Just Living seasons and celebrations
Sustainable Autumn Living
Autumn is the season of harvest, a time of plenty, a time for final preparation before the chill of winter. For those who have plenty, this can be a season of celebration, but for those who are struggling autumn can be a time of great difficulty.
As people of God we are called to be Christ’s faithful evangelists in the world. Christ’s earthly ministry was one of service with the poor and outcast. Autumn is a season full of service opportunities for individuals and congregations. Together we can work to bring about a more sustainable world and provide for people’s immediate needs during this season of harvest by working diligently, celebrating responsibly, sharing the bounty and preparing for winter.
Autumn is filled with work: leaves pile up, a new school year starts and preparations for winter begin. There are a variety of tasks that each of us perform in order to accomplish what needs to be done before the onset of winter. Each of us is called to work diligently, using our time wisely, to glorify God.
Back to school
Teachers and students of all ages are called back to the halls of academia. Back-to-school sales create an illusion of need to increase consumption. Simplify this season by committing to buy nothing new for school. Select used textbooks, continue using last year’s school supplies and if new clothes are required, shop second hand.
Assist with an after-school program
As school begins, the need for tutors, volunteers and program leaders increases sharply. After-school programs provide a vital source of assistance for our nation’s youth. There are many after-school programs that one can get involved with: sports programs, tutoring programs, youth ministry programs and more. If there are no such programs in your area, encourage the church deacons to create and support after- school programs to benefit the community and spread the Gospel.
Benefits and open enrollment
For employees with benefits, fall is often a time for open enrollment. As needs change, reevaluate benefit options available. Enroll in the program that provides the best fit. Work for benefits for all people by becoming an advocate, writing local, state, national and international officials or getting involved in benefit campaigns.
Take back your time
While there is generally an abundance of work to be done during the harvest season, consider volunteering. Soup kitchens, missions, churches and service organizations are likely to need volunteers. Contact organizations of interest and share Christ’s love through service. Get new ideas and find organizations.
Yard waste and cleanup
Dispose of yard waste sustainably by finding local composters or municipal facilities accepting organic matter. Add yard waste to home compost bins as space and pH levels allow. Some leaves can be used as mulch or insulating material for plants such as roses and shrubs during winter months.
Coaching or participating in fall sports provides a great opportunity to get outside and get in shape. Athletics encourage us to care for our bodies and develop some of the physical gifts God has blessed us with. As athletes, teammates and coaches we can develop a greater understanding of working together toward a common goal. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes provides Bible studies and support for young athletes and coaches.
Hunt and fish responsibly
As vegetable and fruit harvests draw to a close, hunting season begins in many areas. License fees support local conservation and wildlife protection efforts. Bring along a Bible or prayer book to enjoy during times of stillness while on the hunt. Find ways to use as much of the hunted animal as possible and give extra meat to others in need. Let hunting and fishing be spiritual practices by giving thanks to God the Creator and taking only what is necessary.
Fall and winter farming and gardening
As daylight hours shorten and the growing season comes to an end, farmers and gardeners alike wind down their efforts. Some plants require fall planting and care. Summer bulbs may need to be stored indoors while spring bulbs need to be planted for next year. Root vegetables make excellent seasonal additions to fall and winter cooking. Canning fruits and vegetables preserves them without the energy expense of freezing.
Visit a Farm
One of the joys of autumn is that the harvest has drawn near. Find local farms and pick your own produce. Many fruits and vegetables can be picked fresh from local farmers. Larger farms may also have options for hayrides, wineries and family dining. If dairy cows are raised in your area, visit the dairy for fresh cheese, ice cream and milk. Harvesting can be a tremendous amount of work so be prepared.
Fall marks the beginning of the holiday season in the United States. Labor Day, Halloween, All Saints Day and Thanksgiving all provide ample opportunity for celebration. The way each of us lives and celebrates reflects the deeply held beliefs guiding our actions. By celebrating with intention, we share God’s love for us with the world.
