In the prayers of the people, we ask God to give us “a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.” This week, Dani Nicholson reflects on what that prayer means in her daily life. Dani and her husband, Mark, live in St. Paul with their children, Charlie and Ellie. If you’ve been to a Church of the Redeemer potluck or soup dinner, you’ve seen Dani sorting recyclables and compostables. (“I”m not afraid to dig through the trash,” she says.) She can tell you how to turn your table scraps into garden soil and can point you to the best Facebook pages for buying and trading kids’ gear. She coordinates Church of the Redeemer’s hospitality ministry and has a zeal for connecting with people at church and in her community. (And if you’re looking to move, Dani will lobby tirelessly for St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway neighborhood.)
I love reading Jesus’s words in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
For me, one way to show my love for God is to live a reduced-waste lifestyle. Not only is it an expression of love for Him to care for His Creation, but it is also a very tangible way for me to love others. Again, think about the phrase from the Book of Common Prayer, that we would use “resources rightly in the service of others.” When I talk with friends about having a church event at a neighborhood park and the amount of compost versus trash, many have been amazed because they don’t see Christians necessarily as giving a hoot about the environment. By showing my neighbors and community my reverence for the Earth God created, I can show His love and care. I’ve also found that the small changes I’ve made to rid the clutter and stuff from my life have actually increased my capacity to love.
I didn’t set out to be a crazy “zero waste” lady. But small steps on a long journey have definitely led me down that path.
Mark and I moved to Seattle in 2004 from suburban Kansas City. Seattle made recycling really easy, and with just the two of us it wasn’t difficult to fit two weeks of trash into a 20-gallon size trash bin, especially since our recycling container was 96 gallons. This is when we turned onto the road of less waste.
Fast forward to 2011 in Saint Paul. By this time, we had two small children (in disposable diapers). We had our two little bins for paper and plastic/metal recycling and a 32-gallon garbage can. It was at this point I left my job and stayed at home with Charlie and Ellie. In doing so, I began to meet more of our neighbors and make friends.
Through social media, I’ve connected with neighbors who have become my friends and advocates, and through them, I’ve learned more about recycling and bartering/trading to keep used items out of landfills. I’ve definitely gained more reverence for creation, and I’ve built a relationships, too.
For us, one part of wasting less is gardening and composting. Last spring, Mark built raised beds in the front of our home for us to plant vegetables. We chose the boulevard (the area between the sidewalk and the street) because it’s sunny, but also because we want to have a reason for our neighbors to pop by for a chat. Front-yard gardening is a great way to meet people who live nearby!
Last spring, Ramsey County started organic composting at many of its yard waste sites, so we started composting at home and delivering it to the waste site once a week. We were quickly amazed by the decrease in our garbage just by composting food scraps and non-recyclable paper. My kids are so interested in learning what can be composted,and their enthusiasm about gardening and digging in the dirt has made me excited to help others reduce their stuff without putting it in a landfill.
I’d be happy to chat about recycling or composting or point you to resources that can help. These websites are a good place to start!