Skip to content

Would you do a carbon fast for Lent?

Climate Caretakers offers a 7-week guide to reducing your carbon footprint.

An email arrived in my inbox this week with the title, ‘Carbon Fast for Lent.' It was from my cousin, who explained that she and her husband had decided to do a carbon fast until Easter, following guidelines provided by a Christian group called Climate Caretakers. She wrote, “We agree that one of the most important things we can do for our planet right now is to talk about climate change and we would love for you to join us in this carbon fast.”

I've heard about people giving up plastic and going vegan for Lent in recent years, but I wasn't familiar with the idea of a ‘carbon fast', so I went to the Climate Caretakers' website and looked at their guidelines. It divides the Lenten season into seven weeks, each of which offers a new challenge or theme aimed at reducing people's personal carbon footprints. Regardless of one's religious association (or lack thereof), these themes fit right in with the message we promote at TreeHugger, encouraging small daily habit changes that can then grow into larger lifestyle shifts.

What follows is a list of the weekly themes, along with suggestions from Climate Caretakers, as well as my own thoughts and advice. I've included links to TreeHugger articles on related topics.

Week 1: Electricity Fast – Try to use less electricity in your home by turning off lights and ditching the tech use. (I'd add, not using your clothes dryer or the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher, turning down the thermostat, whether electric or not, and learning about vampire power.)

Week 2: Spending Fast – Understand that much of our carbon footprint comes from things we buy, and abstain from superfluous spending. This is something I've argued many times on TreeHugger, that simply buying less and using what we own for longer could decrease our individual carbon footprints. Frugality is environmentalism!

Week 3: Silence Fast – A surprising but intriguing suggestion, this week encourages people to talk about the climate crisis. It's something we often feel awkward discussing, but it is an elephant in the room. “Instead of being silent, bring up your concern about the climate with your parents, call your political representatives, host a climate conversation dinner with friends.”

Week 4: Meat Fast – Go vegetarian or vegan for a week. This is a great suggestion, as animal agriculture is one of the leading global emitters of greenhouse gases, and more people need to cut meat out of their lives, or at least reduce it drastically. TreeHugger has plenty of resources for going plant-based and lots of delicious recipes. Your health will improve, too.

Week 5: Driving Fast – Leave the car in your driveway for a week and see how you can get around using public transit, a bicycle, or your own two feet. “If car travel is necessary, do your best to combine trips and carpool with others when possible.” It's an interesting experiment that could open your eyes to alternative forms of transpiration that you might not have considered otherwise.

Week 6: Media Fast – Not a direct environmental issue, other than the power is uses, but still an important one. Take a break from social media, YouTube, Netflix, even movies. Exist offline for a week and relearn how to connect with people face-to-face – and even how to be bored at times. Try reading 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day of Week by Tiffany Shlain.

Week 7: Ignorance Fast – Climate Caretakers points out that “lack of knowledge about how climate change works is one of the primary barriers preventing us from talking about it more often.” We should take some time to learn about the science behind it, in order to be better informed, equipped for discussions, and inspired to take action. The most helpful book I read on this topic is Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution by Peter Kalmus.

If this sounds like a good Lenten challenge, you can sign up on the Climate Caretakers' website to receive very brief daily reminders from now until Easter.

Climate Caretakers offers a 7-week guide to reducing your carbon footprint.