I am not a particularly religious person. Am I spiritual? Yes. Do I think there are some truly valuable lessons we can all learn from different religions? Absolutely. But actually religious, not so much. That being said, I will say that I have always thought that there is something really, really admirable about the observance of Lent.
Lent, the 40 period (six weeks excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter is meant to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. It a time of great reflection, examination and prayer that is designed to tear down egotistical ideas and identify places where one has grown arrogant or complacent. And a big part of this process is fasting or giving up certain luxuries as a form of penance.
Needless to say, I have always found this practice commendable, but I am finding it particularly relevant this year, as I am currently on my journey to lead a more conscious life. Similar to setting New Year’s resolutions, I think this is the perfect time to hit the reset button, practice more self-control and lead a more purposeful life.
So, without further ado, here are just a few ideas I’ve tossed around in my little brain on how to observe a conscious, eco/socially minded Lent:
Quit with the Shopping Already
I’ve talked about conscious consumerism before, but Lent is the perfect time to really take this puppy for a spin. I will admit this one is easier when you’re not actually employed (guilty as charged), but as a former serial shopper I will tell you, it can be done. A few tips to help you out:
- Resist temptation. Or rather, take away temptation. Don’t go to a mall (who does that these days anyway?), don’t go to your favorite online shop and unsubscribe from shopping emails/newsletters. If you’re not constantly being inundated with all of the things you need or all of the things on sale, etc., it will be much easier to resist.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. Just kidding. But really, fake a new wardrobe or a new living room, or a new whatever for the next 40 days. Look for things that you already own and repurpose them. Find things in your closet that you haven’t worn in forever and wear those. Or if you have an outfit “formula” (for me, it’s pretty much always an iteration of jeans, a button-down and ankle boots), try out a different formula that will make your outfits feel new.
- Practice gratitude, love and compassion. Sounds crazy, I know, but according to research by David Desteno, Ph.D. published in Psychology Today, the most successful method for curbing impulse shopping is to embrace socially oriented emotions like the ones listed above. Worth a shot, right?
- Pause. Tempted to buy something? Take a second (and by second, I clearly mean 40 days) to think about the purchase and if you really need it. This will assure you are shopping consciously instead of emotionally.
Go Plastic Free
You’ve probably heard about our ocean’s plastic problem, but just in case you haven’t – our ocean’s have a plastic problem. According to a 2015 study conducted by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), every year 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans – that is the equivalent of five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. Not. Good. So, Lent is a really great time to reflect on our plastic usage. A few things to contemplate:
- Water Bottles – Americans buy more bottled water than inhabitants of any other country in the world, 29 billion a year, in fact. But unless you are stocking up for the next natural disaster or live in Flint, MI (sorry wonderful people of Flint), there’s really no need to continue to drink out of plastic water bottles. Just get a reusable bottle and one of the many great water filters out there and you’re good to go.
- Coffee Cup Lids – While ideally we would just give up the take-out coffee cup all together (I mean, there are so many amazing reusable mugs out there these days), I get that sometimes they’re necessary. What’s not though, is that lid. Skipping the lid is a super easy way to reduce your plastic waste.
- Straws – Over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the U.S., and I’m not exactly sure why. Try using no straw at all, or if you must, use a reusable straw like this guy.
- Plastic Shopping Bags/Produce Bags – Here in San Francisco, plastic bags have been out of commiss (that’s short for commission, FYI) for a while, but we all should be bringing our reusable shopping totes to the grocery store. And if you forget, just go for the paper, dude. You can also buy reusable produce bags, but honestly, that seems like a lot of bags to remember. I tend to just let my avocados, apples and broccoli roam free and have a little shindig in the cart (Sausage Party, anyone?).
- Plastic Wrap/Ziplocks – This goes for both shopping and storing. When shopping skip things in plastic wrap when there’s a paper option (i.e. buy eggs in a paper carton instead of those in clamshell packaging, toilet paper wrapped in paper rather than plastic, anything in a box instead of a bag). Also opt for things in glass jars or glass containers. When storing your food use jars, glass containers or aluminum foil (which can be used over and over). You can also make fabric bowl covers, or simplify things for yourself and just put a plate on top of a bowl you want to keep fresh.
Minimalism is kind of a trend these days, so go ahead and give up some of the things that are in your house (you’ll thank me when it comes time for spring cleaning). Start a donation box and goal yourself to put one thing every day for the next forty days. Or, if you really want to go for it, try the 40 Bags In 40 Days Challenge.
Do a Digital Detox
Granted, most of our jobs won’t allow us to do a complete digital detox, but maybe try doing it at home, or just reduce your overall intake of all things digital. Instead of flipping on the TV when you get home from work, try reading a book. Instead of hopping on social media, invite your friends over for a dinner where you can actually chat.
Rethink Your Transportation
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but if you take a car everywhere you go, try not to. Take public transportation if that’s an option, or try walking or biking. If you must take a car, look for carpooling options.
Rethink your Food
A lot of people give up meat for Lent. This is always a good option, considering the environmental impacts of a lot of meat production industries. Even more true of beef, as one expert went as far as to say that giving up beef would reduce your carbon footprint more than cars. So, if you have to choose just one, I’d go with that.
You can also ditch all the processed and pre-made foods for forty days and try to cook everything from scratch. Or take it a step further and try the 100-mile diet, and cook with food sourced within a 100 mile radius.
What are you giving up for Lent?