Inspiring teenagers to care for the environment

A clear link should be made between being a Christian teenager and being called to care for the environment.

We are called to care for our environment. Just after the earth was created God said to Adam and Eve:

“be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV).

God wants us to enjoy nature and to look after it.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be our current day reality. A large contingent of the teenage population remains indoors, isolated from nature. Coupled with the mind-set that cleaning up is ‘someone else’s problem’, many teenagers don’t enjoy or have a desire to care for the environment.

It is a known fact that many birds and animals remain at risk because of our negligent treatment of nature.

An inconvenient truth

Did you know that…

  • 700 species in the ocean are affected by plastic pollution, from starvation to entanglement.
  • Over 1 million marine animals (including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds) are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean.
  • The health impacts are unknown, but tests reveal that the world over, billions of people are drinking water that has been contaminated by plastic particles; 83% of samples were found to be polluted.
  •  82,000 to 578,000 tons of microplastics exist in the ocean – this is 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.
  • It can take more than 1000 years for a single plastic bag to degrade.
  • 2,370 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated in South Africa every year. Only 14% of it is recycled.

When considering these shocking statistics, and the Bible’s call for us to care for our environment from day one of our lives, we need to ask ourselves:

What is your church’s youth or community outreach group or school doing to make a difference to the environment?

Does your youth or school’s SCA cover environmental respect and care as a biblical principle, and is there a link between your SCA and the school’s Eco Club? Is recycling one of the values of your church, in terms of its relationship with the community and the environment?

Inspiring teenagers

When looking at what some of the youth groups in local churches are doing with regard to promoting environmental awareness, one of them had a whole teaching series on this in their kids’ church ministry.

It was a three-week series, aimed at inspiring children to do what they are able to, to care for their environment, coming from a space of love and honour for God who created it, rather than from that of guilt or obligation. The topics included water and waste management, recycling, and caring for wildlife.

In speaking to some friends involved in South African schools about the foci and connection (if any) between their SCA and the Eco Club, I received mixed responses.

Some schools have recycling, and environmental awareness is covered in all aspects of the school, including the SCA topics. Some schools operate completely differently, where the SCA and Eco Club do not work in tandem and have their own foci.

This is problematic.

A clear link should be made between being a Christian teenager and being called to care for the environment.

Sometimes, individual scholars also take the matter of environmental awareness into their own hands. Organising to go on their steam to beach clean-ups, collecting newspapers for animal foundations and initiating alternative drinking straw drives.

There are also various drives for alternative drinking straws such as those made from bamboo, glass and metal (such as Foreva Straws by Faithful to Nature and EcoStraws companies).

These products and initiatives are starting to take away less from nature, and as a result trying to protect the creatures that live in it because we have realised that it is a finite source. In other words, we are starting to use technology, such as Facebook, to spread the importance of caring for the environment, moving away from harming living creatures and destroying our environment.

Helping others

The Bible also calls us to ‘love our neighbour as we love ourselves’.

We can love our neighbour and nature by getting involved in environmental drives, such as collecting bottle caps for Zibo Containers and bread tags for the Sweethearts Foundation to go towards donating a wheelchair to someone in need. It is exciting to think that teenagers, whose friends are all attending dances and socialising, can also enjoy being mobile in a wheelchair, rather than being bed or home bound.

So let’s step into our call as Christians and inspire young people, the future of our country, to love the environment.

Get teenagers involved in environmental initiatives. Help them to make simple lifestyle changes to move away from single-use plastics which cause so much damage to our environment. Encourage them to see that this is not ‘someone else’s problem’ as it affects all of us and each of us can be involved in making a real difference.

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Author: Annie Fleischack-Thomson
I am passionate about the environment and recycling and enjoy spending time with loved ones, knitting, painting, dancing, pilates, horse riding and church.
Published: 12 September 2022
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