Consider Challenging Yourself to be a Steward for Earth During Lent
Alex "Solar Girl" Steele
For many Americans, Lent is an important part of the year. A time of solemn observance for Catholic people, Lent is the 40 day period that begins after Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. During this time, many people choose to “give something up” to show reverence for the sacrifice Jesus made when he fasted and prayed for 40 days, before dying on the Cross for mankind’s sins. Whether you are religious or not, Lent can be an opportune time to try out new healthy habits, break out of negative cycles, and reflect on ways to grow. Many faiths teach us to “keep and till” the Earth, not only utilizing the natural resources afforded to us for our own benefit, but also giving back to the planet and protecting its fragile ecological systems. Were you planning on observing Lent this year? Even if Lent has no spiritual significance to you, consider using this time to challenge yourself to do some extra good for our shared home.
The current Catholic Pope Francis published Ladauto Si’: On Care for Our Common Home a few years ago, an encyclical that critiqued communities around the world on our unsustainable development of the land, over-reliance on fossil fuels, and slow action on climate change. His encyclical was considered a rallying cry for all people of the world - not just Catholics - to take “swift and unified global action” to protect our planet. In response to his declaration, worship groups around the world have been committing to environmental action. As a result, many people choose to give something up that will benefit the climate, make their lifestyles more sustainable, or instill eco-friendly habits. We’re supportive of any efforts to fight anthropogenic climate change, so we want to share some ideas to inspire our readers to give up for good.
One of the simplest (but probably the most challenging!) things you can do for Lent is to give up eating meat… Or maybe going totally vegan for 40 days! If meat is a primary staple of your diet, you might find this extremely difficult to accomplish. But if you’re serious about shrinking your carbon footprint, this is a great way to do it. Did you know that meat production is the world’s leading cause of methane, a fossil fuel that exacerbates the greenhouse effect 86% more than carbon dioxide? Giving up meat for Lent is a great way to reduce your personal environmental impact.
Another simple way to acknowledge environmental stewardship during Lent could be going plastic-free. Humans are a little out of control when it comes to plastic consumption… In fact, a recent study uncovered that people ingest an average of a credit card’s worth of plastic each week… In the form of microplastics, mostly found in our water supplies! How bewildering is that? We can’t do much about the amount of microplastics we come in contact with daily, but we can reduce our dependence on daily plastic use. Switching to refillable water bottles, committing to use metal straws and utensils instead of disposables, and bringing cloth grocery bags to the store are simple swaps that can help you be less wasteful.
Did you know that the average American produces about 4.5 pounds of trash… daily? Reducing general waste is a goal that makes sense for everyone! You could start by focusing on reducing food waste; aim to consume all of the food you purchase without letting anything go bad before you can eat it. You could also switch your grocery habits to bring your own bulk containers and fill them up at the store, instead of buying plastic bags and cardboard boxes for dry goods. If you really want to turn up the challenge, you could try to see how little you can fill up your garbage cans until Easter!
If you want to do even more to protect the planet, you could also consider looking into having a solar energy system installed on your home. The average sized solar array on a home in the United States can save a total of 103 metric tons of CO2 over the life of the system. This is, by far, the most impactful thing an everyday person can do to reduce their emissions. Not only does it eliminate far more pollution than most of the other tips we listed here, it also doesn’t feel like a sacrifice - it’s an investment for the benefit of the planet. This type of decision will last a lot longer than the 40 days of Lent, of course, so it makes sense to speak with a solar energy professional and learn more about the process before you decide what’s best for your home.
We hope that you consider trying out some of these environmentally friendly habits over the next 40 days of Lent, and that you like some of them enough to stick with them after the season has passed. Caring for our planet is both a selfless act and a gift to oneself, and can be considered a spiritual practice no matter what faith you observe. We wish you and your family a peaceful and restorative Lent!