The English bishops (what would we do without merrie olde Englande?) of Liverpool and London have declared this year to be a "Carbon-Free Lent."
As the non plus ultra of Lenten self-denial, participants in the Carbon Fast are to remove one prominent light bulb and live without it for 40 excruciating days. On Easter, they will screw in a low-energy bulb, thus saving 60kg of carbon (1). . . .
Instead of fasting for Lent, the bishops are urging their faithful to reduce their carbon footprint a fraction each day. Instead of giving up snacking on chocolates, they are told to avoid using plastic bags. Instead of giving up lolly-gobbling, they are told to unplug their mobile phone charger. Instead of giving up alcohol, they are told to check the house for draughts (2). . . .
Chesterton is reported to have said that those who stop believing in Christianity don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. This is not an epigram which the readers of spiked, a generally godless publication, are likely to assent to. But it does seem to apply to certain clerics. Having abandoned traditional practices of Christian piety in a desperate search for relevance and fuller pews, the bishops have resorted to touting an activities list which treats the environment with the respect they once paid to God. . . .
Above all, the privations of Lent were supposed to be an imitation of the 40 days Christ spent in the desert fasting before beginning his ministry. Fasting and penance are essential to Christianity because its founder commanded them: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’ It is a strange sales pitch in the Penguin’s godless world, but at least it is a distinctive one - unlike the bishops’ commonsense message of thrift, which appears to have been cribbed from a list of handy household hints by Tesco’s public relations department.
However, one of the bishops’ suggestions is more demanding than anything the Penguin would ever have recommended to us. On the thirty-ninth day of Lent, Good Friday, the day when Christendom contemplates the betrayal, the scourging, the crucifixion and agonising death of Christ, they want their flock to talk to church leaders about making their churches greener.
Only a saint could possibly do that. Give me a hairshirt any day. SpikedThe Generally atheist writers for Spiked seem to have a much better idea of what Lent is about than do some English bishops.
The full list of pledges for the carbon fast:
(Ash Wednesday.) Remove one light bulb and live without it for the next 40 days.
Check your house for draughts with a ribbon or feather. If it flutters, buy a draught excluder.
Tread lightly – whether that's by foot, by bike, on to a bus or on the gas as you drive. Find a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when you travel today.
Are you recycling everything possible? Really – everything? Look into it today.
Can you talk about your Carbon Fast at church today? Encourage others to join in.
Turn your central heating thermostat down by one degree.
Say au revoir to standby. Check that all electrical equipment is switched off when not in use. The TV alone will save a hefty 20kg of carbon dioxide per year.
Unplug your mobile phone charger: it uses electricity even when it's not charging.
Climate change isn't a distant threat – it's affecting poor communities now. Pray for Tearfund's work to help vulnerable communities adapt to the changing weather.
Give your dishwasher a day off or promote it to a Grade A energy efficient appliance.
Use local shops or farmers' markets (farmersmarkets.net) instead of driving to out-of-town shopping parks. They will thank you; supermarkets won't notice your absence.
Tell politicians to take action on climate change today. Check out Tearfund's campaign work at tearfund.org/climate.
Put the heat on your electricity or gas suppliers and ask them if they have a green plan. Make the switch and feel cosy.
Take a shower instead of a bath: you'll heat less water.
Snub plastic bags. Get into the habit of taking your rucksack to the supermarket or go retro with a trolley. Ask your supermarket to remove unnecessary packaging.
Switch off lights as you leave the room.
Only fill your kettle with as much water as you need.
Cut the air miles. Don't consume any food that you know has been imported by plane (apart from Fairtrade products).
Grace Maglasey and her husband Andrew struggle to grow enough food because their village in Malawi is caught in a cycle of floods and droughts. Join in with Grace's prayer today: "We pray that those of us who farm should harvest a lot of food so that this year we will not have hunger. In the name of Jesus, Amen."
Compost. Put the nutrients from food waste back into the soil – not into a methane-emitting landfill.
Only run your washing machine when you have a full load.
Find one way to save paper today: re-use an old envelope or print double-sided.
Turn the taps off. In one day a hot, dripping tap could fill a bath.
Counsel your local council. Thank them for their recycling facilities but ask them if they could provide any more.
Who works hardest in the house? Mum? Dad? No, the fridge. It's churning away 24/7. Treat it to a good de-icing to make sure it's running efficiently.
"Love does no harm to its neighbour" Romans 13:10. But while our lifestyles consume more and more energy, our poorer neighbours are suffering. Reflect on ways to love our neighbours in our increasingly connected world.
Pressure a car owner to check their tyre pressures. Low tyre pressure means high fuel consumption.
Do a home energy check at energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0800 512 012 for a paper copy. You could save up to £250 a year on bills.
Run your washing machine at 30 degrees. This uses 40% less electricity than running at 40 degrees.
Find out a new fact about the impact of climate change today. Amaze your friends.
Fit aluminium foil behind your radiator – allowing you to turn the radiator down and save £10 a year per radiator.
Any old iron? If they're on their last legs replace old electrical appliances with energy-efficient models. They could save a third of the energy.
Have an embrace-the-silence Sunday. Turn off everything. No TV, no radio, no ringtones, no cars. It'll be good for the soul.
Put an insulation jacket on your hot-water tank. If everyone does, we'll cut enough carbon dioxide to fill 148,000 hot-air balloons.
Re-use an item you would have thrown away – such as a jam jar, an envelope or an ice-cream container.
Put a lid on it. That's pans when cooking; and use a kettle to boil water.
Draw the curtains to keep the heat in.
Could your church be greener? Talk to your church leaders. Tearfund can help – visit the site.
Replace your missing bulb with an energy-saving lightbulb. Over its lifetime, you will save 60kg of carbon dioxide per year and up to £60. Make a personal pledge to serve others by pursuing a more sustainable way of life. The Guardian