once said that we all have an “obligation to contribute to the restoration of a healthy environment.” It’s part of our Christian calling to care for God’s creation, and we need to do a better job.

While whatever we choose to do to preserve our planet might seem small-scale, our actions, when combined with those of others, can and will make a difference.

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