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Updated on April 17, 2014

Emphasize Spiritual Values

Some spiritual communities have started a recycling program recently, while other communities have yet to start one. Some have had a recycling program for decades. The most important thing to emphasize is spiritual values before starting the program. Each tradition has sacred texts which can be used to illustrate and explain ecological spiritual values.

In the Hindu tradition ecology is a very important spiritual value. The Vedas are a collection of sacred texts which emphasize ecological values. The Vedas literally reads like a modern ecological textbook and is one of the first collections of sacred texts to emphasize ecological values. Gandhi spoke often about ecological values and said, "Reduce, recycle and reuse!" In the Puranas Krishna expounded upon the great ecological value of trees and called them great beings. Ranchor Prime wrote a book called Vedic Ecology in which he outlines some sacred texts in Hinduism which emphasize ecology. He also highlights some Hindu ecological activists and their work. It is good to know that a course could be easily taught on the topic of ecology by using this book as a guide to ecological living.

The Native Americans emphasize strong ecological values. The European Pagans, Christians, Jews and Muslims all have their sacred texts which can be used to teach ecological values. Whatever your tradition those texts are important in conveying ecological values.

It is good to do presentations before you implement a recycling system about the system and how it will work. You can also have people who can direct people to the recycling bins and explain what will be recycled. Some communities do this for the first couple months after a system has been implemented in order to educate people and get better compliance from members of the congregation.

Some cities, like Minneapolis, have one-sort recycling where many different types of items are placed in one bin. In our apartment building we have recycling bags we use to take the recycled items to the bins. The bags have pictures on them of the types of items the city recycles. Our public library recycles small batteries. Some cities require residents to sort recycled items and place them in separate bins. It is good to find out if your city recycles and what types of items are recycled. You need to know if the city sorts into separate bins, or uses a one-sort bin system. When you call the main line of your city hall, the receptionist can connect you to the correct department member who can explain their recycling system. You can also have a private firm provide the service if your city does not not have a recycling system.

Some spiritual communities place their recycling bins in the kitchen, so that items are correctly sorted and placed in the right bin. Items to be recycled are given to kitchen staff and cooks who place the items in the right bins. Some people can go around the building finding items which can be recycled which some individuals leave around. Bathrooms are a good location to check for those kinds of items, in addition to tables in the fellowship area or hall. This is why some communities have recycling bins located near bathrooms and fellowship areas. Some communities put them in the bathrooms or near the church office. Some communities do a combination of all these. Each community is unique and can gear their specific program to their specific tradition or membership.

You can start small and then expand your program. Some communities use recycled items to raise money for their particular community or for a special project or trip. Some people save money by using ceramic plates and a dishwasher instead of using paper or plastic plates. This often cuts down on the trash bill and you do not have to buy plates all the time. This also means these items won't be going into a landfill or to a garbage burner. Minneapolis has a garbage burner and the City Council decided to encourage as much recycling as possible to cut down on air pollution. Organic waste is being composted in some neighborhoods to cut down on what needs to be burned in the garbage burner. In the next couple years, the city will be composting more waste in more locations.

With Earth Day happening on April 22nd, it is good to start thinking about what your spiritual community can do to preserve the environment. One organization you can connect up with is Interfaith Power and Light Network. They have good information on projects your community can implement along with others to preserve the environment. Another organization is Eco-Justice Ministries. They do similar types of projects. To find out about their work, go to

Mother Earth is the place where we live and it's so beautiful. Let us take good care of her. In Hinduism one of her names is Bhumi Devi, but she has many names worldwide. Have a great Earth Day and do something wonderful for Mother Earth every day!




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