There are many who work diligently every day who are not compensated with a living wage. Within each of our communities are laborers who suffer from human rights abuses and unfair wages. Make a difference this Labor Day by getting involved with efforts to support human rights and fair wages for all people.
Pumpkins, apples, corn and other produce can all be harvested locally. Visit a nearby farm and participate in a harvest. Pick out a pumpkin, enjoy fresh pressed cider and talk to the growers. Learning more about your food including where it comes from creates a connection with growers and the earth that is missing from grocery shopping.
Scale back for Halloween/harvest celebrations
Halloween is becoming an increasingly consumer-driven holiday. Consumer groups estimate the average U.S. citizen will spend between $40 and $60 this Halloween. Reduce spending by constructing a costume from old clothes or shopping at a thrift store. If hosting a party decorate naturally with gourds, squash, cornstalks and hay bales. Cut costs by reusing decorations and borrowing decorations from others.
Some churches offer harvest festivals as an alternative to Halloween for Christian youth. Tailor your celebration to embrace the harvest by incorporating a hayride or a farm tour, bobbing for locally grown apples and serving fresh pressed apple cider, and visiting a local pumpkin patch to select future jack-o'-lanterns. Roasted pumpkin seeds provide a healthy snack as well.
Sugar, cocoa and vanilla, main ingredients in Halloween candy and fall baking, are often harvested by children and workers under ghastly conditions. Support just harvesting and educate others about worker rights by distributing fairly traded candy and chocolate. Fair trade and organic options for sugar, cocoa and vanilla are also available.
Trick or Treat with purpose
Share Christ’s love with the world with an intentional approach to trick-or-treating. Organize a trick-or-treat food drive in your community where neighbors give canned goods to local food pantries. “Reverse Trick-or-Treating” increases awareness about fair trade by thanking neighbors for their generosity with fair trade chocolate and information on the difference fair trade makes.
All Saints Day
While not often celebrated with the same flamboyance as Halloween, All Saints Day provides a great time to remember and celebrate the saints of the past. Without such saints, we would likely not have the world we have today. Remember saints by retelling their stories. Celebrate the gifts of those who have blessed your life.
Celebrate Thanksgiving in a sustainable way by cooking and serving food that was grown locally. Challenge friends and family to eat food that comes from farms less than 100 miles away from home. Eating locally supports local economies and sustainable, small scale farming operations. Check out our alternative Thanksgiving ideas.
Sharing the bounty
Harvests are times of plenty for many people, yet the Biblical call is not for some, but for all, to live abundantly. The call to abundant life is found throughout scripture and is extended to rich and poor, powerful and oppressed, human and non-human alike. Where we find abundance we are called to share with our neighbors; where scarcity exists we rely on our neighbors. We are all called to live in community, for together we give and receive as God’s creations.
In every prayer contemplate “give us this day our daily bread” and what it means for yourself and others. Prayer helps structure thoughts and actions as we make daily decisions about consumption, sharing and community.
Glean a field
Most crop fields are not fully harvested by the conclusion of the harvest. Ruth and Naomi survived by gleaning from Boaz’s fields. Talk to local farmers to glean crops left behind on their fields. After gleaning, give the produce to local shelters and missions.
Remember others with each meal by participating in the Cents-ability program. Place a Cents-ability cup from the Presbyterian Hunger Program on your table. Before each meal, contribute a few coins to feed hungry people around the world. Over time coins add up and make a substantial donation which can be used to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes. Allow this practice, along with table prayers, to keep you mindful of your own food choices. Eating cents-ably is a great way to teach responsibility and stewardship.
Community meals are a great way to share the bounty of the earth. Ensure room for all people at the table by providing food for people with plenty and for people in need. Create a common space where people can come together and share in fellowship around a well-spread table.
