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April 08, 2008

Earth Keepers: Faith Convening for the Environment

Many people don't often think of faith and the environment as synonymous. At the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer , we see the two terms almost like a unique symbiosis. It is an interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two separate organisms, or in this case two separate institutions. Protecting God's creation is not a new concept. Some of the environment's greatest advocates like E.O. Wilson and Bill McKibben have written about this idea for decades. 

Volunteers sort medications at an unwanted pharmaceuticals collection event Earth Keepers Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer is a network of 10 different faiths and over 150 congregations across Michigan's Upper Peninsula (U.P.). These faiths include Roman Catholic, Episcopal, United Methodist, Baha'i, Zen Buddhist, Lutheran, Jewish, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, and Quaker. In 2004, this network signed a covenant stating their commitment to protecting the environment of the U.P. through support to organizations like the SWP. The challenge then presented itself. Just how do we set the stage to achieving the goals of the covenant?

warehouse full of electronics collected at e-waste collection event It started with the first Clean Sweep Earth Day Event in 2005. Hazardous waste drop-off sites were established at 20 sites spanning the entire U.P. People from some of the most remote corners of the U.P. came out to drop off old batteries, oil-based paint cans, and the like. In only 3 hours that day over 45 tons of household hazardous waste was collected and properly disposed. At the same 20 sites in 2006 over 320 tons of electronic waste was collected. And in 2007, U.P. residents dropped off over a ton of old and unwanted pharmaceuticals, including $500,000 in controlled substances.

The term Earth Keepers garners great support in our little corner of the planet. People now see it to represent a partnership like none other and this is just the beginning.

Next time: What's Earth Keepers doing for 2008?

Natasha Koss is the Membership Coordinator for the SWP.  She also coordinates the partnership with the participating Earth Keepers congregations.


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I can see how faith and the environment can be synonymous. It reminded me of the Japanese people who believe so strongly in nature and how it reacts with their spirits.

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