As Christians, we've been called to be good stewards of what we've been given. And boy, we've been given so much as American Christians. We consume so much of the world's natural resources, and most of the time, we do it without batting an eye.
Lately, I've been trying to be more intentional in my stewardship of resources. The little changes I've made in my own lifestyle recently might not make very much of an impact, but every little bit does help. I've also noticed that these small things remind me of the many blessings in my life. Here are some practical ways I'm trying to consume less!
1. Use less electricity by...
Get used to being a little uncomfortable. Keep your home a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter. Sure, you may be a little sweaty or a little chilly. You can always bundle up or take off a layer.
Turn off the lights. I have trouble with this one. I like to come home at night to a lit up house... it feels more comforting. I've been more careful lately about turning off lights when I leave a room.
Rethink evening activities. If you're anything like me, your evenings include some electronic entertainment. Sometimes we'll even have the TV on while we're on our computers. Having even one no-screen night a week means you'll be consuming less electricity.
2. Conserve water by...
Take shorter showers. I like long luxurious showers, myself... but have you ever seen how much water is used while you're showering? It may not seem like much water, but try putting the plug in before you shower next time. It's amazing how quickly it adds (er, pools?) up. Challenge yourself to a three minute shower- it's kind of fun to race the clock.
Think about your laundry. If you keep that dial set to "Extra Large Load" even when you're just washing a couple things, you're probably wasting water. Take a couple extra seconds to adjust the size.
3. Reuse clothing by...
Thrifting and gifting. Before buying brand new things, consider going to a Goodwill or other thrift store. It doesn't make sense to consume more materials (and the energy to make them!) when you could find a used top or pair of jeans. When you're no longer using an item, give it away instead of throwing it out.
Take care of clothes we've got. Clothes that aren't taken care of simply don't last as long. Take care of the things you have so they last longer: it saves money, too. When things get torn or worn out, mend them instead of tossing them out... or repurpose if they're too far gone.
Lend and repurpose. Lend clothes! Especially when it comes to kid's clothes, sharing clothing with a friend or family member as your children grow out of items is a great idea. You can also consider repurposing. If you've got something that's stained or unusable, think of how else it could be used. Turn worn clothing items into rags, cut up torn jeans to make patches, make clothing into craft products or blankets... you get the idea.
4. Think about what you're eating by...
Consuming less protein. As the wife of a former cattle farmer, this one can be hard to enforce in my household... but there are plenty of countries in which people don't eat much protein at all. We're so blessed that a hamburger is only $3.00 at the local watering hole. I like to try to have one meal a week that's vegetarian- it's better for our health, too!
Grow your own food. Plant a garden or grow herbs in your kitchen- it'll probably save you some money, it's fun, and you're consuming something you've made yourself. And it's educational, too!
5. Be intentional with money by...
Budgeting. It's much easier to spend money on things we don't really need when we don't have a plan for our money. Budgeting gives us a plan for our money and helps us to be better stewards of it.
Tithing. Consider giving to your church or to a charity that you support. It doesn't have to be a hassle- Zeke and I tithe once a year. It puts our attitudes about money in the right place.
Prioritize the Four Walls. Track your spending for a month or two and divide your spending into categories- entertainment, food, transportation, housing, clothing, eating out, and so on. Make a pie chart (!) or figure out the percentage you spend on each category. When making a budget, there are four "walls:" the four categories in which we should spend the most money.
If you're not spending the majority of your money on Housing, Food, Transportation, and Clothing (in that order), you may want to reconsider your spending. Of course, there are exceptions (for us, Housing isn't an expense since it's included in our compensation from work), but as a general rule, if you're spending a higher percentage of money in other areas, you might be spending on "wants" instead of on "needs."
Any other ideas? How are you a good steward of what you've been blessed with?