For me, this problem was wrong on several levels. First, both churches were a denomination that says the Bible is to be taken literally. Yet verses pertaining to our care of the earth, such as Psalms 24:1, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it," are completely disregarded. To me, such a verse means we aught to cherish the earth, and part of cherishing it means to be careful with our resources.
Another problem is poor use of financial resources. At the first church, the use of bottled water bothered me because there was a drinking fountain in the room where registration and other activities occurred. However, a big sign on it notified visitors that it was broken and to not use it. My thought was that with all the bottled water they purchased over time, they probably could have fixed the water fountain. And then could use the money that otherwise would be spent on bottled water to do good works.
At the other church, I saw a different kind of waste. There I watched as aluminum cans were tossed into plastic garbage bags. Not only is aluminum an easily recyclable resource, it has value to it. In our community, Habitat for Humanity collects aluminum cans and uses the recycling money to supplement its income. This organization builds houses for low income families, like the ones the event was helping. They were, in effect, taking money from the people who they were there to help.
The lack of recycling also set a poor example for the next generation. The second event targeted families so had lots of activities for children. Children are impressionable and malleable; setting up a recycling station would have been a great teaching moment. Instead, the adults showed the children that it's okay to be a throw-away society.
In the future, for similar events, I need to remember to ask about the possibility of recycling. Small changes can have a huge impact.