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Caring for Creation in Our Home


An update from Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, serving in Costa Rica

Winter 2023

Write to Mark Hare
Write to Jenny Bent

Individuals: Give online to E132192 in honor of Mark Hare and Jenny Bent’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Mark Hare and Jenny Bent’s ministry

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

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He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will be no curse anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will serve him. Revelation 22:1-3 World English Bible

Dear friends,

In my last letter, I shared about being an anti-destructivist and what that means in terms of Jenny’s and my work supporting the Latin American Biblical University (UBL, for its initials in Spanish) in its journey promoting climate justice both within the university, in communities around it, and throughout Latin America. Now I can add that the UBL recently received recognition for our work, through a program called “The Blue Flag,” which guides and monitors institutions working to become more sustainable. Areas that the Blue Flag is helping us monitor include the use of electricity, water conservation and waste management.

In April we visited the recycling receiving station

In April we visited the recycling receiving station for our municipality. The workers received us and our questions with good humor and posed with us before we left. Members of the Green UBL team are the ones out of uniform—from left to right, Maryuri, Victor and Jenny.

Working towards the UBL’s Blue Flag has made me even more conscious of what we do in our own home to put our faith into action as we struggle to become sustainable members of God’s green earth. In terms of electricity, we are privileged to live in Costa Rica, a country that produces over 90% of its power from renewable sources. We work to conserve even more, using LED bulbs in all our light fixtures, for example. We avoid using energy for either cooling or heating by living in the tropics, at 3,500 feet above sea level. Living in the tropics, the temperature varies very little during the year, and living at 3,500 feet, it never gets too warm. During our six months of cool, damp weather, we adapt by 1) getting grumpy, and 2) putting on sweaters.

We do use a lot of water, even though we have reduced our time in the shower. We try to be efficient when we use the washing machine, but I get my clothes very dirty in the gardens; we haven’t been able to reduce our use by much. We do better with waste management. Together with other members of the Green UBL team, we visited a municipal recycling receiving center this year and we found out exactly what they can and cannot receive, and then send on. Now we recycle more effectively. Part of doing that better is washing out everything. That increases our water usage, but it helps guarantee that our plastics, for example, can move out of the waste stream. Companies that create recycled plastic products here can’t make a profit if they were to clean out every bottle; dirty plastics just get thrown away.

Receiving the Blue Flag recognition

Receiving the Blue Flag recognition in early November 2023. To the left is the Catholic priest who helps run the ecclesiastical Blue Flag program. Mariana, center, works in outreach and answered all our questions as we filled out forms and created our action plans. Victor, to the right, is the member of the Green UBL team who kept us working towards this award.

We also compost more than 90% of our organic waste, using a rotating composter and red worms. In a recycling workshop that Jenny and I and two community members attended, we learned that over 50% of residential waste is typically organic, and therefore, compostable. As a result of recycling and composting, we are putting out at most three medium-sized bags of trash each week; some weeks we get it down to one or two.

Based on all these adjustments we’ve made to our lives, I did a carbon footprint estimate recently, using a site recommended to us by Jessica Maudlin, associate for sustainable living and Earth care concerns in the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). This is the “CoolClimate Network” calculator at It was fun to go through and fill out all the estimates for how much we spend, but the result was disappointing. As a household, even with all our work, we are still putting an estimated 38 tons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere each year.

So how much is 38 tons of CO2? Here is how I thought about it. One of the regenerative agricultural techniques we use for producing vegetables without synthesized chemicals is called biochar. We take charcoal produced sustainably and add it to our garden soils. Charcoal stays in the soil for hundreds of years, removing quite a bit of CO2 from the atmosphere. At the same time, it helps improve the nutrient cycles. So, I asked myself, how much charcoal would I have to add to our soil to remove 38 tons of CO2? A Google search later, the answer is that we would have to add about 10.5 tons of charcoal every year to our garden soils to capture, or sequester, just the CO2 from our family of four. Optimum levels of biochar in the soil have not yet been established, but it is safe to assume that just in the first year, that amount of charcoal would destroy our gardens, not improve them.

Johan, a university student

Johan, a university student who worked with us in 2022, empties out the barrel we used to produce biochar. We crush the charcoal and add it to our compost, charging it with nutrients and soil microorganisms. All the biochar we made in three or four months weighed up to 50 or 60 pounds.

Clearly, we must reduce our carbon footprint. We’re thinking of adding a solar panel to charge phones and laptops. We also might begin harvesting part of the rainwater to wash clothes and mop. Those things will help, but looking at our chart, we could reduce our carbon footprint the most by using our car much less—the fuel for our car is about a third of our total carbon output. Changing that, though, will mean deep adjustments to our lifestyle. Keila and Annika would have to start taking the city bus home from school, rather than waiting for us to pick them up. Taking the public bus to school would mean getting up even earlier than 5:30 a.m., as we do now. We’ve talked about using public transportation to go to the beach. We probably need to try that. None of these changes would feel good, at least at first. Accepting this challenge seriously will change our lives.

Our world is dying, and we, as a global society, are the ones destroying it. There are things to do—our lives need to change, as families, as communities, as nations and as a world. Jenny, Keila, Annika and I are privileged to be part of a community of people working towards a new Creation. Won’t you join us?


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