40 ways for 40 days

We’re all carbon addicts. We live lives dependent on goods and services being moved to where we are and dependent on our own ability to travel, buy, and use.

I practice a couple of Lenten disciplines, usually centering around taking on something rather than giving something up (most often, an additional spiritual practice like extra prayer or Bible study). But for those who do “give something up” for Lent, may I join my brothers in the Church of England who suggest that this year people try a carbon fast.


There are the usual reasons like the planet, you know, dying if we continue to consume at these rates, but perhaps you want something more spiritual from the pastor recommending a Lenten discipline?

How about this: I firmly believe that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in/on/under/above it. I believe that only when we reverence all of life do we truly embrace God. I believe that our selfish dependence on fossil fuels is not only destructive to others but to our own spirits, because we tell ourselves that we deserve the best and most disposable products and we must have them now. I believe that we are actually happier, healthier, more spiritually centered people when we are living in harmony with the Universe and not in opposition to it. Reducing our impact on the environment promotes justice and well-being for all of creation an teaches us to live out of God’s abundance and care rather than our own needs and desires. And that, I think, is what giving something up for Lent is all about.

The above link contains ten simple, every-day ideas to undertake a carbon fast. I figured I could do better than that.

Under the cut, 40 way for 40 days: simple, everyday ideas to begin a Lenten carbon fast.

1. Pick through your trash – this is actually the best advice I know of. Try to look at what’s in your garbage. Notice what you throw away the most and use that information to help guide your next steps in reducing your impact. Fast food containers (cook at home!)? Tissues (use a hankie!)? Me, it’s food scraps. Guess who needs to start a compost pile when the snow melts?

2. Let there be (compact fluorescent) Light! – you’ve heard it before, but replacing regular light bulbs with CFL bulbs saves money and resources.

3. Reuse before you Recycle – recycled materials still contribute to the chain of things that will eventually wind up ina landfill; reused things stay out a while longer. c’mon, your kid can do *something* with that shoebox!

4. Be a Baglady (or Baggent?) – bring canvas/reusable bags with you to the grocery store.

5. Pray – what kind of Lenten list is this without prayer? The fifth day of Lent being a Sunday, don’t just pray at home; lift prayers in your local church for the protection of the environment and for the will to be good stewards of it. Someone else my join your carbon fast.

6. Tune out – turn off the TV and spend some time with a loved one. You may have so much fun, you forget to ever turn the thing on again.

7. Be insular – check for insulation around light plates and the gaps around doors and windows.

8. Cool your water heater – just a degree or two can make a big difference. There’s no need for the hot-only tap water to scald your hands, either.

9. Soak in it – the dishwater, that is, as you do dishes by hand instead of running the dishwasher.

10. Go Unplugged – not just for musicians anymore! Many devices like cell phone chargers still draw energy when plugged into the outlet. Put things on powerstrips and flip the switch when not in use.

11. Love your Library – I’m a book-a-holic. I could buy a new book every day of the week. Or I could borrow one from the library…

12. Towel down – don’t buy any more paper towels! Use cloth napkins or pieces of old clothing (t-shirt material works great) as rags and cloths. Great method of re-using, too! Remember that stained does not mean germy, so that coffee-stained t-shirt rag, once washed, is just fine to use again on the next spill.

13. No bottles – bottled water uses tons of fossil fuels and (gasp) water to produce the *bottle*, which is then filled with little better than tap water and shipped around the country before being used and then usually thrown away, depleting not only resources but the political will to clean up local tap water. All around a bad idea.

14. Paper, plastic or Styrofoam? – cups aren’t much better, even if the Starbucks chai latte in it is great. Maybe you could brew (fair trade) coffee at home and drink it out of your own cup.

15. Lug your Mug – carry around a reusable mug or thermos or canning jar or whatever, and use it as a glass for your own ‘bottled’ water or a cup for your coffee on the go.

16. Have a Hankie – everything old is new again, and the multi-use handkerchief will end up in your laundry, not the landfill.

17. Organize – all these reusable things require pre-planning, so take some time to do it. I have a big purse (fellas, how do you do this?) in which I carry a travel mug, at least one canvas shopping bag, and a t-shirt napkin/handkerchief.

18. Evangelize – let people know why you’re carrying around the cloth napkins and refusing to use the paper ones at the cafe; because you believe caring for the earth is a spiritual discipline. You might earn a convert!

19. Take it down a notch – can you live one degree cooler on your thermostat? can you program it to be cooler when no one is home?

