I did something at work a couple of days ago that got me to thinking. What did I do? I got some paper out of my supervisor's trash can, took it home and used it for printer paper. How did I come to do that, and why?
I was helping my supervisor on her side of the warehouse. On the way to put up some product, I walked past her trash can and noticed some paper in there. I knew that paper was clean because I'd just seen it on my super's desk a few minutes before, so I reached in and got it. The paper was printed on only one side so it immediately occurred to me that I could use it for my own printing needs. And that's what I did. When I got home that day I put the paper in my printer and used it to print out a few pictures from the net. Although the paper I "recycled" from my job seemed to be of a lesser weight than what I buy, it worked fine. And that got me to thinking, what about all the paper that I missed? What should be done about wasting all that perfectly usable "trash"?
Paper isn't the only thing that's wasted at my job. I work in a warehouse so we use lots of wooden pallets. Sometimes pieces of these pallets break off and, of course, we throw them away. What a waste. I'm not sure what those pieces of wood could be used for but I'm sure they're good for something. Maybe they could be used by people who do woodworking as a hobby. I bet those pallet slats could be turned into very useful and beautiful things by some talented hobbyists. Sadly, we'll never get to know because the broken pallet slats are thrown away.
When I saw that paper in my supervisor's trash can, I thought about ALL the unnecessary waste that's piling up all over the warehouse, our country, and even the world. I wondered what can be done about it, and I think the answer lies in changing our understanding of what "resources" are and rediscovering the Biblical concept of stewardship.
I suspect most Americans and other wealthy Westerners think of resources as only the raw materials taken from nature. We don't think of the things made from those raw materials as resources, but they are. A piece of paper printed on only one side is a resource; it can be used again. A wood slat broken off a pallet is a resource; it can be used again. The cardboard rolls that packing tape is wrapped around are resources; they can be used for other purposes once the tape is gone. We've got to change the way we think about resources. Using something for its stated purpose is not the same thing as using it up. It makes no sense to toss out things that are totally reusable.
We live in economically and environmentally challenging times. Everything that we can save and reuse means less money going out of our personal, business, and national pockets and less damaging mining of the earth for raw materials. That's what Biblical stewardship is, wisely using and REusing the resources God has given us. The sage old maxim, "Waste not, want not", is a succinct expression of Biblical stewardship. We are suffering economically because we abandoned that principle and instead tried to build lasting wealth and economic security on extravagant consumption. It didn't work. So why not give Scripture's advice another try? Our forefathers did, and they created the richest nation the world has ever seen. Let's be their true heirs and start once again to diligently apply the Godly principles that undergirded their success. After all, if we "waste not", what do we have to lose?