Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Earth Charter, Principle 7 by Sister Lin Neil, CSJ

Adopt patterns of production, consumption and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights and community well-being

For the last eight months, we have been reflecting on the principles of the Earth Charter as a way to Abrush up@ on that to which the Charter is calling us. This month I would like to spend some time reflecting on the seventh principle: AAdopt patterns of production, consumption and reproduction that safeguard Earth=s regenerative capacities, human rights and community well-being.@ This principle calls us to the following familiar and haunting challenges:


!       Reduce, reuse and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems.

!       Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy.

!       Enable consumers to identify products that meet the highest social and environmental standards.

!       Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.


This is a daunting list! However, when we take a close look at each item we see that these are efforts of which we are already aware and/or on which we are working. The tasks aren=t new. This is one reason I titled this article, Once is not enough. We need to keep returning to these challenges and ask ourselves, AHow am I doing with this step and could I do a bit more?@ For example, with the call to reduce, reuse and recycle, are there items from which I could refrain from buying? Are there creative ways that I could reuse items? Do I make every effort to recycle? This recycling is very critical when it comes to e-waste or electronic waste. Technological gadgets such as phones, computers, CD players and televisions contain chemicals and metals that are toxic and need to be recycled. Metals such as gold and cooper that are found in these devices can be reused. Once is not enough!

Avoiding disposable items is a great way to reduce trash! Paper towels and napkins may be replaced with cloth. Now there are so many disposable cleaning products, dusters, bowl cleaners, swiffers, but good old-fashion rags work just as well. Fabric grocery bags save on using plastic ones. These bags may be left in the trunk of the car where they=d be available when we go to the store. Trying to refrain from using throw away cups and dishes is important. Once is not enough! This is a great mantra for helping Earth!

As an astute consumer, do I look for items that use less packaging? Can I make a phone call to the consumer-information number that is on the package if I like the product but dislike all the plastic in which it is wrapped? Recently at Borders, I asked why the store uses hard plastic cards for gift cards. They=re swiped and discarded. Once is not enough!


      The amount of trash that we Americans generate is staggeringC230 million tons a year! In fact, our total annual waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the Earth six times and reach halfway to the moon! ( However, that fact really doesn=t motivate us to change our patterns of consumption. What is transformative is realizing that we have a relationship with Earth. We are in communion with the great web of life. Throwing garbage into the bowels of our Mother is very disrespectful and should be done only after we have exhausted every other possibility! Landfills are forever! Once a product goes into a landfill, it will never decompose (a frightful fact I discovered on a class trip to the Colonie landfill).

      Do I try to purchase fair-trade items and organic or locally grown food? This effort supports products that meet the highest social and environmental standards. These products are beneficial to Earth and the dear neighbor!

Energy use is another area that needs a second look. The simple act of saving electricity is so important. There are many electrical devices that are impractical to unplug when they are not being used, but there are also devices that we use infrequently and may be disconnected. Indeed, turning off or disconnecting anything that Aglows@ can save energy. Compact fluorescent lamps also save energy. There is a trade off here. These lamps do contain mercury, so they need to be recycled as hazardous waste. There are cautions that need to be followed if the bulb breaks. If you have misgivings about these bulbs, please check out, and I think your concerns will be allayed. Signing up for renewable wind energy is a great way to use sustainable energy.

       One final point for principle seven is to adopt a lifestyle that emphasizes the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world. Our chapter calls us to a lifestyle of communion, a lifestyle that stresses quality of relationship not quantity of consumer products. The acts of chapter emphasize our communion with Earth, our finite world. We have said that we have an Aurgent concern for Earth and the survival of her life systems.@ We have called ourselves to Aradical choices in order to be just with, not abusive of, Earth=s resources.@ Principle seven is really the nuts-and-bolts reality that underlies our chapter communion with Earth.

Once is not enough! So we return to our chapter commitment, to our province focus of nonviolence, which includes nonviolence to Earth and her life systems and to the Earth Charter. We return and we might ask: What draws me to deeper awareness and action? What do I resist changing in my lifestyle? What seems to be too challenging? How can I be aware that on this fragile, finite planet when it comes to natural resources, once is not enough!


(May 2008)