“What’s my convenience worth?”
It was a seemingly simple question from my friend Aaron, but an inquiry with some pretty significant implications for the way I discipline my day, treat others, or deal with things.
We live in what you might call a convenience culture. Drive-thrus and free refills, fast food and grocery delivery, e-mails and easy returns, microwaveable meals and to-go containers, air conditioning and automatic transmissions, Tinder and Amazon — each of these is a characteristic of America’s love of accommodating the basic needs of everyday life.
We’re constantly creating more comfortable and convenient ways to do things. Thus, we end up relying more and more on corporations and companies to do things for us, rather than for us to do things for ourselves.
There are multiple issues with this way of life. Not only can it make us lazy, but it undermines the realization of our calling to be stewards of the world we enjoy.
In thinking about the place, and role, of human beings in the global (and even cosmic) environment, the idea of stewardship can be helpful in pursuing both ecological and social justice. Basically, stewardship helps re-orient our understanding of life to realize four things:
- We are not the center of the universe and are only one part of a vast web of beings—human and non-human, organic and material, etc.
- We have no right to just use the world and its resources, but rather a responsibility to careful sustain all the things we get to use and enjoy in this world.
- We are also held accountable for this stewardship. In the end, if we do not steward the resources of the environment with care, concern, and proper responsibility, there will be consequences—some of them dire.
- We are rewarded for careful, compassionate, and humble stewardship. The benefits of living in a sustainable way are manifold. Beyond feeling better about ourselves, we will be able to enjoy the resources of the world more fully and for longer.
So back to the original question—what is your convenience worth?
Sit with that question for a moment.
When you pass by a piece of rubbish on the street—what is your convenience worth? Could you pick it up and throw it away in the next trash bin? Surely that doesn’t cost you much time, money, or effort.
When you have to clean and/or separate the recycling—what is your convenience worth? Could you not wash out the plastic strawberry container and place it in a separate can? Maybe five minutes more. Maybe a smidgen more effort.
When you forget your reusable bags in the car, but you’re already in the store—what is your convenience worth? Is it that much to walk the 100 steps or so to your car, pop the trunk, and walk back in with your canvas bags rather than walking away with several plastic bags full of groceries?
You could apply this question to a thousand other scenarios in your daily life, but the basic takeaway from my perspective is this: to live a life of stewardship, to better live a sustainable life, it might be as simple as asking, as often as possible, what is my convenience worth?
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on the environment from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.