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Laudato Sí: Living Sustainably

Laudato Sí: Living Sustainably

Throughout Laudato Sí Pope Francis offers insights that can help us understand and implement Goal 4 from the International Action Platform. We read:

#206: Today, in a word, “the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.”

#209: An awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits.  

#211: There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions ….

GOAL 4: Adoption of Sustainable (Simple) Lifestyles 
The Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles is grounded in the idea of sufficiency, and promoting sobriety in the use of resources and energy.

A brief consideration of three terms in this statement – Sustainable; Sufficiency; Sobriety – provide the opportunity to review some of the consistent themes/challenges spoken of by Pope Francis.

To be sustainable means to produce and consume in a way that doesn't result in harm or destruction. If the production/consumption of a product requires resources that can’t quickly be replaced (nonrenewable), damages the environment, or results in harm to individuals or society, it is unlikely to be considered sustainable.

What is enough? What can offer me an ample, satisfactory lifestyle – without excess and over-indulgence?   
Living sustainably probably will call for a reorientation of your life. It may require finding a new sense of hope and purpose in life, new practices, and new sources of enjoyment in a community that shares your outlook on life.

To appreciate Goal 4 it may be helpful to clearly identify and address two dimensions of it. Certainly, making changes in how I live that lessen the damage and harm I cause to the environment and to individuals and society is at the heart of this goal.  

Equally vital is the need to give serious and honest attention to the question, “How can I sustain these behavioral and lifestyle changes I am taking on for the long haul?”  

The Action Platform suggests these actions to address Goal 4:

  • Reducing waste and recycling
  • Adopting sustainable dietary habits (A more plant-based diet; reducing meat consumption)
  • Greater use of public transport
  • Active mobility (Walking, cycling)
  • Avoiding single use items (e.g. plastic)

Let’s explore a couple of these.

Are there ways you can reduce food waste? Some ideas: 
(1) Be creative with your leftovers. Freeze them for another meal. Make soup or stew. Invite friends/neighbors for a potluck meal. 
(2) Compost food scraps. 
(3) Eat out less. When you do, take the leftovers home with you, including the bread.

What changes can you make in your dietary habits? 
(1) Collect a variety of vegetarian recipes that might be appealing to you and your family. 
(2) Consider adding one meatless day each week to your schedule. 
(3) Re-visit/discover the tradition of fasting from meat on Fridays.   

Reduce the purchase of new consumer goods. 
(1) Use goods with care and reverence. 
(2) Consider repairing or repurposing existing goods before purchasing a replacement. 
(3) Search for used goods before purchasing anything new. 
(4) Own only the goods that are needed for daily use. 
(5) Use the public library.

There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions.

If we’re honest, we know how difficult it is to sustain changes in ones behavior and lifestyle. So what can we do?

  1. Ask and decide:  How much time can I realistically give to intentionally living a sustainable life each day?  What will I do? When? How? Be specific.
  2. Develop a simple, clear plan. Read through the plan every morning as a reminder. Read through the plan each evening to give praise and a prod to yourself.
  3. Support group: What group can I help create or become part of that will support and challenge my desire to live sustainably?
  4. What is available to me from my faith tradition that will help in my process of transformation? How will I draw from this – each day? (See ZenHabits Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life)

An awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits.

ACTION: This month we ask you to consider  
—Select one idea from this article to implement. Make it part of your lifestyle. 
—On October 4 Pope Francis will release a follow-up document to Laudato Sí on the environment. Read it or about it from reputable sources.

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