We Are What We Eat – Part 2

During April, the COMPASS blog is sharing perspectives about environmental stewardship and being eco-friendly on a budget. Today we welcome back regular contributor Dori Zerbe Cornelsen who reflects about how “We are what we eat.”

It is early spring where I live on the Canadian prairies.  There are just a few crocuses blooming in my otherwise still barren garden.  It’s the time of year when I begin to yearn for colour after a long white winter.

Produce from Metanoia Farmers

Produce from Metanoia Farmers

I also yearn for fresh food greens and veggies, grown locally.  One of the ways we have decided to enjoy fresh local produce in the summer is by participating in a Community Shared Agriculture project called Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative.  We buy a half share for the two of us and get to eat whatever the land is producing that week, by the work of hands of farmers we know, from sometime in June into September.

I like that faith is part of the Metanoia Farmers’ motivation.  Here is a description:

“The Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative is a group of CMU (Canadian Mennonite University) students and alumni, emerging as farmers motivated by our faith, who use sustainable practices to provide food to urban eaters.  We grow a wide variety of only heirloom vegetables and are developing our seed saving skills to continue to be able to grow these vegetables…The Metanoia Farmers operate as a workers cooperative, practicing consensus decision-making models.  We hope to foster meaningful dialogue while joyfully stewarding God’s gift of the land.”

dori-zerbe-cornelson-220x220I can almost taste the kale now…

About the AuthorDori Zerbe Cornelsen works with Mennonite Foundation of Canada encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Image Credit: Produce from Metanoia Farmers

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

We Are What We Eat – Part 1

During April, the COMPASS blog is sharing perspectives about environmental stewardship and being eco-friendly on a budget. This week we consider how our decisions about food purchases impact environmental stewardship. Today we learn a little about the sustainable agriculture movement. Later this week we will welcome back regular contributor Dori Zerbe Cornelsen who reflects about how “We are what we eat.”

In a capitalistic society, mass-production of everything—including food—can be thought of as a good thing. New technologies, chemicals, and government policies have reduced the number of farmers and increased the size of farms. The number of farms in Canada decreased by more than 10% between 2006 and 2011. In the US, the number of farms decreased 3% between 2007 and 2012.

However, more attention is being paid to the concerns of this type of farming: topsoil depletion, economic effects of the decline of the family farm, poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, and increasing costs of production. These efforts can be defined as sustainable agriculture.

The University of California-Davis’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute names stewardship of both natural and human resources as important in sustainable agriculture. The Institute says that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What a box of produce from your local CSA might contain

What a box of produce from your local CSA might contain

Participating in community-supported agriculture (CSA) can be sustainable and budget-friendly. You can buy a membership or subscription from a local farmer and receive produce in season in return. You can learn more about CSAs and search for one near you at www.localharvest.org/csa.

As we attempt to follow Christ’s example, we know that how we practice Christian stewardship is a measure of our faith’s authenticity: our commitment to unity and community, our concern for the needy, and our witness in the world.

Paying attention to how we use what God has given and entrusted us—including how we spend our food dollars—is part of our stewardship footprint.

Image Credit: CSA Box

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Eco-Friendly on a Budget

As the calendar turns to April, our focus turns to environmental stewardship. Later this month, on Friday April 22nd, the World will observe Earth Day 2016. In observance, the COMPASS blog will feature perspectives all about being environmentally friendly on a budget and our stewardship of the Earth.

eco friendlyThe first post in this series will take up the idea that “We Are What We Eat.” In addition to this, other reflections will include thoughts pertaining to: the stewardship of recycling; sustainability; community agriculture; the work of restoring creation; as well as water stewardship. If you would like to share a post or reflection within this theme, please let me know as we are always looking for more perspectives to share as part of COMPASS and our shared conversation about faith and finances.

To begin our conversation, consider these questions:

  • Do you think about where the food you eat comes from?
  • Do you actively recycle in your home and office?
  • Do you produce more things that go into recycling each week, or the garbage?
  • Do you leave lights on in rooms that you are not seated in? How about water running while you are brushing your teeth?
  • How might the answers to these questions be informed by your faith?

A Personal Confession

In asking these questions, I have to confess that I often come up a bit short. I don’t always eat the healthiest diet, nor always look for the most sustainable source of food. I do occasionally leave lights on in rooms that I am not in, and from time to time catch myself leaving the water running while no longer actively using the faucet. Even with the ability to recycle, I still think my wife Allison and I produce more garbage than recycling.

