Support ecological economies

Ecological economies prioritize sustainable production and the dignity of workers. This goal encourages us to change our consumption patterns through waste reduction, responsible resource usage and fair labor practices.  

Learn how your community can support ecological economies with this Ignatian toolkit.  

Reflect

When Jesus began his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, his neighbors were astounded. “How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6) they asked. Like most of us today, Jesus was a worker. A carpenter by trade. That Jesus shared in the fundamental human experience of labor and creation reminds us that work is sacred.

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius uses the language of work to guide our discernment through the meditation the Call of Christ the King. Retreatants imagine Christ as a king, a visionary leader who asks his people to work with him in bringing about the Kingdom of God. “They must work with me by day … so that as they have had a share in the toil with me, afterwards, they may share in the victory with me.” The meditation asks us to reflect on our “work” as followers of Christ.

Of course, Ignatius isn’t only talking about our professions. True discipleship requires wholehearted commitment in all areas of our life — our political engagement, our purchases, our relationships. In our globalized world, our decisions have ripple effects across the world. Big and small, all our daily actions can inch us closer to Jesus’ vision.

Our purchases, for example, impact the work conditions of people around the planet. Demand for cheap, mass-produced clothing has caused an explosion of sweatshop labor in Southeast Asia, where primarily women and children work in unsafe conditions. Rapid production and consumption harms not only the health of workers but the health of our planet, too.

In much of our industrial world, laborers are valued less than the products they make. Their work is not seen as sacred, but as profitable. We can change this pattern, reframing how we understand the products we buy and the jobs we have, how our economic behavior impacts our home and its people.

Ecological economies provide a ready alternative to our current production models. They recognize the relationship between producer, consumer and planet. In ecological economies, workers have autonomy and are protected by fair labor standards. An ecological production process also recognizes that Earth’s resources are finite and works to use and reuse materials thoughtfully.

Using our purchasing power is one way we can support these economies. We can also encourage political leaders to uphold labor rights and sustainable production.

Discussion Questions

With members of your household, community or institution, discuss the fruits of your prayers and how they might point you toward concrete action. Consider these reflection questions for guidance:

  • How do I value the labor of the people who produce my clothes, food and possessions?
  • Are there any ethically-sourced products that I can commit to buying (e.g., fair trade or transparently sourced coffee?)
  • Are there unethically made products that I can avoid purchasing?
  • What ecological economies exist in my local community? How can I support them?

Respond

 2.12 billion — that’s how many pounds of waste we dump into landfills worldwide every year. Most of it is chemical-laden industrial byproducts, which have a disastrous effect on local and global ecosystems. In total, landfills and wastewater account for 3.2% of global CO2 emissions. So reducing industrial waste can go a long way toward creating a healthier planet for all.

Circular economies are one solution to our industrial waste problem. Circular models eliminate waste by regenerating and reusing materials to produce goods. Through the Catholic Ethical Purchasing Alliance, the Ignatian Solidarity Network supports several circular economy brands, such as Collection. Produced by a textile mill collective in North Carolina, Collection uses upcycled textiles to create new products from lunch boxes to face masks. Leftover materials are integrated into production processes at other mills to prevent material waste.

Brainstorm your action

Research global economic practices with Healing the Earth

Created by the International Jesuit Ecology Project, the Healing the Earth textbook offers case studies on environmental issues, like this story of resource mining in Central Africa. Learn about extractive economy models, then check out these action ideas to learn how you can promote alternatives

How are Jesuit institutions taking action?

Share your actions

Send us a brief email, telling us how you and your community are walking the path of renewal. We may feature your story on this page or on our Twitter, @JesuitJustice.

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