Go Carbon-Less for Lent

February 5, 2008

While many Christians will swear off chocolate or television at tomorrow’s outset of Lent, some will opt to cut back on something else: carbon.

Two Church of England bishops are encouraging God-fearing folks to reduce their carbon footprint for this year’s 40-day period of fasting and prayer, reports The Guardian Unlimited‘s Jessica Aldred. The bishops of Liverpool and London have united with Tearfund, a Christian relief and development charity, to promote a “carbon fast,” which asks Lent observers to bring down their carbon emissions through simple daily acts.

Says The Guardian:

The 40-day plan lists simple energy-saving actions that can lead towards a lighter carbon footprint, including snubbing plastic bags, giving the dishwasher a day off, insulating the hot-water tank and checking the house for drafts.

Participants are asked to begin the carbon fast by removing one light bulb from a prominent place in the home and live without it for 40 days, as a constant visual reminder during Lent of the need to cut energy. On the final day of the fast, people are encouraged to replace the missing bulb with an energy-saving bulb.

The carbon-fast endorsement comes on the heels of a handful of other Church-related green moves, including last year’s climate change conference in the Vatican and Bishop Richard Chartres’ 2006 pledge to avoid airlines for 12 months. While some were upset by Pope Benedict’s stance on the side of human-induced climate change (and they are not alone; see my Red Pill post), the conference illuminated a growing concern among Christians regarding the state of the planet.

For those still searching for a Lent-worthy penance, here’s the full 40-day list. If you take it on, let me know. While I’m not wholly convinced that climate change is a direct result of humanity, it stands to reason that by reducing our intake, not only will we lead happier, less consumption-based lives, but we’ll also do good by Mother Earth.

Day one
(Ash Wednesday.) Remove one light bulb and live without it for the next 40 days.

Day two
Check your house for draughts with a ribbon or feather. If it flutters, buy a draught excluder.

Day three
Tread lightly — whether that’s by foot, by bike, on a bus or on the gas as you drive. Find a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when you travel today.

Day four
Are you recycling everything possible? Really — everything? Look into it today. [Psst. Check out How Can I Recycle This? in my Blogroll, below.]

Day five
Can you talk about your Carbon Fast at church today? Encourage others to join in. [Psst. #2: Kinda not applicable to those who don’t worship on Sundays. You can adapt this to your workplace, your dinner-party friends, your PTA — get creative!]

Day six
Turn your central heating thermostat down by one degree.

Day seven
Say au revoir to standby. Check that all electrical equipment is switched off when not in use. The TV alone will save a hefty 20kg of carbon dioxide per year.

Day eight
Unplug your mobile phone charger: it uses electricity even when it’s not charging.

Day nine
Climate change isn’t a distant threat — it’s affecting poor communities now. Pray for Tearfund’s work to help vulnerable communities adapt to the changing weather. [Psst. #3: Again, tough for those who don’t “pray,” per se. How about meditation? Or how about giving some cash to a climate-change charity?]

Day 10
Give your dishwasher a day off or promote it to [an] energy efficient appliance.

Day 11
Use local shops or farmers’ markets instead of driving to out-of-town shopping parks [or strip malls. Local producers] will thank you; supermarkets won’t notice your absence.

Day 12
Tell politicians to take action on climate change today. Check out Tearfund’s campaign work at tearfund.org/climate.

Day 13
Put the heat on your electricity or gas suppliers and ask them if they have a green plan. Make the switch and feel cozy.

Day 14
Take a shower instead of a bath: you’ll heat less water.

Day 15
Snub plastic bags. Get into the habit of taking your rucksack to the supermarket or go retro with a trolley. Ask your supermarket to remove unnecessary packaging.

Day 16
Switch off lights as you leave the room.

Day 17
Only fill your kettle with as much water as you need.

Day 18
Cut the air miles. Don’t consume any food that you know has been imported by plane (apart from Fair Trade products).

Day 19
Grace Maglasey and her husband Andrew struggle to grow enough food because their village in Malawi is caught in a cycle of floods and droughts. Join in with Grace’s prayer today: “We pray that those of us who farm should harvest a lot of food so that this year we will not have hunger. In the name of Jesus, Amen.” [Psst. #4: Or, check out what you can do to help farming efforts abroad. Give money, or give time. Ever considered the Peace Corps?]

Day 20
Compost. Put the nutrients from food waste back into the soil — not into a methane-emitting landfill.

Day 21
Only run your washing machine when you have a full load.

Day 22
Find one way to save paper today: re-use an old envelope or print double-sided. [See my earlier post on this. Grrr, paper!]

Day 23
Turn the taps off. In one day a hot, dripping tap could fill a bath.

Day 24
Counsel your local council. Thank them for their recycling facilities but ask them if they could provide any more.

Day 25
Who works hardest in the house? Mum? Dad? No, the fridge. It’s churning away 24/7. Treat it to a good de-icing to make sure it’s running efficiently.

Day 26
“Love does no harm to its neighbour.” Romans 13:10. But while our lifestyles consume more and more energy, our poorer neighbours are suffering. Reflect on ways to love our neighbours in our increasingly connected world.

Day 27
Pressure a car owner to check their tire pressures. Low tire pressure means high fuel consumption.

Day 28
Do a home energy check at energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0800 512 012 for a paper copy. You could save up to £250 [or, about 500 U.S. bucks] a year on bills.

Day 29
Run your washing machine at 30 degrees [Celsius]. This uses 40% less electricity than running at 40 degrees [Celsius].

Day 30
Find out a new fact about the impact of climate change today. Amaze your friends.

Day 31
Fit aluminum foil behind your radiator — allowing you to turn the radiator down and save £10 [or, 20 U.S.D.] a year per radiator.

Day 32
Any old iron? If they’re on their last legs replace old electrical appliances with energy-efficient models. They could save a third of the energy.

Day 33
Have an embrace-the-silence Sunday. Turn off everything. No TV, no radio, no ringtones, no cars. It’ll be good for the soul.

Day 34
Tell the Mailing Preference Service that you want to stop junk mail. Call 0845 7034599 or visit mpsonline.org.uk. [In the U.S., try catalogchoice.org to stop the flow of those pesky catalogs into your mailbox.]

Day 35
Put an insulation jacket on your hot-water tank. If everyone does, we’ll cut enough carbon dioxide to fill 148,000 hot-air balloons.

Day 36
Reuse an item you would have thrown away — such as a jam jar, an envelope or an ice-cream container.

Day 37
Put a lid on it. That’s pans when cooking; and use a kettle to boil water.

Day 38
Draw the curtains to keep the heat in.

Day 39
Could your church be greener? Talk to your church leaders. Tearfund can help – visit the site.

Day 40
Replace your missing bulb with an energy-saving lightbulb. Over its lifetime, you will save 60kg of carbon dioxide per year and up to £60 [or, about 120 U.S. dollars]. Make a personal pledge to serve others by pursuing a more sustainable way of life.


One Response to “Go Carbon-Less for Lent”

  1. Justin said

    This post is encouraging because the church has been lagging in the fight against global warming. It’s nice to see at least some denominations at least taking the threat seriously. This list doesn’t necessarily speak to me (I’d have a hard time talking about global warming at church), but the church really is a source for social change for many people.

    And I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have driven an hummer.

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