I work hard to recycle both at home and in the office, and this is made easier by living in neighborhoods and cities where recycling is a priority. However, I have come to learn through traveling, that this is not always the case across the country and world in all communities.

The way we care for our environment matters to me, because I believe that we are called to be stewards of creation. In Genesis we are reminded that God has created all, and invites us to participate with God in caring for it and working with it. When we lose sight of this, when we don’t show care for it, we are all impacted. Not only does it negatively impact the quality of our planet, it shows disrespect for the beauty that God has created for us to live and work in.

Environmental Stewardship on a Budget

How we live faithfully in this way on a budget sometimes may mean a bit more of a cost. Choosing to eat healthier may not always be the cheaper option. Recycling may not always be more budget friendly than garbage. But at least, utility costs are usually positively impacted when you turn the lights off as well as the faucet off. And, if you don’t mind it in the summer, you can turn the temperature up on your thermostat to save energy during the day, as well as down a bit during the winter to cut down on heating costs.

As we take up these questions this month, I invite you to share your perspective, and I look forward to the conversation together.

timothy headshotAbout the Author: Timothy Siburg is the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and focuses especially on the center’s COMPASS initiative focused on creating conversations and resources for faith and finances among younger Adults and Millennials. Timothy also currently serves as a congregational mission developer, among a few other roles and blogs regularly on his own blog as well.

Image Credit: Eco Friendly

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

One For the Road

During June, COMPASS has shared ideas, experiences and stories about how to have fun on a summer budget. Today’s post was adapted from a past edition of Simple Living, a monthly column by Amanda Garcia and published in the Messenger magazine, the denominational magazine for the Church of the Brethren. 

On the Road

On the Road

When I was a little kid and our family minivan trekked from the Midwest to Gramma’s house in Florida, there was no greater road trip treat than chicken nuggets and orange soda. When I got older, it was a cold, chocolaty, coffee beverage with whipped cream. But these days, my idea of a “treat” while traveling looks more like a salad that’s not in a plastic box.

Fresh, healthful food can be a challenge to come by on the road, which makes eating well a challenge. Cost is another factor—when French fries cost 50 cents and an apple costs 3 dollars in an airport terminal, it can be difficult to weigh your choices. Wisely spending money and making nutritious food choices are two very different stewardship practices that need to be considered together while traveling.

In the name of simplicity, savings, and wellness, I’ve experimented with travel-friendly foods that I thought I’d pass along. If you have suggestions to add to this list, please share!

Happy trails.

  1. While driving, stop at roadside farm stands whenever possible (especially when they have homemade apple butter).
  2. Instant oatmeal packets require very little space in suitcases and make a quick, cheap, and nutritious breakfast almost anywhere (including hotels with in-room coffee makers).
  3. Hardboiled eggs are a great way to add protein to a meal on the run, and are especially easy to eat if they are peeled ahead of time.
  4. Slices of carrots, celery, and broccoli are tasty replacements for chips alongside a store-bought sandwich. They also don’t require refrigeration for several hours.
  5. Apples, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (pineapple, apricots, golden raisins, cranberries, bananas) are full of fiber and all natural sugars, and also require no refrigeration.
  6. Whole grain crackers travel well in a small box or bag and go perfectly with your apple butter.
  7. Almond butter and honey will also top your crackers well, and are good for stirring into oatmeal—just be sure to pack them in your checked luggage if you’re flying.
  8. Dry cereal and granola are filling and great for snacking, as well as breakfast.
  9. It’s always important to drink lots of water while traveling, so if you’re flying, pack an empty bottle and fill it with water after you get through security.
  10. If you’re traveling with a cooler, freeze bottles of water or juice for an efficient way to keep food cold instead of ice. When the liquid melts, drink it!

Amanda GarciaAbout the Author: Amanda Garcia is an Ecumenical Stewardship Center board member and a freelance writer and designer outside of Chicago. Her undergraduate degree is in Communications and Worship Arts, and she is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, where her interests in strategic planning, dynamic leadership, and good financial practices merge with her background and expertise in communications. Amanda and her husband, Dan, are avid gardeners and prioritize healthful cooking and seasonal eating all year long. They are active members of Zion Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Elgin, IL.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credit: On the Road

Vocationally, we all are earth stewards (even if we don’t have a “green job”)

During the month of April, the COMPASS blog is providing space for questions and reflections related to Earth Day and creation care. Today it is my great pleasure to introduce you to guest blogger Carl Samuelson, an energy efficiency consultant in Minnesota. Carl shares some great thoughts about how he believes “we are all earth stewards.” 

