12 Ideas for Observing an Eco-Minded Lent

CC BY 2.0. baudman -- Ride your bike to work for 40 days.

Use this 40-day period as a time to experiment and establish sustainable lifestyle habits.

Lent is the six-week lead-up to Christianity’s biggest celebration, Easter, and it starts today. It was traditionally used as a time of reflection, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, but with churches growing emptier and fewer people associating themselves with organized religion, observing Lent has become much less common than it once was.

While I am not religious, I remain intrigued by the idea of a 40-day challenge (although this year it's more like 46 days in length). Lent can be used by non-believers as a time to experiment with new interests and habits, particularly environmentally focused ones. The defined length creates a time limit that is comfortable and manageable, and yet it’s a long enough to make a difference and to establish sustainable practices.

Why not use this Lent to make your lifestyle greener, to shrink your carbon footprint? Or use it to focus on improving your wellbeing and health in other ways, such as a digital detox or creating a solid morning routine? Below is a list of ideas for observing an alternative kind of Lent.

1. Go vegetarian or vegan. This may seem easy-peasy to those who avoid animal products all the time, but for people who are in the transition phase – learning about the horrors of animal agriculture and the environmental effects – Lent might be the perfect time to dive into meat-free eating.

2. Go zero-waste or plastic-free. See how little garbage (including recycling!) you can generate between now and Easter. If that’s too much, focus simply on eliminating plastic as much as possible. Pledge to take your own coffee cup to work each day.

3. Reduce food waste. Strive to use all the food you buy before any goes bad. Try to cook through the contents of your pantry and freezer, places where food items often get forgotten.

4. Cook from scratch for all of Lent. See if you can make all your meals at home until Easter. Not only will you cut down on food waste, but you’ll probably save some money while you’re at it.

5. Try the 100-mile diet. For Lent, source only ingredients that come from within a 100-mile radius of your home. An added challenge is expanding that criterion to all aspects of your life, i.e. clothes, household accessories, etc.

6. "Fast" from excess water use. Pay close attention to your water footprint and try to eliminate it as much as possible through conservation, collecting rainwater, and reusing grey water. (Reducing or eliminating meat consumption plays a big role in water reduction, as it's the main culprit.)

8. Try a buy-nothing challenge. Become a conscious consumer, asking yourself, “Do I really need this?” Finance guru Cait Flanders has written the Ultimate Shopping Ban Guide.

9. Be a minimalist. Purge your house and get rid of excess clutter, either by playing the Minimalism Game or doing the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.

10. Change your mode of transportation. Instead of jumping in the car to go to work, allocate time each day for walking, biking, rollerblading, or car-pooling.

11. Establish a strong morning routine. There’s something wonderfully satisfying and efficient about having a predictable morning routine. Be strict with yourself for 40 days and see how much easier it is to maintain after Easter.

12. Do a digital detox. Set strict parameters for use of personal devices, i.e. phone off during the workday or during evenings when you’re with family, no TV except on weekends, checking email and social media at designated times each day, etc.