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Bamboo Toothbrushes and Fettuccine Stir Sticks? The Inconvenient Journey to Environmental Sustainability - Guest Post by Gary Lawson

09 Oct 2019 7:17 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

Bamboo Toothbrushes and Fettuccine Stir Sticks? 

The Inconvenient Journey to Environmental Sustainability

Rev. Gary D. Lawson, Sr.

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” 

Galatians 6:9  

I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I growled a little bit. I was about to go out the door of the camp parsonage to get my workday started. Tough commute: just saunter across the front yard, cross the street, and walk in the office. I opened my door thinking I would just ignore what crept into my peripheral vision. The light in the back room was still burning bright. Was I in a hurry? No. Should an environmentally sensitive camp director ignore an unnecessary light using up needless power? Of course not.


I let the door close behind me anyway, went down the front steps, took two steps through the front yard and hit the old guilt wall. I growled a little bit more, turned around, and did the thing a person of ecological integrity should have done in the first place – turned off that light. Faced that whole “inconvenient truth.” (Whatever happened to that Al Gore guy, anyway?)

You know, I growl often and sometimes fail to choose the “inconvenient,” Creation-friendly action. I am betting that you, reader, can relate. Would you go back? Would one unnecessary light bulb bother you? I guess I hope that it would. Overcoming those little inconveniences in my home will not save the world, but I want to think that it makes a difference if all of us hit that guilt wall occasionally and turn around in response to a sacred calling to care for God’s Creation. 

It has been a few years now since I penned an early UMCRM blog post entitled, “From the Giving Tree to Meatless Mondays: A Memoir of a Sacred Calling. At that time I shared my calling in outdoor ministry as a “caretaker of holy ground,” and the struggle to make the changes needed for Lakeshore Camp and Retreat to be a leader in caring for creation.  Just about everything we implemented in those days met with intense initial resistance, but those attitudes have mostly given way, and the “change curve” has leveled out toward normalcy. The occasional summer staffer will still try to sneak in a meat-based burger on Meatless Mondays, but they try harder to keep it to themselves. (Little do they know that we camp leaders have bigger eyes in the back of our heads than their moms do.)

So, the journey to environmental sustainability continues. A few years ago, getting ready to teach in our UMCRM Certification core training, I made a list of over 30 things we had done at Lakeshore on our journey to become better caretakers of Creation. Each change came with a bit of excitement, followed by a bit of growling and inconvenience. I do not know about you, but each little bit of new helps me feel the energy of being the tree hugger some have called me. Each little step feels like faithfulness to that sacred calling as a steward of God’s good Creation. 

Maybe, like me, you are the victim of what the marketing world has coined “The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility.” It is the law that says that our excitement will lessen the longer we experience something. The moral satisfaction of adopting a new earth-friendly practice may soon lose its shine. Soon, either we’ve mastered a discipline and the practice has become our habit, or we forget all about it until we crash into the guilt wall. Many times, we just quit those best environmental practices altogether, and the Creation is left suffering as the victim. You have experienced this “law” I mentioned. Maybe you have been out mowing the yard on a very hot day. You finish and head into the kitchen for a cold soda. As you drink it, you think that it is the best soda you ever drank. You grab another. As you cool down, this second soda tastes good also. The third soda, however, probably sits unfinished. Need another example?: Remember that first kiss? Oh my! Remember your last one? That, my friends, is the “Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility,” and if it applies to kisses, you bet it will apply to your energy in attending to all the disciplines and habits you need to maintain and care for the environment in a world that still doesn’t demand it. 

This post is meant as an encouragement to stay the course in your commitment to God’s Creation in every big and small way. Lakeshore’s latest couple of exciting commitments to Creation care at camp may go in the small category. With the ever-growing problem of plastic, we will be offering our guests a bamboo toothbrush if they arrive on site without their typical plastic one. (Fun fact: each year, if you laid all the plastic toothbrushes used by humanity end to end, you could circle the globe 3 times!) The second is replacing the little plastic stir sticks in the coffee service area with fettucine (or any other sturdy, straight pasta). I mean, come on, they are just going to stir once and throw the plastic in the trash (or, more likely, on the surface in front of the coffee pot, am I right? Growl.)


As for me and my house, we will continue to strive to stay the course while looking for new ways to do ministry with ecological integrity. I am feeling a bit of a nudge about getting rid of my K-cup coffee service in the office and my beloved Mini Moos. (Growling again, over here by the guilt wall.) You know, those constant bits of plastic waste are hard to justify. The journey to environmental sustainability is truly inconvenient. But then, I guess no one promised that following God’s mandate to care for Creation was going to be convenient. Maybe by bearing witness together to that inconvenient truth, we in Camp & Retreat Ministry can stay encouraged about the “utility” of our small, faithful steps. Like the apostle Paul, I exhort you to not grow weary in doing what is right.

The Rev. Gary Lawson has led at Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center in Eva, TN since 1992. He's served several terms on the NCRC and UMCRM Board of Directors representing the Southeastern Jurisdiction, and has often served as a workshop leader and faculty member for United Methodist Camp/Retreat Ministry Certification and training events. His deep faith includes taking seriously a call to caring for God's Creation. As we go to publication this week, Gary and his spouse Vickie are actively appreciating God's Creation on an Alaskan cruise.


  • 11 Oct 2019 7:09 AM | Kelley Price
    Can you share the list of 30 things you've done? I love the coffee stir stick idea - great for churches as well!!!
    Link  •  Reply

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