Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Fist Class Advice
distributed 9/23/11 - ©2011

This week's issue of Eco-Justice Notes is underwritten by Gladys Gifford, a Presbyterian leader and public transit advocate in Buffalo, New York. Her generous support helps make this publication possible.

I found some helpful suggestions for good environmental practices through a surprising source -- a set of United States postage stamps. The 16 "Go Green" stamps provide first class advice, both because that's the sort of postage you get, and because they offer genuinely meaningful guidance.

The boldly colored title stamp in the set reads: "GO GREEN -- reduce our environmental footprint usa, step by step". The other 15 stamps, with clever graphics by San Francisco artist Eli Noyes, list "simple things we each can do every day":

  1. Buy local produce, reuse bags
  2. Fix water leaks
  3. Share rides
  4. Turn off lights not in use
  5. Choose to walk
  6. Compost
  7. Let nature do the work (with an image of laundry on a clothesline)
  8. Recycle more
  9. Ride a bike
  10. Plant trees
  11. Insulate the home
  12. Use public transportation (see the top of this page for related information about the person underwriting today's Notes!)
  13. Use efficient light bulbs
  14. Adjust the thermostat
  15. Maintain tire pressure

On the back side of the sheet of stamps, there is a 5 paragraph article that elaborates on the "Go Green" theme. It includes reassuring statements like this: "Is it enough to make a difference? Absolutely. Recycling just one aluminum can reduces waste -- and saves enough energy to run a computer for three hours." We also get to learn that the Postal Service meets the rigorous conservation criteria for Cradle to Cradle Certification.

It is great to see the USPS being proactive with this sort of information.

Their 15 helpful tips -- which don't include advice about getting rid of junk mail and catalogues -- all fall into the category that Eco-Justice Ministries calls "doing the basics." These are behaviors which make good practical sense, don't involve unusual effort, and are generally seen as part of being a responsible member of the community.

None of the suggested activities will make your neighbors think that you're a strange eco-freak. (Except, perhaps, that one about hanging your laundry out to dry. Some communities still consider a clothesline to be deeply offensive.) Turning off lights, reusing bags and weather stripping windows are all pretty routine. The stamps are not advocating that we do anything bizarre or exceptional. They're just urging us to get up to normal community standards.

Many churches put similar lists of good environmental practices in their newsletters. Printing these hints is a good reminder to any church members who are not doing their part, and it is one public indicator that the congregation is aware of our need to be environmentally responsible. (A strategic tip: your suggestions will be far more effective if you link them to church folk who are actually doing it. "Sue Thompson has replaced almost every light bulb in her house with efficient CFLs.")

These "doing the basic sort" of practices are good, important and necessary in shifting our society toward a more sustainable style. It is essential that we do these sorts of things, and that we keep updating the list of basic practices as new technologies become common and as local communities add services like expanded recycling.

But -- you knew I was going to do that, didn't you? -- "the basics" are not enough. Our collective environmental footprint is so far beyond sustainable that a few personal choices are nowhere near sufficient. They are a necessary part of the mix, but we also need institutional and systemic changes, and even a shift in our society's core values and expectations.

Eco-Justice Ministries urges churches to go far beyond the basics in their practices and programming. We talk about "leadership and activism", which includes big investments like solar panels and high-efficiency heating systems, ongoing programs that bring eco-justice themes into the church's worship and education, and even getting involved in the messy business of political advocacy. Eco-Justice Ministries places the most emphasis on "transformational ministry" that draws deeply on our faith to re-connect us with God's creation, to critique the consumer society, and to claim a bold new notion of the good life that finds joy in justice and sustainability.

The Eco-Justice Ministries website has an extensive section that describes our three-part framework of "the basics", "leadership & action" and "transformation." Please contact us with your questions, comments and stories about how these approaches work in your congregation.

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The "Go Green" stamps are "forever" postage, which means that they'll still work when the postage rates go up. Buy a bunch of them as an ongoing reminder to yourself, and to the people who receive your letters. A "snail-mail" card with a stamp is more personal than an email, and your postage will do a little bit to keep the impoverished USPS solvent.

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Do you want to learn more about energy-saving practices for your church in both the "basics" and "leadership" categories? Our close colleagues at GreenFaith -- in partnership with the EPA's Energy Star for Congregations program -- are offering a three-part series of Energy Stewardship webinars on Monday evenings in October. Visit the program's web page to learn more and register for the webinars.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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