How to Begin


How to begin keeping the earth is a difficult question. Loaded, even.

What comes first, the backyard chickens or the free-range eggs? I mean, are chickens required for everyone, or just hipsters? Do we shirk all single-use plastics? Is zero-waste living even possible? How sanitary are those bulk bins at the grocery? And what is the deal with compost? Am I getting ahead of myself? Priority is organic food, right? Or is locally grown what is best for the environment?

What about those of us who do not have the time, money, or community resources to become radical do-it-yourselfers? Can we still be creation keepers? For those of us who do have the margin and ability, how can our moves toward sustainability be honest expressions of love and justice and not manifestations of superiority and privilege? And how do we make changes to our personal lifestyles—while advocating for fair trade and policy changes—without alienating ourselves from community, and maybe even reality?

Yeah. The path toward sustainability involves a lot of questions and decisions. For many of us, raised under the influence of consumerism and manic capitalism, living with creation instead of over it is going to be a major transition. It will involve repentance. It will be challenging. We will have to learn new rhythms, rhythms marked by slow wins rather than immediate highs, compassion rather than convenience, and gracious interdependence rather than self-righteous survivalism.

As for the question of how to begin, well, we can sit around and make lists all day of what to do in order to suddenly reach sustainability.

Or we can take a walk.


We can walk past the traffic of social protocols, the “American Dream,” and the demands of the empire to sink our toes in earth and water and life. We can breathe slowly and deeply and begin to hear the bird’s prayer and the wind’s song. We can feel at home. Connected. Where we belong.

Sustainability begins the moment our feet leave the concrete and meet the stuff from which they were made. It begins when we find ourselves among the ranks of things created and loved by their Maker.

In that moment, the question of how to begin a sustainable lifestyle does not seem so binary or objective. Nor does the burden of saving the earth seem to lay smack on our backs. Rather, we find ourselves joining a work already begun.

God is already at work bringing the entire world to wholeness and life.

As keepers of the earth, we root ourselves in this truth and yield ourselves to the Creator’s imagination. Instead of worrying about checking off a list of sustainable chores, we orient our lives to the work of God.

We will make decisions about chickens, weigh the organic versus local food question, and bear the tension of prophetic advocacy for both the planet and its poor, but we will deliberate on these issues as partners with the divine, as lucky creatures chosen to keep an amazing and miraculous earth.

That is how to begin.