I had the pleasure of hearing former Vice President and Nobel Prize recipient Al Gore speak in January at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta. The presentation he delivered to his fellow Baptists was one of stewardship of the earth. Caring for God’s creation and its inhabitants was a responsibility first given to Adam. We still have that responsibility today, although the effects of our negligence are leaving behind some irreversible consequences.

President Jimmy Carter challenged all Baptists to embrace the movement to protect our environment. As we focus on how to be better stewards this Earth Day, I thought it might be helpful to share some practical ways to get started with your “Green” lifestyle.

Ten Things You Can Do Now:

1.) Purchase canvas bags for your groceries. Think you’ll never remember to use them? Write at the top of your grocery list each week “take bags.” Also, once you empty your groceries, put them back in your car. Also, if you’re just buying one or two items that you can carry, skip the bag altogether.

2.) Sign up for a curbside recycling program. In Middle Tennessee PBT Curbside Recycling (People for a Better Tomorrow) picks up recycling for $12 a month, and they do the sorting for you! They accept all seven kinds of plastic, glass, paper, cans, ink cartridges, batteries, books and many other items.

3.) Expired Drugs/Prescriptions: Do NOT flush them down the toilet, where they can end up in our water supply. Dispose of them in the trash in closed containers.

4.) Personal Care Products: Avoid using any products that contain triclosan, phthalates or parabens.

5.) Consider purchasing a hybrid vehicle. You may qualify for a tax credit if you purchase it before 2009. Your insurance company may also offer incentives such as discounts. Find out what current incentives are available by going to www.hybridcenter.org.

6.) Buy meat, dairy products and produce that are organic, hormone-free and antibiotic free. Buy coffee that is Fair Trade Certified, Certified Organic, Shade Grown, or Rainforest Alliance Certified. Organic foods are generally more expensive, so don’t bother with produce that has a protective peel (like bananas) and focus on items like apples and spinach. Try to buy locally grown produce and shop at the Farmer’s Market. The Environmental Working Group offers a printable wallet-sized guide to help you make better informed selections at the market.

7.) Run your home more efficiently. When selecting cleaning products, avoid antibacterials, aerosol cans, and fragrances. Baking soda and vinegar make excellent cleaning agents for a multitude of chores.

Replace all light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They use 66 percent less energy and last 10 times longer. Replace your antiquated computer monitor with a laptop or a LCD monitor, and don’t forget to cut them off when not in use.

Use a programmable thermostat that will allow you to set the temperature for daytime and evening comfort. It can save you as much as 20 percent if you reduce temperatures by 5-10 degrees.

Make sure your appliances all have the Energy Star certification. Instead of replacing appliances and other electronics, see if you can repair it. Go to www.repairclinic.com to find parts and do-it-yourself tips.

8.) Eliminate all those catalogs you receive. Go to www.catalogchoice.org to find and decline catalogs you no longer wish to receive or to eliminate duplicates.

9.) Recycle your clothes, furniture, computers, cell phones and musical instruments. This is the time of year when we clean out our closets. Numerous agencies have information on how and where to put these items to good use.

10.) Be kind to your yard. Cut back on fertilizers and pesticides. Start a compost pile. Plant native plants. Use organic products on your plants. Switch to manual or electric yard tools instead of gas. Go to www.arborday.org to join for $10 and receive 10 free trees.

Don’t forget the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse or Recycle. And remember, green is the new black!

Kristina Brown is minister of community ministries and communications at First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This column appeared originally in the Murfreesboro Post and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

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