Mary Oliver

I’ve been known to tell college students in informational interviews that we don’t need any more non-profit environmental advocates. What we do need is more baristas who are effective advocates for greening their company—and more software engineers and accountants and students and police officers and x-ray technicians, all who take on that role, as well.  We need more people in every career, who consider it their responsibility, their mission, their calling to impact environmental change in their organization.

In our economy we specialize, so that I don’t need to be good at fixing my car or sewing clothes.  Likewise, we would like to think that we can have a select group of people, the full-time environmental advocates, specialize in caring for the earth. The rest of us can support them when they come to our door asking for money and they’ll take care of the rest. I’m thankful that there are full-time environmental advocates, they can pay extra attention to the politics, research new technologies, develop programs, and equip us with resources – but stewardship of the earth is not the task we can outsource, it is each of our vocation.

LED Lights in the Hotel Lobby

LED Lights in the Hotel Lobby

I recently worked with a hotel to help them reduce their energy use.  This hotel planned to do a lighting upgrade. A maintenance staff member was telling me how excited he was to be replacing the lighting in the pool area with LED lights.  I asked why, assuming he was going to tell me something about cutting down his time changing lights, but instead he looked at me like I was daft and said, “It’s just the right thing to do, you know.”  Amid so much talk of paybacks and improved light quality and good business decisions, I had forgotten that doing this lighting upgrade brought meaning to this hotel employee’s job.  It gave him a deeper sense of vocation.

Environmentalism is often viewed more as an avocation than a vocation.  But we need to set the bar higher than “minor hobby” and strive for “something deserving of practice and dedication”. For me, I think this role of earth steward needs to rise to the level of identify.  Core to our existence is our responsibility to care for creation.  It’s another way of saying love the neighbor.

We all need a kick in the pants, sometimes, to keep doing more with our “one wild and precious life.”  We settle and stop taking on new lifestyle changes, or advocating politically, or bringing up the environment at work or over beers with friends.  Refocusing on vocation can help – this is the work of your life, what impact will you have?  Whether you work for a large company, a small non-profit, the government, or you are looking for work – how can you speak truth about caring for the earth in your context.  How can you make Earth Steward your vocation without changing fields? The impact might be what we are called to do.

Carl bio picAbout the Author: Carl Samuelson was pretty sure he was done with church, but concepts of environmental stewardship, radical hospitality, deep community, and the counter-cultural nature of God’s abundance have caused him to put anchor down at the corner of Saint Clair and Prior in Saint Paul, MN (Pilgrim Lutheran Church). He works as an energy efficiency consultant, helping businesses reduce their energy use, and is in continual amazement that that really is his job.

Image Credit: Wild and Precious Life

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook, and ESC on Twitter.

Happy Earth Day!

During the month of April, the COMPASS blog is providing space for questions and reflections related to Earth Day and creation care.

earthdayapril22Happy Earth Day!

Previously on the blog we began to share some reflections about environmental stewardship, creation care and the way we care for the Earth. As today is the actual day that we celebrate Earth Day, here are 9 questions for reflection that I am using today, but perhaps you too might find useful:

1.) How do I actively find ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle?” For example, in thinking just about paper products, how many napkins do I use when I eat a meal? How many paper towels do I use when using a public restroom? Do I use both sides of paper before recycling it?

2.) How much water do I consume each day for daily chores and cleanliness? How much of it is used outside? In what ways might I reduce my water usage?

3.) In what ways might I be able to reduce my carbon foot print through driving less or using mass transit more intentionally?

4.) How might my asking questions and inviting conversation about the care of the Earth make an impact in a positive way?

5.) What does it really mean when we are reminded that all we have has really been entrusted to us by God? What are the implications of this on our daily life?

6.) In what ways might I be able to help clean and steward the natural habitats around me by volunteering or participating with local efforts to restore streams and watersheds?

7.) How can I make a positive impact in my own community in creating for the earth?

8.) In my travels and experiences, what is the most unique or ingenious way I have seen by someone of creatively stewarding natural resources?

