17-year-old pens book about living a green lifestyle
Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?
ó St. Augustine
By Kathy Chaffin
At age 17, Emma Sleeth is following in her father’s footsteps.
Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth’s book, “Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action,” offers practical suggestions for Christians to cut back on energy usage and escape the vicious cycle of consumerism, all while helping to save God’s creation.
Emma’s book, “It’s Easy Being Green: One Student’s Guide to Serving God and Saving the Planet” relates the message to younger readers.
She and her brother, Clark, were teenagers when their father convinced them and their mother, Nancy, to join him in simplifying their lifestyle. They gave away half of their possessions and moved from a large suburban home into a small house ó a change resulting in a two-thirds reduction in energy usage, a strengthened family unit and for each of them, a more meaningful and closer relationship with God.
Emma and her parents talked about their “green journey” as part of the May 29-31 “Faith, Spirituality and Environmental Stewardship” conference at Catawba College. Speaking at a workshop titled, “It’s Easy Being Green: Practical Ideas for Teens and College Students,” she said she adapted easily to the lifestyle change. It wasn’t long before she also took on the environmental cause.
Shortly after her father quit his job as chief of staff at a Maine hospital, wrote his book and began traveling the country preaching the message of “creation care” ó which includes the earth and all its inhabitants ó Emma also felt called by God to write about the biblical mandate to protect the environment.
She was a junior in high school then. Today, as an English major at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., she continues her family’s environmentally-conscious lifestyle in a campus setting.
Emma started her workshop by sharing a story about seeing a homeless man sleeping on the streets of Washington, D.C. She and her friend, Caroline, were attending an evangelical conference for youths concerned about the environment, she said, when they walked past him, curled up trying to stay dry under a bent umbrella on “a wet, miserable day.”They were on their way to the U.S. Senate offices, and Emma said Caroline asked her, “What are we supposed to do about that?”
She said she didn’t know how to respond and said so. Later on, they passed by the man again.
Emma said she felt like the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 as they walked by the man who was obviously in need, but she didn’t know what else to do. They were scheduled to meet with senators about legislation to protect the environment, and they didn’t want to be late.
Early the next morning, when she and Caroline bowed their heads to pray for travel mercies on the trip home, Emma said she asked God what she was supposed to do to help people like the homeless man. “He answered,” she said, “and what he said was, ‘Your best.’ ”
Emma said she realized that walking by the man and advocating for environmentally friendly legislation so he could see the stars clearly ó which she described as “God’s ordained lighting in the sky” ó instead of through a haze of pollution may have been the best thing she could have done.
“We may not all have the material resources to offer,” she said, “but we do have potential to offer that man. We have the potential to help change this country to a nation where people can again see the stars … We seem to be unable to control our actions, to live in a way that doesn’t pollute the world that God made …
“When I prayed, God answered. He said, ‘Work for that man that you saw on the cold, wet sidewalk. Pour your life out so that man I love, that least among us in a nation of kings, can once more see the stars.’ ”
In a practical sense, she said, this means following some basic guidelines for a “green” lifestyle. One major step toward doing that is replacing lightbulbs with compact flourescents.
If every household in America did this, Emma said, it would have the same effect on the environment as removing 10 million cars from the roads.
She also suggested that teens and college students:
– Carpool, take the bus, bike or walk whenever possible.
– Coordinate errands so they can be done in one trip. Emma said she and her roommate keep a to-do list of errands on their refrigerator so they don’t have to keep driving back and forth to town.
– Take steps, even if they’re small, to cut down on electricity. She gave these examples: Walk instead of using a treadmill. Preserve cell phone batteries by not playing games. Turn off the television, computer and radio when leaving the room.
– Spend more time outdoors.
“When we choose to hang out in nature and just enjoy the world around us, we gain insight into the character of God,” she said. “I find that I’m a lot more motivated to live an environmentally-conscious lifestyle when I know exactly what it is that I’m trying to protect.”