Free from Plastic Pollution: Five Actions Congregations Can Take
In 2023, the delegates of the United Church of Christ’s 34th General Synod passed a resolution entitled “Free from Plastic Pollution.” This was the first time a denominational body in North America passed such a resolution. The resolution grounded itself in an awareness of how plastic pollution is intertwined with matters of economic and racial justice. It additionally grounded itself in an awareness of the pervasive harm done to biological life and planetary ecosystems. As such, the resolution called upon the General Synod “to speak truth to power against plastic ‘de-creation.'” All settings of the denomination were urged “to commit to changing from a disposable culture to a reusable, sustainable one.” The resolution enumerated multiple opportunities for education and action in shifting to alternatives for single use plastics. Read the resolution in its entirety and make use of these five suggested actions a congregation can take:
(1) Begin with a Bible study. Focus on the scriptures cited as background for the resolution: Genesis 1:1-2:6, Psalm 24:1, Isaiah 24:3-6, and Jeremiah 4:23-26. Reflect upon what it means to justly live in harmony with God’s creation. Ponder the resolution’s use of the word “de-creation,” a theological term used by Bill McKibben to refer to desacralizing, destroying, or undoing that which is whole or has been whole in the natural world around us.
(3) Form a book group. Read one of the many books on plastic pollution. Alternatively, invite people to read and discuss an article focused on raising awareness and taking action:
- “Join the Fight to Reduce Plastic Pollution“
- “We Are Now Plastic Farmers: The Human Cost of Waste Colonialism”
- “To Stop Plastic Pollution, Single-Use Plastic Production Must Stop“
- “Reusable Packaging Revolution Is Close – Experts Say“
(4) Join or lead an advocacy campaign. Check out this sample ordinance to reduce the use of plastic bags, polystyrene, and straws. Research whether your state is taking steps to reduce plastic bags or is instead preventing local communities from enacting bans. Call on Congress to pass legislation that would move us toward a plastic-free economy.
(5) Aim to become a Zero-Waste Church. Learn from a church in Raleigh, North Carolina that did just that.
These are just a few ideas for education and action. There are more in the resolution itself, and there are plenty of resources on the Internet from organizations like the Sierra Club and #BreakFreeFromPlastic. There are also apps that can help you reduce plastic use.
The Rev. Robert Grabill and the Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss were two of the primary authors and drivers behind this resolution. They would love to hear from congregations about how they are living out the resolution and are also available to assist in discerning how to take action. Contact either Shore-Goss or Grabill.