The view from here
A five-part series by Christie R. House on EarthKeepers’ projects across the United States
EarthKeepers are an emerging network of United Methodists trained by Global Ministries as part of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to lead their communities in acts of environmental stewardship. Since 2016, Global Ministries has trained four classes of EarthKeepers with two more training sessions scheduled yet in 2018.
PHOTO: WILEY HARP
EarthKeepers commit to spending at least 10 hours each month working on creation care projects in their communities. Their projects vary depending on their point of view—or what they view in their communities and environment. The view changes depending on their culture or background, their professional work, or where they live. Story one of five is on EarthKeeper Becky Harp in Canyon, Texas.
Part One: Lots and Lots of Land—Canyon, Texas
We live in the Texas panhandle, and we have lots and lots of land. Many people think they don’t need recycling— “throwing away is going away.”
Becky Harp of Canyon, Texas, in the Northwest Texas Conference, attended EarthKeepers training in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2017. She has tried to convince her town to institute a recycling program for some time, but she needed new ideas about ways to approach the problem—especially help with networking and communication.
Becky Harp of Canyon, Texas, shows off the cardboard recycling station in the First United Methodist Church parking lot. PHOTO: WILEY HARP
Becky’s regional network, a small cohort of three other EarthKeepers, keeps in touch using social media and the phone. They gave her courage and motivation and some practical tips to keep moving forward with her project, the Canyon Recycling Center.
People who live in parts of the country where recycling is a matter of putting items on the curb once a week may have trouble understanding Becky’s roadblocks. “We live in the Texas panhandle,” she said, “and we have lots and lots of land. Many people think they don’t need recycling— ‘throwing away is going away.’”
Becky met with the assistant city manager to talk about getting a recycling program off the ground, but the main center for recycling is in Dallas, 377 miles away. The town wanted to know where the recycled material would go and how much it would cost to get it there. The cost of sending trucks loaded with recyclables on a regular basis was not in the budget.
“I got knocked off my project for a while because I didn’t have anyone to work with,” said Becky. “In Amarillo, a town just a few miles away, there is a company that recycles cardboard, but Canyon and the church still pay for the service. Our church, First United Methodist, pays less for the recycle bin than a trash bin, so we still save money. The city of Canyon saw the need, and now we have two cardboard recycling containers, but the town needs more.”
It’s been a bit-by-bit process for Canyon recycling. Plastic, aluminum, and paper are the next items to tackle. The project is a multiyear effort, and Becky hopes to enlist some young adults in the church to help keep the pressure on the town managers. Becky notes: “I was so on fire when I came back from Mission with UMW (United Methodist Women) and EarthKeepers training—and then I came home and realized not everyone has the same passion. The United Methodist Women group in our church is very supportive—and I look around and realize, we’re doing more than we have ever done before. There is just so much more to do.”
Meanwhile, Becky meets with church and community groups in the region to help them understand creation care and their role in it. She talks about actions people can take first to reduce waste—decrease the use of bottled water and take reusable water containers instead, use aluminum over plastic, and quit using Styrofoam cups and plates. (“That’s been the hardest thing to get out of the churches!” says Becky.) Other tactics, such as xeriscaping—using native plants for the landscape, so less water is needed to keep the grass alive—help too.
PHOTO: WILEY HARP
In January 2019, Becky will join fellow EarthKeeper Mel Caraway and many others at the state capitol in Austin. “I’ve learned how to get into a legislator’s office, befriend the secretaries—that’s what you have to do. I never thought it was important to show up and speak with representatives, but now I do.”
Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine.
Upcoming EarthKeeper Training Events
• September 27-30, Detroit, Michigan, (Deadline to register Sept 6)
• November 1-4, Wasatch Retreat Center, Salt Lake City, Utah (Deadline Oct 11)
For more information, please contact Rev. Jenny Phillips, Creation Care
Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Summer 2018 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.