In 2009, I did volunteer work in the Solomon Islands, where my fellow volunteers and I organized several cleanup projects and educated the people of the islands about environmentally responsible living. I have to be honest: It seemed a little crazy to me. The Solomon Islands are a small group of tropical islands in the South Pacific with crystal-clear waters, lush forests, and plenty of plant and animal life readily available to sustain its human population. Did they really need to be hearing this? Most of the native islanders I talked to didn’t even understand the concept of homelessness or starvation—that’s how bountiful the fruits on the islands were.
When I took a closer look, though, I saw that plastic goods and other manufactured products were still relatively new to the area, and there was not a very good waste system in place. I picked up garbage mostly consisting of cans, wrappers and plastic bags, and slowly began to notice that with each piece picked up, there was always another just underneath it. I came to the startling realization that this island paradise was beginning to be buried beneath its own garbage. The ground (particularly the roads) was made of layers of plastic with a bit of dirt in between.
It was then that I understood why educating people on environmental care was so important. With modern living, most of us have been living very “disposably.” Almost everything we own we don’t hold onto for very long. According to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce, every American produces an average of almost 5 pounds of waste a day. And just think, every single piece of packaging we touch ends up on the ground or in the ocean—putting much of our beautiful planet in danger of becoming a dump yard.
Mother Moon, Father Moon’s wife, recently said, “The world created by God is characterized by harmony, balance, cooperation and sustainability. The world we live in, however, has been widely abused and mismanaged. Many fear that the declining quality of air and water, coupled with climate change, may lead to catastrophic disasters. Such degradation of the environment is a prime example of humanity’s separation from God. Virtually every square inch of the earth is owned by some individual, corporate entity, or government. However, are there ‘True Owners’ who are dedicated to proper care of the natural environment?” (March 1, 2015)
Father Moon taught this concept of true ownership, explaining that God created the planet Earth to be the home of human beings, His children. As part of our path to maturity, we are meant to take responsibility over it, care for it, and eventually be the true owners of creation. Imagine living in a home full of trash. Eventually it will begin to deteriorate—walls will become damaged, the air will become difficult to breathe, and the inhabitants will find it difficult to even move or stay healthy. What would it be like if Earth were to end up filled with waste? Perhaps, if we treat the environment more responsibly, we won’t have to find out.
Here are some things we all can do to help keep our world a little cleaner:
Buy common cooking items in bulk through a dry-goods store (or grocery store with a dry-goods section). Those big bins of flour, coffee and dried fruits mean that less packaging was used to get them to you! Take it a step further by bringing your own containers, and don’t forget your reusable shopping bags!
Buy food in the largest container possible: a big chocolate bar vs. individually wrapped “fun-sized” candies, ground coffee vs. Keurig pods, a big bag of chips vs. “snack-sized” bags. Each little wrapper equals more waste in the environment.
Use a travel mug instead of the paper or foam cups at the store. Most cafes will fill your personal mug for a discounted price, too!
Pack your lunch in reusable containers instead of disposable plastic bags. The same goes for storage at home. Or, if you prefer the baggies, wash and reuse them once you’re done.
“Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose”—there are lots of ideas out there on how to repurpose those old jars, boxes and furniture into very stylish storage containers.
Purchase quality items. Most appliances, clothing and shoes can be bought very cheaply these days, but how long will they last? Make the investment in high-quality, easy to clean, and durable items. They are more expensive initially, but you might save more in the long run from having to purchase fewer replacements. Also it’s better for the environment AND it saves you extra trips to the store.
If you are getting rid of some things—donate!
Eat in—have you ever counted the number of paper or plastic items you receive when you get takeout? Cook at home or eat at a restaurant that uses real, re-usable dishes.