Churches and neighborhoods can share in meal preparation by creating weekly potluck meals. Avoid all disposables; paper plates and plastic utensils consume resources unnecessarily and release environmental toxins as they degrade in landfills. Biodegradable disposables are often made from food (such as corn or potatoes) that could have otherwise been used to feed people. Instead of disposable items, use dishes and silverware which can be washed and reused; clean-up time is ideal for fellowship as well.
Seasonal changes mandate a modification of the clothes that will be worn on a regular basis. For some this requires getting new clothes, jackets, and accessories; for others, the seasonal shift involves pulling warmer clothes out of storage and storing summer wardrobes. If you are privileged to have more clothes than you need, give some of your wardrobe during this transitional period. As a rule of thumb if you didn’t wear it last season, give it this season. If you are getting new clothes, give at least one old item for every new item you purchase and seek out clothes that are made as responsibly as possible.
Organize a clothing drive at your school or church to provide an opportunity for people to share new and gently used clothes with others. Fall’s cooler temperatures increase the need for warm clothing and blankets. Many children need new winter coats each year as they grow out of last year’s coats. If your children no longer fit into last year’s clothes, give the clothes rather than throwing them away. Create a mission ministry of making and collecting blankets, hats, scarves and mittens for the clothing drive.
Energy costs for heating one’s home in the fall and winter can become prohibitive for many people. You can assist others with their heating costs by working with local energy companies. Many utility companies allow residents to give to funds to assist others in paying heating costs during the winter. You can also assist others by encouraging energy efficiency and striving to use renewable energy.
Grocery gift cards
Autumn and the harvest season represent a season of plenty, but the reality of our world is that many remain hungry. Alleviation of hunger in local communities can begin with your church. Organized food drives, give grocery gift cards and host weekly meals to assist with hunger relief. Grocery gift cards and restaurant gift certificates provide a helpful resource for pastors in assisting people in need who look to the church for help.
Preparing for winter
The shortening days of autumn foreshadow winter’s arrival. Embody God’s call to justice by planning ahead and preparing for winter. God’s call looks different to different people, so challenge yourself by exploring new lifestyle practices during this preparatory time.
Develop support networks
Create support networks for the upcoming winter season. Develop an internal network of support for church members who would like to be involved by creating a phone and email tree. Members can call each other once a week or so and deepen church fellowship. If an emergency or strong winter storm occurs, support trees help ensure that members are contacted and cared for as needed. These support networks can be especially beneficial for people who live alone, college students who are away from home and others who desire greater connection with the community.
Holiday giving opportunities
The holidays create a number of opportunities for people to celebrate, which can put added pressure on those who are already struggling. Assist people in the local community by supporting mission and outreach efforts to provide holiday meals and Christmas presents. Adopt a family or group of families during these seasons. Decorate a tree with ornaments, each containing a special need a congregants can fill. Gather gifts and celebrate the goodness of God’s loving provision in a service of worship to dedicate the gifts before they are delivered with humility and grace.
Many animals need food to survive the winter and providing outdoor feeders creates opportunities to celebrate the diversity of life during the winter season. Placing feeders outside of windows will attract wild birds all winter. If you are in a more rural area, larger animals, like deer, may be attracted by apples, greens and bits of stale bread.
Prevent heat loss
Insulate attics, weatherstrip windows and cover windows after sundown to minimize heat loss. Preheat ovens no more than ten minutes prior to cooking. Be an energy steward by maximizing energy retention and minimizing energy loss. Maintain a cooler home temperature and commit to wearing sweaters to further prevent heat lost to the environment.
Plan a sustainable Christmas celebration
Begin discussions with friends and family about a sustainable Christmas in the fall. Plan out a low-stress Christmas celebration that is Christ-centered rather than consumption driven. Simplify your holiday season with pre-emptive planning to prevent holiday tension and return the significance of the season. Now is the time to agree to spending limits, create pacts to buy nothing new for Christmas, dedicate greater time for family or friends and otherwise shape future holiday celebrations. Check out our ideas for reclaiming Advent and Christmas.