Another important facet of 21st century Christian intentional communities is their affinity towards sustainability, “going green,” and simple living. Cherith Brook is a prime example of a community that has embraced these ideals.
“Our peace work is important, our hospitality is first here—service, works of charity. And going green. Obviously our gardens speak for themselves. In eight years Cherith Brook has never had to tap into city water for it’s gardens. We save all our run-off in above ground tanks. We raise chickens, which are the ultimate personal garbage disposal units—and they give us back eggs, they give us back meat. We all take care of them, take our turns in the garden, taking care of the beehives. This is only our third year with the beehives. The first year they got a couple quarts or a couple pints. Last summer we got 15 gallons! We were sticky for a week, harvesting it. That was just amazing. We have a wood stove we put in last year, and we’re gonna put two more in before winter, maybe three if we can swing it. We get a lot of our wood donated, so that helps with the heating bill. We have solar panels on the roof here, 60% of the power here comes from solar. We’re working on a project to put in a DC circuit for additional panels for water pumping so we don’t have to carry five gallon buckets to water our garden from the cisterns. We have a bicycle shop, we rebuild bicycles and give them away to people that need them.” (Lonnie interview, 2014)
Alyssa links the idea of ecological stewardship to the imperative of community, which motivates these intentional Christians:
“I also feel like, sort of ecological sustainability is a natural extension of stewardship, and sort of the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. The whole idea of community in general, if you expand that to include the environment around you, I just think it makes sense. And just from a rational standpoint, there’s no sense in waste at all.” (Alyssa Smith interview, 2014)
Joshua, Alyssa’s husband, explains the importance of gardening and sustainability by discussing biblical language, and Jesus’ life. Much like how social justice gains importance for Christian intentional community members because it allows them to act as Jesus would have, gardening and simple living allows these Christians to follow Jesus’ lead:
“For me, I know this sounds really cliché and cheesy. But I really think everything does come down to Jesus. And I look at Jesus’ sayings on simplicity and on in some way being…Jesus was a part of an agrarian society, so all of his imagery comes from farming. Seeing the sort of wonder at the natural world in his language and his teachings, how he refers to the lilies of the field, and the sparrows, and the birds in the air…his use of mustard seeds imagery and stuff like that. Maybe in a romantic way, that’s where it comes from for me. Because I do enjoy gardening. I think it’s magic. It’s like, you put this little thing in the ground, add a little bit of water and sunshine, and then something grows out of it and you can eat food off of it, and it’s just so far removed from the way we get food now, which is just going to the supermarket. And that may be a little bit of a romanticized idea, but there’s something about that that really appeals to me. Self-sufficiency and knowing—you go back to the creation story in Genesis, and there is supposed to be a cost of feeding ourselves. Like, we’re supposed to work at it, which is really far removed from where we are now. A lot of this, we go to work, we sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen or whatever, and go to a supermarket and buy our food. There is an element of, a recognition in Genesis, that you’re going to have to work and struggle to survive” (Joshua Smith interview, 2014)
Chris, however, finds concern for the environment to be important from a moral standpoint. For him, growing his own food rather than buying it at the store, allows him to disengage from what he sees as a violent and corrupt agricultural system:
“Us choosing convenience—that’s me actively fucking someone else over by choosing to eat Del Monte bananas. Those people are evil, they fuck people up. And I’m basically saying, “That’s alright, thanks for the bananas!” That’s like watching a dude shoot another dude, and the dude that shot turns around and sells you the stuff he just stole, and you’re like “Yeah man, that’s great!” It’s the exact same thing, we just don’t see it that way. These violent interactions brought me a product, and I’m saying thank you? (laughs) I’m giving you my life—time and energy—that I like spent and made paper, and I’m giving you that paper and I’m telling you that that’s really okay that you just did really fucked up things, and it’s all because I don’t want to get up off my ass and pick my own fruit? (laughs) Social justice works with individuals, you really need to figure out what you’re buying into. Christians, with our thought process, this should be a no brainer. but we just love comfort, and preaching about money.” (Husbands interview, 2014)
While not all 21st century Christian intentional communities practice sustainability and simple living to the extent that Cherith Brook does, most of them engage in this practice to some extent (by recycling waste water, for example, as Adrianne’s community does).