Try the environmental approach on the observance of Lent
I can guarantee you that six weeks from now, I will be totally sick of eating french fries. That’s because Lent began this week. Provided you observe the Lenten rule of not eating meat on Friday, no matter what type of fish you order for lunch or dinner is bound to be served with french fries.
My family followed the tradition that it was good to give up something you like during Lent, such as chocolate, soft drinks or ice cream. The sacrifice was perceived as something we could do to erase some of our sins and transgressions.
There was not a lot of erasing necessary under the guidance of Sister Robert in the sixth grade, but we made our personal commitments to Lent and saved coins in boxes not much bigger than the packages that contain those orange chocolate candy spheres that you have to crack to access the artificial sweetness.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” was a question designed to give one kid an edge over another, as his or her sacrifice might be better than yours. I was not likely to give up cake, because my birthday usually follows hot on the heels of Ash Wednesday. Likewise for baked goods in the office.
Fortunately, the solution for those willing to make a sacrifice that actually means something comes to us from the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.
"There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God's creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources. Moving in [that] direction is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today," according to a story posted by the Catholic News Service.
The program focuses on "Christian simplicity" and offers these tips as a starting point:
• Use cloth shopping bags instead of paper or plastic to reduce the estimated 380 billion plastic bags distributed in the United States each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
• Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. The U.S. Department of Energy says that if each U.S. household replaced just one bulb, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year. • Give up disposable paper products such as napkins and paper towels.
• Use a refillable mug instead of disposable cups. One coffee drinker using disposable cups can generate 22 pounds of waste in a year.
These are outstanding sacrificial ideas that can result in some permanent changes that will contribute to “a more sustainable and more just world,” according to the news service feature. “Turn that restless energy, which often drives us to the snack cupboard, into action.”
I can do it. Our collection of cloth shopping bags sits quietly on a kitchen chair, hibernating until the right moment to become part of our weekly routine.
Once I figure out the comparative wattage factor, I will continue to replace the light bulbs of the Thomas Edison era with the new corkscrew models. Frankly I am in the dark when it comes to matching the illumination I am accustomed to when doing such replacements. Plus, you’re not supposed to use them in outdoor fixtures or in lamps connected to a dimmer switch, right?
No more paper towels will definitely have an impact on my microwave oven cooking skills but I can try it.
It’s obvious that disposable paper coffee cups are a waste. When I walk down the street for a cup, I return to my office and pour the coffee into a ceramic mug and throw away the paper cup that serves as a short-lived middle man. We have refillable mugs at home. They’re right in the cabinet over the paper towels.
The basic purpose of Lent is to prepare Christians for the renewal of Easter, so an environmental approach to the season is admirable. Giving up plastic shopping bags is a permanent sacrifice I can handle.
But not chocolate cake.
(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@bee news.com.)