A wasteful culture
By Jessica Brodie
The stench swarmed my senses even as I tried hard not to breathe it in. Rotting garbage surrounded us—scraps of soggy cardboard, big black contractor bags filled with who knows what, and birds flying overhead looking for a meal.
“Hold your nose,” I yelled to my mom and husband as we worked quickly to unload the trash from the truck and toss it into the heap.
We were at the county landfill, and I’m quite certain it was the most disgusting place I’ve ever been.
Before me was the decaying aftermath of our everyday, discarded stuff. Unwanted clothing. Uneaten food. Waste everywhere.
And it horrified me.
What was more sickening to me than the smell, however, was realizing her landfill was not an anomaly, nor was it the only one for her state or region—there were many, many more in counties all around her, and across the nation.
I recycle, I try to use environmentally friendly products when possible, and I do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint. And yet, what I saw became an epiphany.
Think about it: more than 300 million people live in the United States, and more than 7 billon worldwide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated 262.4 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2015 (the last year of measured data available)—that’s everything from discarded furniture and appliances to wasted food and packaging. Nearly 138 million tons ended up in landfills. Individually, the EPA reported, Americans waste 4.48 pounds per person per day. (Read more of their stats, here.)
We are an imperfect people, but still—these statistics are staggering. And there I was, breathing in the evidence.
God created us to care for the earth and everything on the earth. As it says in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth’” (CEB).
We are charged with caring for and protecting this special and wonderful place our Father brought to life. And yet we do not! We often think of our own needs and wants above others’. We consume so much we have massive landfills just to contain our discarded stuff. We use the earth like it’s ours to violate.
The prophet Ezekiel addresses this, as well, noting God proclaims, “Is feeding in good pasture or drinking clear water such a trivial thing that you should trample and muddy what is left with your feet? But now my flock must feed on what your feet have trampled and drink water that your feet have muddied” (Ezekiel 34:18-19).
I’m no scientist, nor am I gifted with the kind of logistical understanding that could provide a solution. But I do know this: My eyes were opened the day I visited that landfill. My awareness of our problem has deepened.
Today (April 22, 2019) is Earth Day. I pray we can each—individually and collectively—take a minute to consider how we consume and how we impact our earth, and ask God to guide us on how to make better and more environmentally friendly choices.