Categories: The Parish Column

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Christianity and Resource Conservation

by Lydia Liu, Eco-Action Team

Being mindful of resource consumption is not a new concept in Christianity. In John 6:12, we read this verse: “When they had eaten their fill, He told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing maybe lost.'”

Ironically, 2000 years later, we found ourselves in a world in which (almost) everything is made to discard, and (almost) nothing is made to last, from single-use utensil and fast fashion clothes to electronics that become obsolete in merely a couple of years… the list goes on and on. The results? We are stripping resources away from the earth at an astonishing speed, habitat loss is accelerating (accompanied by the massive species extinction), and landfills just kept growing. According to an UN report published in 2015, the amount of the planet’s natural resources extracted for human use tripled between 1970 and 2010. On average each American generates more than 1700 pounds of trash a year, with a total of 239 million tons annually. Half of those go to the landfills. Globally, human beings produce more than 2.1 billion tons of trash every year, “enough to fill 822,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.”

Is recycling the solution? Unfortunately, the statistics are not very encouraging. US EPA estimated that only 8.7% of plastics consumed in US in 2018 were recycled. For textiles, the recycling rate was 14.7% (i.e., most of the clothes you donated ended up in landfill).

To live gently on earth, the ultimate course of action is to reduce and reuse: reduce our consumption, reduce the wastes we generate, and reuse what we already have or what has already been produced. Recycling comes after these steps have been taken.

Reduce and reuse; think before you buy. Do you really need that product? Could you use something you already have to substitute? Could you borrow/buy used instead of new? There are numerous resources/channels that you can tap into. Try the following:

  1. Craig’s List: the go-to place for almost everything that you can buy used and local. It is well organized and items are usually posted with pictures and approximate locations at very affordable prices. I have had good fortune finding nice furniture, bicycles, and children’s products there.
  2. eBay: a global network of pre-owned goods. I found it best for searching niche items. You can find nice clothes there too!
  3. Replay Sports and Play It Again Sports: nice selection of sporting goods, especially ice hockey, ski, and other fitness equipment that often cost much more new.
  4. NextDoor “For Sale & Free”: a neighborly marketplace where somebody’s trash can be others’ treasure. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Last but not the least: St. John’s OpShop. Find vintage jewels, dishes/plates, artwork, and much more!

Don’t forget, you can list your own stuff for sale/giveaway too! That way, when you don’t need something that is still usable you can pass it along for someone else to enjoy so that “nothing maybe be lost.”

It is not too late to sign up for the Lenten Eco-Pledge at You can also help to end environmental racism, our focus for this Lent, by making an online donation at (suggested amount $100) – choose “Eco Action Lenten Donation” in the pull-down menu. Or, you can send a check to St. Johns Norwood, 6701 Wisconsin Ave, Chevy Chase MD 20815 with “Eco Action Lenten Donation” in the memo line.  St. John’s Eco-Action Team will consolidate donations and send them to three local groups working on this important issue. Many thanks!