by Venice Williams

I’LL BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT that I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to this. I am not in denial. I know I get on some folks’ nerves. Okay, maybe a lot of folks! I really just cannot reel myself back in. Maybe everyone reading this should just pray for me.

My nightmares are probably a little different than yours. My worst dreamtime menace at this point in my life? Landfills. Yep, landfills. I’ll dream of walking out my back door, and in place of my garden there is a huge landfill that starts flowing into the house. Another dream happens at a restaurant, where when the food arrives, it’s a full plate of icky, smelly landfill! When I look around, everyone else also has waste on their plate, but they are eating and enjoying the piles of nastiness. In still another dream, I’m on an early morning walk, and suddenly everything around me becomes a huge landfill. I sink into it up to my neck, as if it is quicksand.

When I hear the garbage truck turn down our street for the weekly pick-up of the discarded fragments of our lives, a knot forms in my stomach. All I can do at that point is pray to God for forgiveness.

What we casually discard, the residue of our living, contaminates the earth, pollutes our waters and saddens my soul. And it is simply sinful. We must do better.

We know about three Rs: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. But “reduce” can no longer be where our efforts begin. I invite us all to Rethink, Revisit and Refuse.

First, we must “rethink” our overly affluent consumer lifestyle. Rethink how we mass-manufacture and mass-produce. Rethink not just what we consume, but what natural resources are expended so that we may have the things we want.

That process would lead us to “revisit” our values, our beliefs and what it is that we truly need. As Luke 12:15 reminds us, we’d “take care [and be on] guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Most powerful of all, we’d “refuse”—refuse to be an uneducated participant in a dominant consumer culture that mounts millions of landfills.

Rethink. Revisit. Refuse. Then Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Let’s renew our relationship with God’s earth.

Venice Williams is a mission developer for an ELCA worshipping community called The Table, and executive director and herb farmer at Alice’s Garden Urban Farm, all in Milwaukee.

This is excerpted from the September/October 2022 issue. To read more articles like this, subscribe to Gather magazine.