9.) When thinking about the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth,” what images come to mind as you listen to the lyrics or sing them?

Oh, and for a bonus question, how might God be calling or leading me to respond to the needs of creation?

What do you think of these questions? How are you observing Earth Day today or this week?

Image Credit: Earth Day

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

I Consume

COMPASS is pleased to introduce today’s guest blogger, David Radcliff. David is director of New Community Project (NCP), a faith-based nonprofit organization with a big goal: to change the world. He lives near Phoenix, AZ; has a bicycle instead of a car; leads NCP Learning Tours to Asia, Africa, the Amazon and Arctic; and is a regular speaker in schools, colleges and churches across the country.

Fatima  (D. Radcliff photo)

My friend Fatima (D. Radcliff photo)

“I consume, therefore I am”—to me, that sounds pretty much like the identity statement of our North American society. The success of our entire economy is graded not on whether no child in our country goes to bed hungry, whether our over-consumption is hurting the environment, or whether those around the world who contribute to our economy are paid a living wage. Instead it seems that our economy is graded on whether we spend enough money to keep the stock market rising. To ensure this, advertisers spend $1000 a year on each one of us to remind us that we’re not quite good enough—but could be with one more purchase. And we ourselves seem to buy into (note the terminology!) the me/more/now mantra of our culture, our sense of self-worth hinging on whether we have the latest, fastest, and coolest thing and version of it as well.

So there’s a lot to think about anytime we get the urge to spend. Here’s some of what goes through my mind:

Perhaps like me, you have friends in far places—Asia, Africa, Central America. How do my consumer choices compare to theirs or perhaps directly impact them? As a coffee picker near her home in Alegria, El Salvador, my friend Fatima (pictured above) tries to pick 100 pounds of the small red beans per day—for which she is paid $3-5. Retail price of that much java back in the USA? As much as $42,000. “How is this job?” I asked, “Is it adequate for you and your family? “No,” she said, getting a grim look of resignation on her face I’ve seen on the faces of women around the world. “I can barely feed my children and keep them in school, but what choice do I have?”

For what most North Americans spend eating out in a week—around $30—a girl in South Sudan could go to school for 30 weeks. In South Sudan, 99 percent of girls don’t even finish high school. And when I read the “Made In” label on a clothing item, I think of my friends who are former sweatshop workers in El Salvador. “Many of the women sweatshop workers suffer dehydration,” they told me. Why? “Drinking fluids might mean a restroom break—which would put them behind on the production line—which could get them fired.” Around the world, these workers earn 15-60 cents an hour, while the CEOs of the clothing companies make $11,000-17,000 an hour.

 (D. Radcliff photo)

(D. Radcliff photo)

Also, everything we consume has a hidden environmental price tag, here in North America and around the globe. The spruce trees in the Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah (pictured at left) have been destroyed by bark beetles, which are decimating forests around the world. Climate change has created the perfect storm: warmer winters mean record numbers of beetle larva survive the winter, while drought conditions weaken the trees. The American Pika used to live here—they had to move to higher elevations. With a thick fur and internal thermostat, when temperatures rise above 78 degrees, these small creatures tend to “explode,” according to a park ranger.

It takes 1400 gallons of water to produce a typical fast food meal (mostly for the meat) and a little more than that to grow the cotton for a single pair of jeans. Palm oil is in everything from peanut butter to cosmetics—most of it is produced on land that was formerly rainforest. Cell phones? We’ll toss 135 million of them this year. On the front end, most phones contain conflict minerals from war zones; on the back end, our electronics and their hazardous components are dissembled in back alleys in the Poor World by people without protective gear. Climate change threatens life as we know it, yet every day we all add more fuel to the fire by how we travel, what we eat, where we live and what we buy. All of these choices, intentional or unintentional have consequences and impacts.

South Sudan women given a chance to succeed. (D. Radcliff photo)

South Sudan women given a chance to succeed. (D. Radcliff photo)

We can’t stop being consumers, but we can resist being sucked into this consumer vortex with all its repercussions for planet and people. It helps if we have a community—virtual or actual—who shares our values. It helps if we’ve had up-close-and-personal experiences of our world and its people to help us see what’s at stake. And it helps if we really believe the song we learned as kids, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Since consumerism is based in some degree of self-loathing—we lack something our society tells us we need, so we buy.

We’re more than that, and for the sake of people, planet and soul, we need to figure this out—and fast.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.