The youth of our church are encouraging the congregation to Love Earth Not Trash this Lent (hence the acronym). The idea is, rather than giving up something routine like chocolate or coffee, give up a practice that is harmful to the environment. Suggested ideas were: stopping using the plastic bags at the grocery store or stopping drinking bottled water. The youth could gather estimates from the parishioners and calculate the savings to the Earth.
For instance, say I'm giving up using plastic bags (I am, but I'll get to that in a minute). I figure that I use 10 plastic bags each time I go to the store, and that I'll buy groceries 5 times during the 40 days of Lent. That's 50 fewer plastic bags going into a landfill. Add that to all my fellow church members' numbers of plastic bags and you'll get a rather large number of bags not going to landfills! It's the same idea for bottled water - even if you're a devout recycler, the production of plastic uses resources and cutting down the number of bottles you buy can make a difference.
So, you're probably thinking, "But, Kate, you're Presbyterian! I didn't think you guys had to give up things for Lent!" And you're right - this is a voluntary practice and a service project opportunity for the youth groups. But, it's also a great idea. I'm participating as sort of a silent partner or something, however. I didn't turn in any estimates or proposals of what I'd do - mainly because our lifestyle doesn't quite fit into the suggested LENT options.
When it comes to plastic grocery bags, we do most of our shopping at Sam's Club or Costco. If you have ever shopped at a warehouse club like that, you know that they don't use bags at all so they can count your items on your way out the door to prevent theft. So we have a stash of reusable shopping bags in the trunk of our car and we just load all our groceries into them in the parking lot. Additionally, we get Shopper Points for using reusable bags when we're at a regular grocery store. Finally, what plastic grocery bags I do have in the house, I use as trash bags since all my waste baskets are too small for the trash bags sold in stores! So, I couldn't figure out how to give the youth any sort of number of how many bags I would or would not be using during Lent. Instead, I am just making a concerted effort to always take a reusable bag into the store with me, or to tell the clerk I don't need a bag, even if I just run in for a couple of items.
As for bottled water, I don't drink it that way. I have a nifty washable water bottle that was given to me as a gift when I went up and spoke at an event at my alma mater a few years ago. Emblazoned with the college logo and everything, it sits proudly on my desk at work, I fill it from the drinking fountain whenever I'm thirsty and take it home to wash on the weekends. So, instead I am going back to a practice we used during the drought. We have low-flow shower heads with a toggle switch. The idea is to cap the shower head while you're lathering and run the water only to rinse. The bonus of the toggle switch is that it holds the water back at the temperature you already set so you don't get zapped by a burst of cold water when you're ready to rinse. Again, though, I had no idea how to write that up for our youth group - I suppose I could have looked at my water bill and tried to figure out how many fewer gallons I'd be using, but that seemed complicated....
Anyway, it's not really about having a record or bragging rights or anything else, giving things up for Lent is about self-discipline and bringing yourself closer to God, and just the attempt is worthy in and of itself. So, I'm taking the opportunity our youth provided and hoping it helps me improve myself and my planet.