August – time for school shopping, time for ordering 2019 calendars. This means it’s a great time to green up the school backpack and the home and business offices for everyone! You’ll be a better United Methodist when you do!
How’s that? Well, there’s a lot you can learn online about “What We Believe” in the global United Methodist Church. In this case, the United Methodist Church’s Social Principle on The Natural World states, “[L]et us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.” God calls us to be honest and faithful with all the resources we are given –- and that includes the natural world. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). We believe it, and we can do it, even as we shop for the small and everyday items that we may take for granted.
What’s the goal? Make your money talk and work for the Earth. Buy products that are made with a large quantity of recycled content and that can be recycled further. This will help reduce the size of landfill trash, where huge and harmful quantities of carbon and methane gases are produced and contribute to global warming. Buy products made of bamboo – it gobbles carbon gas at a phenomenal rate! Buy products that contain zero or at least fewer harsh chemicals that can end up in our water supplies or even our food supplies by way of the water and the soil.
What’s the strategy? Ideal practice: make your shopping list and first go "computer window-shopping" to find the most Earth-friendly products. Office Depot has a nice GreenerOffice webpage showcasing thousands of recycled-content or otherwise environmentally-friendly items, including 3-ring binders, Post-It notes, report covers, printer paper, recyclable ink cartridges, and organic coffee. But don’t search online for “green office” there or at Staples unless you want everything in the color green! Instead, try the “environmental” column on the Staples website, and search terms beginning with “eco.” Walmart online has more listings for “recycled” products, including cleaning and paper products that teachers will have on their wish lists. If you want professional guidance on home and office products, check out the expertise in the Environmental Working Group consumer guide. For tips on product usage and choosing between options (rechargeable or long-life batteries? gas or electric appliances?), you might want to Ask Mr. Green, or scroll through his clever Sierra Magazine column.
Fallback strategy. No time for online research? Read packaging and labels carefully as you shop. Look for items with (ideally) “100% recycled” content and a high percentage of “post-consumer” recycled content. Personally, I still feel secure with a paper calendar as well as the smart-phone version, and I’m quite fond of my At-A-Glance brand recycled calendar that’s available at stores and online. The “recycled” symbol on the front cover is easy to spot on the store’s shelves, and it gives me a smile.
If a paper product is not available with recycled content, try to find one with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol, indicating that it’s made from sustainably resourced forests. Even greeting cards have notes on the back about sustainably sourced content. Other types of products have similar “sustainably resourced” labels as well. Cleaning products should be, at a minimum, without: sodium laurel/laureth sulfate (SLS), parabens, phthalates, butylene glycol, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and fragrance that is not labeled “natural fragrance.” They should also be free of animal testing. All products should have minimal packaging that is easily recycled and labeled as such.
What if you’re stumped? Your money talks, and so do you. Ask a store clerk for help, if necessary by searching the store’s computer. My recent Office Depot visit showed that some, but not all, of their staff were aware of the GreenerOffice products and computer inventory. If you have time, talk to a store manager and remind him or her that you have the option to shop online from other companies if the store doesn’t stock environmentally-friendly products. And be sure to thank them for selling whatever “green” products they do stock!
What’s the next step? Don’t forget to recycle packaging, containers, and products. Encourage your school and your offices and office buildings to buy Earth-friendly products and to recycle.
Reducing your carbon footprint by making “green” purchases helps keep you in harmony with the three simple principles taught by John Wesley himself, the founder of Methodism. We can be closer to God, he said, “First, By doing no harm,… Secondly, By doing good,… and Thirdly, By attending upon all the ordinances of God.” Read more about Wesley’s teachings here, and keep thinking of our God-given Earth as you shop “green” this fall!
Betty Bentley Watson
Glenn Environmental Committee