We live in a disposable society. Millions of items that would have been considered miraculous by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore—like cell phones, disposable batteries, and printer ink cartridges—are carelessly tossed away every day.
To live more responsibly with these modern conveniences is a goal of New Thought Unity Center (NTUC) in Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s why an environmentally-minded group of NTUC people created EarthCare, an ongoing spiritual practice that has been embraced by the entire congregation. In 2010, NTUC recycled more than 12,225 batteries, cell phones, pill bottles, and ink cartridges, along with tons of paper, as we strive to be more caring stewards of the Earth.
It Started With an Idea
The EarthCare Team started at a congregational planning retreat in 2008, where people came together around the idea of sustainability and making the center as green as possible.
In a special service in June 2009, the congregation stepped up to commit to EarthCare, as the team enlisted the congregation to pray, inspire, vision, and engage in EarthCare practices. The service included the signing of the EarthCare Covenant, as well as a special message and music.
As part of Thriving in Unity I and II, the team participated in an energy audit, encouraged members to use fewer disposables at social events, developed education pieces for the congregation, and began recycling ink cartridges, batteries, cell phones, and medicine bottles.
EarthCare Messages Prompt Action
In 2010, the EarthCare Team and I developed a five-week “Sustainability Series” as part of Sunday services. Series topics built on each other, starting with personal consumption and the community. We defined prosperity and looked at it on the emotional level: “If I had twice as much money as I have right now, would I be happy? How much is enough?”
We looked at how consumerism diminishes our relationships, as well as our free time. “The more people value time and therefore take pains to save it, the less able they are to relax and enjoy it.” (Ecopsychology by Roszak, Gomes and Kanner) We were urged to analyze how we react when we are bored, lonely, or depressed. Do we buy things or spend money to feel better?
The series also explored how we can benefit by deciding to reduce consumption, noting that we can save more and have more in the long run, and that conscious consumption can lead to savings on the personal and community level.
The final topic centered on ecopsychology—the idea that looking for fulfillment through consumption actually creates a void within us and in the world. At an unconscious level, we know we’re damaging Mother Earth through unnecessary consumption and that we are distancing ourselves from the natural world. We have lost the sense of the sacred if the natural world is seen as something for the human world to exploit.
We were encouraged to “come apart for a while” from the chaos, to reconnect with our inner self and the Earth. The practice of simplifying leads to integration. Life is to be lived and experienced, not to be used as an endless quest to acquire more stuff.
On the last Sunday of the series, the team sponsored an EarthCare Expo. Ten companies—including the Cincinnati Civic Garden Center, the Sierra Club, the Earth to Mouth restaurant, and popular green general store Park + Vine—demonstrated their products and services. Many of the displays included organically-grown vegan food. The companies were deluged with questions, as the congregation showed great interest in making responsible choices of both edible and non-edible products.
Keeping the Momentum Going
The NTUC EarthCare Team uses the lens of Recycle, Reduce, Rethink, Reuse, Rejoice to identify topics and issues to address.
Future activities will focus on three areas:
• Projects internal to the center and implemented by the EarthCare Team
• Projects that offer solutions that individuals can implement in their personal lives
• Community events that offer EarthCare-related information
The EarthCare Team at NTUC maintains an EarthCare bulletin board, provides inserts in the Weekly Messenger bulletin, and displays information in PowerPoint presentations before and after Sunday services to keep the energy going and the idea of sustainability front-of-mind for everyone.
In June 2010, NTUC was recognized as an EarthCare Congregation Program by Unity Worldwide Ministries for some of the program’s successes. In 2010, the EarthCare program accomplished the following:
• 8,000+ batteries kept out of landfills to save our water and soil
• 4,000+ pill bottles to Matthew 25 that are sent to African countries for medication distribution
• 225+ cell phones to Cincinnati Zoo, saving the Gorillas in the Congo
• $31.78 earned for recycling paper in November
• $204 earned from recycled ink cartridges
Toward a Sustainable Future
Since the formation of the EarthCare Team, NTUC has created a new consciousness and a new culture of caring for the beauty and abundance of our planet. Through the EarthCare program, we have encouraged a thoughtful approach to consumerism and fostered the desire to participate in environmentally-responsible actions. Each person is empowered to do his or her part to make a difference in our world and in our community. These actions have unified our congregation as we recognize how our actions affect others. We are all one on planet Earth, and what we do does indeed matter.