What is it? A “Carbon Fast” is a way for individuals and communities to engage in a conscientious and earth-honoring spiritual practice. It was originally developed by the Church of England in 2008. Since then it has been adopted by congregations of many different denominations around the world as a spiritual practice which helps individuals and communities turn away from actions that release climate disrupting carbon into the atmosphere and turn back to a way of life that honors God’s call to love the whole world and care for the most vulnerable.
Why engage in a “Carbon Fast?” For decades, scientists and societal leaders have called us to return to a more sustainable way of life that fosters more equitable and balanced distribution of resources across human communities and greater respect for creation. For hundreds of years, churches around the world have called people to return to God and prepare for Easter by engaging in the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during a 40 day season called Lent.
The season of Lent will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 14 and is a 40 day journey to Easter. The traditional practices of Lent are prayer, fasting and acts of service. The Eco-Reformation Team invites you to consider joining our congregational “carbon fast” during Lent this year.
The NASA website tells us that “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important heat-trapping (greenhouse) gas, which is released through human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, as well as natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions.” Years ago, scientists concluded that the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the air is 350 parts per million (ppm). As of early 2018, NASA said we are now at 407 ppm. We are seeing many climate related disasters as a result of exceeding our “carbon budget.” The poor and vulnerable are being harmed by these disasters the most. Therefore many churches have been choosing to engage in fasts from certain behaviors that emit carbon to better care for God’s people and the whole creation.
Most of us have heard scientists tell us that the burning of fossil fuels by highly populated industrialized societies for so many years has resulted in a great excess of carbon and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases now exacerbate the frequency and severity of fires, droughts, hurricanes and other extreme climate events that are devastating human communities while causing harm to many species.
Therefore, we will count the collective pounds of carbon NOT emitted into the atmosphere as we engage in new behaviors to reduce our carbon emissions during Lent. For example, for every 1 mile we walk or take public transportation instead of driving we can report credit for an estimated 1 pound of carbon kept out of the atmosphere. If we eat chicken for a day when we otherwise would have eaten beef, we will have kept an estimated 11 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere.
What is an example of how an individual or congregation could participate in a “Carbon Fast?” The possibilities are endless. One example that is accessible to most people is to eat less food with high carbon footprints. Foods that are highly processed and that come from far distances often have lots of carbon emitted during their production and transportation. Many animal products also have high carbon footprints. Two articles which demonstrate the importance of reducing the carbon footprint of our food are: The Top 10 Foods with the Biggest Environmental Footprint and If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef.
To participate in the Carbon Fast or engage your community in one, we invite you to do the following:
1) Review the ideas on the Lenten Carbon Fast Calendar and Carbon Fast Report Form. Reflect, pray, and decide which carbon emitting behaviors you would like to reduce or eliminate during Lent or choose to simply follow the Carbon Fast Calendar as best you are able. Lay leaders from St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Beaverton, Oregon developed this calendar with the help of many resources available elsewhere on the internet. If you prefer an electronic option, you can sign up to receive a daily Carbon Fast email idea from the New England Regional Environmental Ministries United Church of Christ at this link. and follow their calendar instead.)
2) Participate in your Carbon Fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday or any other time during the year.
3) Fill out the Carbon Fast Report Form each week at this link. Paper tracking forms are also available below. (Use the estimated pounds of carbon for any activity provided on the form or calculate precise emissions reductions associated with your behavior changes using online tools referenced on the back of the calendar. Although the forms are anonymous, if members of your community all enter the same community name and city, you can find out the total pounds of carbon emissions your community saved during Lent. To receive your totals, simply email email@example.com and the name and location of your congregation and you will be given access to the tracking form.)
4) Consider inviting other members of your family, neighborhood, workplace, club or school to join you in fasting from carbon emissions and tracking the impact. You can work together with each other or engage in playful competition. Simply send them an invitation via email or text message with a link to this page: www.EcoFaithRecovery.org/carbonfast. or print out materials for them using the links below.
We celebrate God’s love for us while expressing our love for God’s creation and marginalized human communities disproportionately harmed by climate change. We hope you will join us in one or all of these practices and inviting others to participate, as well.
Below is a link to the Google Form where you can track your weekly Carbon Fast activities.
Lenten Carbon Fast Resources
*** This Eco-Reformation project and seven others were made possible by a grant from the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund of the Oregon Synod, ELCA along with six years of funding from the InFaith Community Foundation and the many generous individual donors. The leadership development EcoFaith Recovery provides is only possible because of you. Thank you!***