Planting a Green Future
For Mildred Lawrence, working for environmental justice is a natural byproduct of caring for the Creation.
By GABRIELLE BELLAMY
Having grown up as a country girl from Wyoming, Mildred Lawrence of Shawnee, Kan., thought it would be important for her to be involved with environmental justice. Today Ms. Lawrence is a member of United Methodist Women’s Green Team, serving in that position since 2005.
“Growing up, we did land conservation. My father planted trees, and my mother gardened,” she said. “I thought working with the Green Team would be interesting.”
Ms. Lawrence’s local church, Shawnee United Methodist Church, calls its Green Team the Environmental Work Area. The team has about 10 members. “We also have other people who are not on the committee but still work with us from time to time,” she said.
The Environmental Work Area began its work in the church by allowing a member who is an energy engineer to do an audit for the church. The team presented the audit to the trustees, and the church decided to go green. Since then, the church has changed its regular light bulbs to energy efficient light bulbs, and it tries to avoid the use of plastic foam. The team also displays information about environmental justice and climate change around the church.
Ms. Lawrence said her pastor is very cooperative and supporting. “He encourages us,” she said.
In the beginning, some members were very considerate but didn’t believe in climate change, Ms. Lawrence said. “I told them I don’t care what you believe in, but you do care about the air and how it affects others,” she said. “I think most of the members try to be more green in their lives now. Most are happy to change their lives to be more green.”
Although the Environmental Work Area hasn’t gone out into the community that much, the team has brought the community into Shawnee United Methodist Church. Speakers from other churches as well as members of the community have addressed the congregation about climate change. Ms. Lawrence said her church has also celebrated Earth Day each year for the past few years by having an Earth Sunday. “We have a service centered on climate change,” she said.
An important attribute about this Green Team is the youth involvement. Ms. Lawrence said the youth are interested in environmental justice. Members have even gone out and picked up trash in the community. “I am happy to see that the children are doing more green things,” Ms. Lawrence said. “I think that’s where our real hope is; it’s with our children.”
Her favorite part of working with the Green Team has been talking to other people and helping them realize the dangers of environmental problems. Ms. Lawrence also enjoys the way she and the other Green Team leaders get together to discuss things that are going on in their local areas as well as the latest environmental justice issues.
Ms. Lawrence plans to remain on the Green Team for the next quadrennium, “I will always be a green person,” she said. Kansas East Conference started a Green Team too, she said.
For those interested in starting a Green Team at their own church, Ms. Lawrence said, “You have to find people who care and want to be involved. I think if people are knowledgeable, they will want to be a part of it.”
Published in January 2012 in Response Magazine