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10 Ways to Observe a Green Lent

If you’re trying to build a positive Lenten practice this season, helping out the environment is the perfect place to start.
A green cross to signify a green Lent
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What does Lent—a time to pause, reflect and prepare for the coming joy of Easter—have to do with our planet? Plenty. Along with prayer and fasting, this is a perfect time to consider the beauty and health of the environment, home to us all. Nature is sacred. What better time to build eco-friendly habits than through finding ways that you and your family can have a positive impact on your community and beyond. Here are some suggestions to get you started on your green Lent.

Man biking to work to practice a green lent
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1)  Where Do You Want to Go? Walk or Bike There

Of course, it’s not possible in all situations, but you can commit to cutting out short rides in the car. Maybe a two-mile limit? Even half a mile will help. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, transportation is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in the United States. And our cars, SUVs and trucks contribute to half of that. Besides, let’s not forget the health benefits of walking and biking:

Pea and mint soup set on a table for a green lent
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2)  Become a Lenten Vegetarian

Maybe it’s not something you want to do year ‘round, but how about 40 days (not including Sundays, of course)? Studies have shown that meat and dairy conglomerates produce greenhouse gases on the order of some big oil companies. This is also your chance to embrace seasonal produce—and short supply lines. Some recipe ideas to get you started:

Mother and daughter gardening together to practice a green Lent
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3)  Become a Green Gardener 

As Lent starts in the dark and cold of winter and takes us to Easter and the warmer, longer days of spring, gardening is definitely a path to observing a green Lent and beyond. There might not be a lot of planting going on until we’re further into spring but consider this your pre-contemplative stage. Start reading and motivating yourself to become a gardener. And here’s the thing, it’s not just good for the soil, but your soul as well. Take a look:

Forest of redwoods to visit during your green Lent
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4)  Visit Your State Parks and Forests During Lent

Even better, donate! Forests filter our water through their roots, absorb CO2, provide oxygen, keep pollutants out of our lungs. Plus, when you’re in nature, there’s a spiritual benefit as well. Other tips:

  • Not only visit, maybe you can volunteer? Most communities have, if not state parks, a local park or nature center.
  • April includes National Park Week. According to the National Park Service, entrance fees will be waived one day that week.
  • And in your own little backyard, plant a tree or participate in a planting project. Think one tree doesn’t make a difference? That tree will filter storm water, remove carbon dioxide and filter air pollutants.

READ MORE: 5 Fun, Easy and Faith-Filled Ideas for Lent

Woman confronting stuffed closet as a part of her green Lent practice
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5)  Lay Off the Online Ordering and Keep It Green

Maybe Lent is a time to pause before pressing that “place order” button. Do you really need another T-shirt or pair of jeans? Can you make do, for 40 days, with what’s already in your closet? Your landfill will thank you. Keep in mind:

  • If you’re jonesing for a new handbag, check out your local thrift stores or Goodwill. You’d be amazed at the quality of a closet clean-out.
  • In fact, do a closet inventory. Pile up all the like items and evaluate. Can one have too many pairs of black pants? Yes. You can.
  • You’ll likely find items to donate. Read this lovely essay by Guideposts Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan about how he is planning a Lenten practice around the beautiful clothes in his late wife’s closet.

READ MORE: What to Give Up for Lent: 15 Meaningful Suggestions

Woman reading a book on the couch for her green Lent practice
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6)  Avert Your Eyes from Screens and Devices During Lent

If there were ever a better time to take a fast from social media, to reflect, read more and scroll less, Lent is it. There are some beautifully written books out there to open our eyes to the spirituality of the natural world. Bike to your local library and check out some of these:

  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  • The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley
  • How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery
  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
  • And lest we not forget, that classic, Walden by Henry David Thoreau

READ MORE: 20 Beautiful Lent Quotes to Inspire You

Eco-friendly cleaning supplies for a green Lent
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7)  Keep It Green By Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Ever look at the list of ingredients on commercial cleaners? Lots of long, impossible to pronounce words containing solvents, irritants, suspected carcinogens. It’s time to make friends with, say, vinegar, probably conveniently located in your kitchen cabinet. Equal parts white vinegar and water can be scented with lemon peel and rosemary for effective, clean smelling cleaning without accidentally searing your lungs. Other tips:

  • Wipe stainless steel appliances clean with a few drops of dish soap mixed with warm water.
  • Drop the paper towels. They are single-use items that go straight to landfills. Try tearing up some of those old T-shirts crammed into your drawers or closets.
  • Read about more eco-cleaning tips here.
  • And take a look at one of our Guideposts writer’s favorite spring cleaning tasks.

READ MORE: 5 Things to Do (Not Give Up) for Lent

Box full of packing paper makes it harder to have a green Lent
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8)  Observe the Packaging Problem During Lent

Bottles, bottles everywhere. Plastic ones that is. If you’re not using a refillable water bottle, now is the time to start. And here’s double incentive for cutting back on online ordering during your green Lent. Yes, it’s so easy, so convenient, and is delivered to you swathed in layers of cardboard, plastic and bubble wrap. Another thought or two:

  • Cut back on eating processed food. Not only is it filled with space alien-worthy ingredients, it comes up to its neck in Styrofoam, cellophane, what have you.
  • Wrapping paper. Could you partner with your imagination and use leftover calendar pages, magazine covers, newspapers for inventive gift wrapping?
  • And don’t forget your reusable shopping bags. No need to collect more plastic bags from the grocery store.
Plugged in toaster makes it more difficult to practice a green lent
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9)  Pull the Plug on “Energy Vampires” During Lent

All those chargers for your devices sip energy when plugged in, even when not in use. Scour the house for culprits. There are probably more than you realize. The phones. The tablets. The countertop appliances. The power strips. More motivation to unplug:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy estimates each household can save $100 to $200 a year.
  • It can preserve the life of your devices, especially if there’s a power surge.
  • And think of the collective power and money saved if lots of us do this.
Kids practice a green lent by cleaning up a park with a recycling can
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10) Teach Your Kids to Go Green By Modeling Eco-Consciousness

If Lent is a time to reflect, to pray, to strengthen your faith, it’s also offers up the chance to be a role model for your kids. Help them observe a meaningful journey to Easter by teaching them about the sanctity of the world around them. Some practices and activities for the whole family have a green Lent:

  • Teach them not to litter. And to recycle!
  • Learn about composting together…you don’t have to throw away all the dinner scraps!
  • In fact, learn more about food waste, especially in this season of more mindful eating.
  • Encourage them to be curious. When you see a good article about the environment, read it with them. Discuss!
  • Consult this Guideposts article about more family-friendly tips.

What other ways can you find to observe a green Lent?

READ MORE ABOUT THE LENT SEASON:

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