The Role of the Church as stewards of the Environment-by Odilo Linzi

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“And God blessed them, and said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:28-29.

The above verse clearly shows God’s sole purpose in creating humans was that they rule the earth on His behalf, however, part of the responsibility was being stewards over everything on earth. As such dominion cannot be synonymous with desecration of the environment. The church as the bearer of the word of God, has a greater responsibility to be custodians and stewards of the environment. Above and beyond cleanliness in near to Godliness! This article seeks to highlight the role of the church as a caretaker of the planet through waste management as a critical the Church’s social response.

 Firstly, let’s define what is waste? Waste is defined as everything that no longer has a use or purpose and needs to be disposed. However, I personally prefer defining waste as a resource produced after use of a product or service, in a singular or multiple use. Waste can be categorised into multiple types which I list below:

 Types of Waste

  • Solid Municipal Waste: This Consist of household waste, hotels, restaurants, small industries.
  • Construction Waste: As the name says it all its largely waste generated from Construction sites.
  • Medical Waste– Bio-hazard waste like syringes, bandages, soiled bed linen, medical team and patient garments etc.
  • E-waste– obsolete or damaged electronic waste.
  • Organic Waste– Food left overs, farm, Gardening, or animal waste.
  • Liquid Municipal Waste– sewage and bio-slurry.

Each of these waste types often interwoven have certain ways and standards on how to effectively manage and dispose them. For instance Solid Municipal waste consist of e-waste or organic waste. The goal of waste management is to mitigate environment damage caused by pollution be it air, land or water. If not handled very well waste can be harmful to both humans and animals.

So when dealing with any kind of waste one has to exercise care and carry out extensive research and environmental impact assessment. For instance, currently due to inconsistency garbage collection most urban dwellers resort to burning, uncontrolled dumping and shallow pits. All these have consequences on our environment and health.

Preferably waste must be segregated and handled with care at source point to prevent spillage and harm to the environment. The main challenge to waste management at community level is that most of the waste is not segregated for example organic waste, e.g baby nappies, pet bottles and other household wastes are mixed in single plastic bin which is not hygienic and poses danger to waste handlers.

The church presents a unique opportunity to mitigate the environmental pollution and damage. It has the ability, to gather people for a common purpose and initiate joint action, in different communities. Undoubtedly so, the church is possibly the most reliable institution to champion environmental cause. The first step in harnessing this potential is to educate and sensitize the community about importance of waste management and segregation of waste at source points.

Implementation of waste management should start at a micro level. The process should entail teaching people at an individual level on how to manage waste, formation of groups and lastly community outreach. This is because reaching the community at once might be problematic. Rules and regulations must be set. A reward system should also be put in place to motivate community members to manage waste properly.

Waste Management practices at Community Level.

Waste Management at home.

A church is a cluster of families which forms a nucleus of community. As the old saying goes” Charity begins at home”, in the same way waste management begins at home. According to statics 80 % of household waste is recyclable so it is only logical that the church starts teaching its members at family level about waste management. The most common and effective method of waste management at family level is to separate waste using smaller bins or bin liners. The rationale behind these methods is that each family will be issued with four bins clearly segregating garbage through labels; paper, plastic, glass and garden/organic. Waste will then be placed appropriately based on labels and when full will be sent to waste recycling centres or disposed properly through composition or designated disposal points.

Advantages.

-Waste is segregated at source.

-Easy to monitor and keep accurate records

-Environment conscious families.

Disadvantages.

-Expensive to maintain

-Reluctant by families to part with city council services.

-No incentives or economic value

Clean Up campaigns.

Clean Up campaigns are by far the most popular waste management practice at community level. The church can leverage this practice by forming smalls groups which will meet regularly to clean and pile up waste for recycling and proper compositing and disposal. It should be noted here that waste incineration is not waste management but waste reduction should be discouraged unless it is the last resort. The rationale behind this method is to encourage members to tackle environmental pollution outside their home as part of the community. The result will be a cleaner society and an environment sensitive community.

Advantages.

-United community against pollution.

-Environmentally conscious society.

-Waste management at a large scale.

Disadvantages.

-No guarantee that waste will be segregated.

-Burning of waste which unwittingly causes far more environmental pollution.

Waste cages

 Waste cages are a very popular method of waste management in European cities. They can be compartmentalized, with each compartment designated for a certain types of waste e.g. Paper in Compartment 1, plastic Compartment 2, etc. Churches can leverage on this method by sponsoring waste collectors to erect waste cages at strategic points within its catchment areas or on its premises and engage waste collectors to empty them when full.

Advantages of the waste cages.

-Can hold huge amount of waste for a longer period of time than normal bins.

-Guarantees segregation of waste at source point.

-No need for storage facilities when sorting waste.

-Can be used for community notice board.

Disadvantages.

-Waste is now a resource therefore can be vandalized.

-Takes long time to reach the required amount to be emptied

-Community can be reluctant to use them in preference to normal bins.

Churches as Buy back centres

Buy back centres are on the rise, as most companies now try to reduce costs by adopting a circular economic model. They are mainly used by big corporates as a way of social responsibility. The church can utilise this method by sponsoring or opening up their churches as buy back centres for segregated waste that their members and communities could use.

Advantages.

-The community is actively involved in the waste management process as they physically drop the waste at the centre.

-Promotes Good citizenship.

– Communities make money from the waste as they get paid for their waste.

– Promote circular economic model.

– The church can empower its members by buying back the waste and in turn the members have economic means to sustain their families.

Disadvantages.

-Very expensive to maintain and run.

-Can be mistaken for dumping sites.

– Requires vast of land to operate from.

Waste Management as a social responsibility for the church.

Education

The Church has numerous means in which it could educate its congregants about the waste management and environmental care using its specialized departments, group activities and even through sermons. This entails the infusion of environmental education into theological and seminary syllabus to prepare the church leaders in sensitizing their congregations and helping them once they get into active waste management in the society. In-service training programmes could be established by church leaders for the congregations.

This could be done through the development of a contextualized approach by the church in the area of waste management as a mechanism towards environmental care.

Research and Policy formulation

There is dire need for the church to invest in research as a strategic information tool in advising and decision making on the various environmental challenges confronting itself or its congregation or general populace. This will aid the church to comprehensively map its various waste management and environmental policies to see how they interlink with the ecological challenges confronting its congregants. The church and environmental institutions like EMA could facilitate, draft and implement grassroots oriented policies for waste management and environmental care.

Advocacy and lobbying

The church should be encouraged to be actively involved in advocating and engaging government institutions and environmental organisations in honest dialogue about policies that are negatively impacting the community and the environment. Such involvement would lead to increased environment accountability by the government to its citizenry. This would also enable the church to lobby for policies and political reforms that will protect, preserve and champion for environment care and waste management in general.

In conclusion, it has been observed that the church is often located in areas where there is a high number of vulnerable people, who are mostly in need of physical, psychological and spiritual needs. The attainment of sustainable environment requires individuals, groups, societies and organisations to participate in effective waste management. They must know these waste management practices, particularly those who live and work in these communities as they are most affected.

With churches offering their experiences in issues of the relationship between humanity and natural world putting particular emphasis on social dimension and waste management would reinforce the role of the church as advocates of the environment. This offers potential advantages which can serve as an avenue to the church as approach to sustainable environmental care through waste management as social responsibility towards the community.

Odilo Linzi is the founder and managing director of Oleans Waste management services. He is passionate about people, environment, climate change and disability issues. He can be contacted on oleanswms@gmail.com or via WhatsApp on 0773 376 078

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