20. Rinse it cold – and consider washing laundry in cold water too, unless warm or hot is really needed.

21. Wait to wash – you can use a towel a few more times before throwing it in the hamper. And you don’t want to know haw many times I wore these jeans betweeen washings…

22. Don’t be idle – if you’re going to let the car sit for more than a minute, shut it off. That includes the time you let it idle to warm it up from -12 to a reasonable temperature before winter driving. Ugh.

23. Curtain call – open south-facing curtains during the day to let in sunlight’s warmth. Close shades before dark to keep the heat in.

24. Slow your food – eating fat food or eating out burns extra resources in the earth and in your wallet. I know there’s a gourmet chef in you somewhere!

25. Home grown – local food or in-season food is even better. The average piece of food on the American dinner plate traveled 1500 miles to get there. The vegetables from your root cellar traveled a few yards (but I know they don’t taste as good on your cereal as the California strawberries do…).

26. Beef is not what’s for dinner – (from the previously-cited website) For every 1 pound of beef that you eat, you are also consuming 7lbs of grain, and 2,500 gallons of water. Not to mention about 270 antibiotic injections. 1lb of beef also produces the carbon equivalent of driving a car at 60 miles an hour for 200 miles or burning a 100 watt bulb continuously for 20 years.

27. Shower power – to reduce the lost water in your shower, replace the showerhead with a low-flow faucet

28. Good to the last drop – *and* / or you can collect excess shower water in a small bucket and use it to water your house plants.

29. Man and Woman Power – when you can walk or bike rather than take the car. If you must drive, try to carpool.

30. Plan your errands – go to the store when you are already planning on being at the doctor’s office and save the extra trip out.

31. Clean Green – use natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda.

32. Electrify your bills – pay online or auto-payment for anything you can to reduce the amount of paper flying back and forth between you and your service providers.

33. Write a letter, though! – to a politician at the local or federal level, telling them why legislation that protects the environment and reduces dependence on fossil fuels is important to you.

34. Keep it romantic – use dimmer bulb or fewer bulbs in fixtures to reduce the electricity used.

35. Entertain together – two families in one house with one stove running and one thermostat turned up use less energy than each family separately. And often, they have more fun!

36. Nix the Nuking – like the dishwasher, the microwave uses more power than less technological means. Your soup will reheat on the stovetop.

37. Precycle – that means refraining from buying something that will just go right into a landfill. Check for items with less packaging and reward such forward-thinking companies with your business.

38. Freecycle – that is, give stuff away. Freecycle is a local service to give and receive stuff people don’t want any more. Of course, I’d say first try to donate it to Trinity UMC for the spring Thrift Sale…

39. Watch Inflation – proper tire inflation improves gas mileage. Sure it’s not a huge amount, but every little bit helps.

40. Spend down – the less you spend, the less you’re buying (I don’t even have a degree in economics to figure that out!), which means the less you’re consuming and throwing away and impacting the environment. And the more I bet you feel happy with the blessings you have.

Enjoy the abundance and blessing of the gift we call home!

3 thoughts on “40 ways for 40 days”

  1. I try to be as green as possible. My husband flatly refuses to use hankies, and we go through probably a box of tissues or more a week because we both have sinus troubles. Le sigh. A lot of that other stuff I do, though I tend to buy a water bottle, or a bottle of something else, and then refill it until I inevitably lose it. I’ve had reusable water bottles and lost them all.

    I forgot to comment on your previous post, but congratulations on your pregnancy. I hope it’s all going well.

  2. @Elaine,

    Thanks for your comments! I think my biggest problem is the organization– I forget to put my travel mug, cloth napkins and grocery bags back in my purse and I always seem to have the car without the bags in the trunk when I go to the grocery store. It’s very frustrating!

    Thanks also for your congratulations. Other than eating everything in sight, being exhausted and feeling nauseated most of the time, I’m quite well! So that is to say, I’m definitely pregnant!


  3. Congratulations, Becca!

    One advantage to the second pregnancy, we found, was that we knew what to expect. During Numner One, now know as “Daniel”, we read every pregnancy and childbirth book on the market. A lot of books, because my wife, then and now known as Heleena, was part of a feminist women’s health collective. They got many books for review in their quarterly.

    We read symptoms, and every hiccup became a symptom of something terrible.

    By Number Two, now known as Rachel, we had learned that all those books just scare people unnecessarily.

    So…welcome to a more relaxed pregnancy, most likely!


    John W.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s