The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


When waste is trendy

Wipe the counter, throw out the cloth. Cut up a chicken and toss the cutting board. Watch a movie, then throw away the DVD (which becomes unplayable after three days). No more minutes? Throw the new one-use phone away.

As increasing numbers of consumers buy disposable products, more trash piles into landfills or produces harmful gases when burned. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says each year Americans generate more than 230 million tons of solid waste. That's about 4.5 pounds per person every day.

"We put unlimited numbers of things into nonrenewable forms that aren't biodegradable or we discard recyclable things in places where they can't biodegrade," says David Rhoads, a Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago professor who helps manage the Web site www.webofcreation.org.

"We spread our garbage across the land and air, thinking we can have unlimited waste," he adds. "We throw it in oceans or ship it to other countries. There's a scientist in Antarctica who's found traces of Styrofoam in every fish he's come across.... It's a spiritual problem based on our affluence. We think we have the right to use as much as we can afford. We assume we�ll figure something out later, but we're depleting the Earth's limited resources, destroying rainforests and losing arable land."

The ELCA social statement Caring for Creation (www.elca.org/socialstatements/environment/) challenges us to begin to "tithe environmentally" by producing 10 percent less waste, consuming 10 percent fewer nonrenewable resources like water and giving to efforts to care for the Earth. Will you meet it?


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