Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.
For those of you who don’t know, Lent is a religious practice of prayer, fasting, repentance and self-denial that takes place during the six weeks before Easter. The purpose, as far as I understand it, is to prepare oneself for the important season of Easter – the most important part of the Christian tradition (many people often think it’s Christmas, but Easter is traditionally the bigger deal).
Many individuals fast or give up certain luxuries during the six weeks of Lent as a form of penitence, and to emulate the forty-day period of fasting Jesus went through, as described in the Christian gospel. Throughout the years common fasts have been from fats, meat, sugar, etc. – things that were considered a luxury.
Though the Christian denomination I grew up in does not traditionally practice the Lenten season in this way, my family did (my parents not being particularly conventional). I grew up fasting from sweets or (most often) chocolate. The idea was that when I craved such things, I would think about the people around the world who do not have access to the luxuries I have, and be thankful for my situation.
As the years went by, I tried to fast from more and more things. I do not have a particularly addictive personality, and I never found this fasting terribly difficult, mindfulness-inducing or spiritually challenging. So for the past few years I’ve given up on giving things up for Lent.
Until this year.
My husband and I have decided to do something a bit more difficult and (hopefully) more relevant this Lent.
We are giving up plastic.
Don’t get me wrong, plastic is a very useful substance. It’s much better for water pipes than lead (obviously), it’s great for sanitary medical supplies. However, our world is completely overrun with plastic. We have plastic islands floating in our beautiful oceans. We have sea birds dying of plastic consumption. We have sketchy chemicals leeching into our water and our bodies causing cancers and who knows what other problems. We have garbage dumps piled high with the indestructible wonder of plastic. And we just can’t do it anymore.
So, as an addition to my consumption sabbatical, my husband and I are fasting from plastic for the next six weeks. Here are the rules:
1) No new plastic may be bought or brought into our home.
2) Plastic we already have in our home may be re-used throughout the weeks (plastic bags for bulk purchases, etc.)
3) Every time we want to purchase something containing plastic, we must reflect on the effect of our consumption of plastic on our planet, and the effects to our fellow human beings. We must ask our earth to forgive us for the damage we’ve caused.
4) Particular roadblocks we come across must be discussed, and shared with you!
I’m excited and a bit nervous. I know this will be difficult, and enlightening. Some things we “need” only come in plastic (toothpaste, toilet paper)! Some things will stretch my abilities (such as baking bread instead of buying it!) Most of all, our diet will change, as much of the food we purchase comes packaged in some way. Even cucumber (ever notice that? how strange).
So please follow along with us. When you need to buy something with plastic these next six weeks, think about what your life would be like without plastic. Is it possible? What could we use instead? Where can we cut plastic out? How can we advocate for a safer, more earth-friendly packaging while still maintaining the health codes of our foods?
And wish us luck.