In anticipation of the holiday season, I’m considering one of those thirty-day diets. So far, I’ve already lost fifteen days!
But seriously, friends, for many, the final months on the calendar are marked by an excessive amount of consumption and consumerism. Bathroom scales and credit-card statements remind us of our overindulgences. We don’t set out to eat so much food at Thanksgiving or to spend so much at Christmas, but two basic realities are partly to blame for these patterns: We’re creatures of habit and holiday traditions are hard to break. Yet, Pope Francis writes, “An awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits….We are faced with an educational challenge” (On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’], 209).
According to studies by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Ohio State University, we waste more than a third of our food annually because, in general, we don’t pursue alternatives and because we can afford to waste (“Americans waste food because we’re confused—and because we can” by Jennifer McClellan, USA Today, May 30, 2017). ReFed, a nonprofit agency, aims to shift our mindset and actions through consumer-education campaigns on waste reduction. Last year, they launched a data base to track hundreds of organizations that are making a difference (Refed.com).
What’s the strongest motivator for reducing waste? The prospect of saving money was the determining factor found in the Johns Hopkins study, although less than half of respondents in the Ohio State research considered monetary savings to be a major impetus. We Christians have another strong motivator in the Scriptures!
After Jesus had multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed the five thousand, “he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.’ So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat” (John 6:12–13). The hungry crowd was more than satiated, even after they set aside an allotted portion for those who had served them. Typically, diners at Jewish feasts were responsible for leaving these fragments—called the Peah—for the servants.
We too have a responsibility to share what God has given us. In addition, “Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing [unnecessary] water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity, which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity” (LS 211).
In sharing and recycling, we not only dignify ourselves, we give glory to God who dignified us by sending his Son. This season, then, consider the gifts that keep on giving!