Are The Amish “Green”? (Video)

In September I wrote about one person’s expression of disappointment on discovering the Amish using plastic packaging. You can read that post here if you missed it.

In that post I looked at a couple of the misconceptions that might lead one to be disappointed in a cultural group’s choice of food packaging. These were the somewhat related ideas that a) Amish are “frozen in time”, and b) also motivated to act in environmentally-friendly ways.

Amishman at work in the garden. Photo: Cindy Seigle

After writing it, I essentially put that post into video form, which you can view below.

I’ve found this impression of the Amish as environmentalist examples is not uncommon. While there are certainly some Amish whom you could describe as environmentally-minded, I argue that the term doesn’t really apply to most Amish.

Summer stroll on an Amish farm in Lancaster County, PA

Authors David McConnell and Marilyn Loveless have looked at this question more deeply than I have. They wrote a whole book on the topic called Nature & The Environment in Amish Life. I asked them the question in a 2019 interview. Here was their reply:

Amish America: When people ask if the Amish are environmentally-minded, what answer do you give?

David McConnell & Marilyn Loveless: We tell them that although many Amish practices appear to be, and sometimes are, “environmentally friendly,” they usually don’t have that intent. It’s the English who try to make the Amish into model environmental citizens.

The Amish believe that the natural world was created by God for human use. The Amish see no need to alter their behaviors to try to somehow protect the world they have been given, because God is in charge.

The Amish do pay attention to their natural surroundings, but they don’t subscribe to an environmental agenda. They usually don’t see that their behaviors have caused any problems. Although they mostly comply with regulations about manure management, food safety, and so forth, they generally regard them as unnecessary government overreach, costly and a waste of time.

The Amish we talked with were dismissive of the idea that we are experiencing an environmental crisis. They saw environmentalists as “tree-huggers” and “animal-rights activists” and felt they were guilty of worshipping the Creation rather than the Creator. Where natural resources are concerned, human needs should take precedence over preservation.

People carry other misconceptions of “the Amish” as a group as well, such as that they consider technology to be “evil”, or that they are anti-education. Often enough there are parcels of truth which these conceptions are based in, so you can understand where such blanket ideas might come from. I hope this video helps address this particular misconception.

Runtime: 4:15.

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    4 Comments

    1. David Stear

      Being "green"

      This was an interesting video and provided further clarification about how to view what the Amish might do that fits with the general idea of “green living” as well as how other things they do that may not. I commented on the other original page about plastic use that society as a whole, including the Amish, needs to minimize single use plastic items. Plastic is finding its way, by the tons, into the oceans as well as creating litter on land; plastic does not readily decompose as paper, for example, does in a relatively short period of time (most paper can even be composted), by comparison.

      There are things I find admirable about the Amish way of life, however religion not so much despite the fact that their religion is the basis for how they live. There are exceptions to this general “admiration” one example of which was many years ago seeing an Amish man coming out of a rural store in Pennsylvania and lighting up a cigarette. Since the Protestant(Methodist) background from which I came generally frowned on smoking since the body is to be regarded as a “temple” of sorts, I just assumed since the Amish are usually thought of as being “wholesome”, clean people that they also frowned on smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages. That particular “bubble” was burst along with much surprise at seeing an Amish guy smoking a cigarette. It made me wonder what others in his church might have thought of him having this “habit”.

    2. Mary

      Environmental vs economical

      In the family I grew up with I was fortunate to have a first hand view of many Amish practices and lifestyles and I believe I am the richer for those years.
      I asked my mother why, constantly about everything. She had an answer for practically everything and many of her answers came directly from the bible.One question was why did we reuse our canning jars and she said that the bible tells us to be good stewards of god’s gifts to mankind. The rag rugs were made from old clothing and scraps not used from sewing clothes and blankets. There was always a bottle of sour milk on the counter from which she made a type of cottage cheese and quite a lot of food scraps fed the pigs thereby cutting the amount of money back on animal feed. We used most offal from butchering, either in sausage, scrapple, liver pudding etc. Even stale crackers were used to make cracker pudding. We’d save the ends of used candles to create new ones. Soap bars were melted down and new bars crafted. Quite a lot of kitchen aids were handed down from one generation to another and things were literally repaired not replaced. Pop could often be heard in the wood shed making parts for things that were no longer manufactured. Us children played many games that we made up rather than being store bought toys.
      Anything that couldn’t be “recycled” into something new would be sold for scraps to local junk men. We saved rubber bands, bread ties old buttons the list goes on.Rainwater was caught in large barrels and used to water the gardens when droughts occured, we used it to wash clothes in and never needed or used fabric softener. To bathe and wash our bodies in and didn’t need conditioners (cream rinse) The “waste not want not” phrase was lived out in our daily lives.
      I even remember our old dresses were used for barn work and only switched out at the end of the week, laundry was done once a week only.
      Nothing was done by herd mentalitiy unless it made sense. So many of the bible phrases were woven into our daily lives and lived out before ourselves, our families and our community.
      Thank you for letting me share here.

    3. Sara

      New Perspective

      I really enjoyed this post. I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions about this topic as well, for example, people using their wish to live “green” or self-sufficiently as reasons for wanting to join the Amish.

      I find it somehow curious, however, that this isn’t more important for them, being the creation of God. But as I read the excerpt of the interview with the authors of the book, I realize this is a perspective I hadn’t considered and that also makes sense. I’ll be sure to read their book, it looks fascinating!

      P.S: while watching this I cannot help but remember the character of the sitcom “The Office” Dwight Schrute, who has an Amish heritage, saying “I’m a minority: non-organic farmers”.

    4. judith marlowe

      the Amish Green Video

      Everyone should leave the Amish alone. The rest of this country should act as they do.

      I don’t see the likes Peter Buttiegieg, John Kerry, the globalist, America’s eite, Hollywood and even Brandon using private plane and gas guzzlers. That’s the joke of green.