May 25, 2023
Consumption affects God’s creation in many ways: higher levels of energy use for production and distribution, expanded extraction of natural resources, increased waste by-products, more pollution of the environment, and a lifetime impact on health. Changing our consumption behaviors can reduce energy use and pollution, while protecting ecosystems. However, making environmentally friendly purchases can be a daunting task. We know that addressing climate change is overwhelming, often to the point of paralyzing or creating a state of apathy. That’s why the Creation Care Team at First Congregational UCC in La Crosse, with the help of a Kairos grant, hosted a Community-Wide Creation Care Product Fair this Earth Day as a way to help others learn about where to find earth friendly products locally.
“Responsible consumption and production” is number twelve on the UN’s list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The International Green Purchasing Network 2022 Survey Report presents facts to show how environment-friendly products and green purchasing has and is contributing over time to reduced carbon output. Eco-emotion researcher, Sarah Jaquette Ray states that “Climate Change is not just about science, it is equally about feelings, emotions, and social justice.” (Eco-Anxiety lecture at UW-L, 9/13/23.) She has documented eco-anxiety and how it can lead to apathy or paralyze a person to take action. The Green team’s goal at First Congregational La Crosse was to provide a welcoming space where this anxiety could be reduced and to encourage participants to choose one or two doable actions that could support the Earth and ensure the health of future generations.
The Creation Care Team at First Congregational La Crosse did research over several months on where to find eco-friendly products locally. Our research taught us that single use plastic in a water bottle, for instance, takes 450-1000 years to break down. One-third of a bottle of fossil fuel is used in the production of a single water bottle! Attendees at the fair learned this as well as being given opportunities on how to lower their carbon footprint. Each family was given a mesh bag to collect free samples of a variety of eco-friendly products. Creating art from recycled materials was one “station of recreation.” Guests were welcome to sample organic snacks and linger at fellowship tables. At one booth, they could learn about creating pollinator-friendly prairies or bee “bus stops”; at another, they could have fun entering a free raffle to win additional sustainable gifts.
We observed numerous younger families – including many from the wider community – and we heard them express a shared passion to reduce climate change for their children. The following note from an attendee is representative of comments we heard throughout the event: “Last Sunday’s product fair was FANTASTIC! I hope you and the team know how much it was enjoyed and appreciated by many.” Several participants reported being grateful to receive products they had been wanting to try. When calling one guest to let her know she had won a door prize, we learned she was at a local business she had learned about from us; she and a group of other attendees were there picking up additional eco-friendly products! Another local church expressed interest in working collaboratively with First Congregational on similar endeavors in the future. This was an event that “felt like community”: one where guests lingered, engaged in conversation, and established common ground around protecting the Earth and our future on this planet.