Adopt sustainable lifestyles
To preserve our Earth and its resources for future generations, we must reduce waste and live in reciprocal relationship with the natural world. Empower your community to live more sustainable lifestyles with this Ignatian toolkit.
Relationships take work. But for those relationships about which we care most deeply, we often find ourselves willing to make incredible changes to our lives — even sacrifices. We move to a new city to be with a significant other. We give up hours of sleep to care for a new baby. We sacrifice our time to be present to an aging parent.
These are all important relationships. How often, though, do we think about our relationship to God’s creation in this way? Do we see ourselves in relationship with the environment? With the birds of the sky, the leaves on the tree, the water flowing from the stream, the very air we breathe? What does this relationship require?
It’s tempting to think of the adoption of a more sustainable lifestyle only in terms of what we’re being asked to give up: less fuel, less meat, less plastic, etc. Rather, we should view this invitation in light of the love we have for God and all that God creates. God is in all things; all things manifest God’s great love. We are invited to make a generous response to this love.
St. Ignatius, in the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, helps us put all of this in context. He reminds us that our deepest fulfillment is to be found in praising, reverencing and serving God, and we should relate to all people and things with an eye toward this ultimate goal. Ignatius thereby invites us to reevaluate how we relate, not only to God, but to our brothers and sisters and to all of creation.
This means reordering our lifestyles in a manner that respects, uplifts and protects the good of all.
We should make all of our decisions, including those with respect to our diet, energy usage and even how we spend our free time, in the light of how they help us achieve the end for which we are made.
Sustainable lifestyles are powerful manifestations of our love for God and Creation. Even small changes in our daily behaviors can have huge impacts on the world around us. Average home energy consumption contributes roughly 21% of CO2 emissions worldwide. Basic steps to reduce consumption — switching to energy efficient lightbulbs, turning off appliances when not in use, updating water heaters — can dramatically cut carbon emissions.
In 2019, the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco achieved zero net carbon emissions by reducing campus water usage, installing microturbines to produce heat and electricity, and purchasing carbon offsets. Some Jesuit communities in the U.S. and Canada have committed to using more public transit and purchasing only hybrid or electric cars. The average car creates 6 to 9 tons of CO2 each year, so switching to more fuel efficient vehicles, driving less frequently or employing ecological driving practices can save over 1.7 tons per car each year.