June 5 is World Environment Day with the theme, “Reduce Your Footprint.” While heard several times before, this phrase continues to challenge individuals to slow down and reflect upon the fact that every choice matters. Last month, the global community was alerted to the fact that the concentration of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere rose to 400 parts of carbon dioxide per million parts of air (ppm) for the first time in millions of years. 

  • What do individuals and communities do with this information? 
  • Where have we seen this number acknowledged and what actions have been made as a result?
Many individuals and communities around the world know well the consequences of this rising number. Less water and more droughts, storms being pulled together in ways that would describe carbon dioxide had a role to play, rising waters, and arctic sea ice at the lowest level seen yet. While these do not describe all consequences, they are becoming more catastrophic. As Rose Marie Berger in For God So Loved the World implies, we use multiple resources and move heaven and Earth to make some effort at the tragedy of terrorism, how might we gather the same ambition with regard to the tragedy of too much carbon dioxide within the air? Governments are not solely responsible as this crisis demands the responsibility of EVERYONE.

Another way to promote sustainability is to reduce food waste and loss. According to the World Environment Program statistics, approximately 1.3 billion tons or 1/3 of all food produced ends up spoiling, largely due to transportation and harvesting practices. Additionally, individuals in the global community are seeing food prices at a forty year high. In developed countries, almost half of the discarded food would feed Sub-Saharan Africa. Where can individuals do to reduce this waste of food? One’s ancestors and certainly traditional cultures have much to teach today’s individuals about preserving and conserving food.

Pope John Paul II stated in his 1990 World Day of Peace address, “education in ecological responsibility” is needed to address the ecological crisis. This “entails a genuine conversion in ways of thought and behavior.” He also states that, “Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at lifestyle.” While not speaking directly the words of, “reduce your footprint,” calls Catholics to become active! How might this be done?

Potential actions can include:

  • Share infrequently used tools and garden supplies. Start a community tool shed.
  • Hold a clothes swap at work, at your house of worship or on your street.
  • Visit someone instead of the shopping plaza/market.
  • Exchange music, art, or cooking lessons.
  • Start a skills exchange in your community.
  • Educate your local community with a book read or other activity.
  • Reduce number of lights when necessary.
  • Package items for transport in wadded up newspaper rather than plastic.
  • Use a clothes line when weather allows.
  • Arrange a cooking day among friends where you all get together and prepare food in bulk.
  • Cook everything in one pot as often as possible.
  • Use pedal-a-watt to make your own electricity for computers, lights & fans & get healthy.
  • Open windows, use the basement and find a shade tree when it gets hot.
  • Walk or ride a bike when possible.
  • Make your own cleaning products from Earth friendly products.
  • Get statements and bills electronically.
  • Don’t purchase disposables, find an original and reuse.
  • Use imagination to determine how an item can be reused.
  • What other actions help reduce our footprint and share?
Since every choice matters, individuals and organizations must consider their role in the choices they make that impact our environment. Creative actions at the individual and communal level occur when creative people come together. Reflecting upon every choice invites individuals to slow down and reflect upon what is the best for the common good of the environment and creation. Individuals and organizations who choose options with the least impact (i.e. reducing their footprint) will over time, form habits that bring all Earth and those that depend on Earth for survival into greater peace. 
Reflections/Actions
  • A prayer service for World Environment Day from the Justice Peace Integrity of Creation ishere 
  • Reflect upon the words of Pope John Paul II, what aspect of the current lifestyle lived still calls out for reducing the footprint?
  • How am I noticing the impact of greater carbon dioxide in the air as impacting those in my community?
  • How does the call to live simply so that others may simply live invite greater reduction of footprint? 
  • What impact does this have on sisters and brothers around the world?
  • World Environment Day activities for students are here and here.
  • The World Environment Day website has many resources.
  • Measure your human demand on nature or ecological footprint and learn even more ways to reduce here.
  • Methods of preservation from your own culture are located here
  • Other green tips for living are here and here.
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