Going On a 'Carbon Fast' for Lent

Ever considered giving up chocolate or alcohol? How about carbon?

This year, the United Church of Chapel Hill is going on a "carbon fast" for 40 days in observance of Lent, the period in the Christian calendar that calls for sacrifice.

The congregation is cutting down on the greenhouse gases we produce when we burn fossil fuels to power our cars and our homes and almost everything in our modern lives.

"Lent is a traditional time when we talk about reducing," said the United Church's pastor, Richard Edens. "We talk about reducing things in our life, so we might experience the moreness of life."

The church went on a carbon fast for the first time last year. Parishioners were able to reduce their carbon consumption by 25 percent.

This year, the congregation is focusing on cutting consumption from different sources of carbon emissions each week.

In the first week, they reduced water consumption.

"I stopped taking baths and now I'm taking short showers," said one parishioner.

In the second week, they focused on energy, and in the third, consumable products like plastic shopping bags.

This week, they will eat local products instead of food that requires a lot of energy to produce and transport. They will focus on toxins next week, and alternative giving during the sixth week.

In a Sunday discussion led by Alice Lloyd, a member of the North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light Council, one parishioner said she has "given up a lot of professional travel on airplanes." Another said, "I personally walk around after the family and make sure that I turn out the lights that they fail to."

"It's much easier for people to make changes in their personal lives when their neighbors are making them, or when people they know are making them," said Lloyd.

This church is not alone. The "carbon fast" is an international movement with Bishops from the Church of England calling on their congregations to follow it as well.

It is part of a movement to serve God by saving the planet.

"It's God's planet and it's our stewardship to take care of it," said Edens.

This Lent, the churchgoing Sheppard family has cut its energy use by 25 percent. Family members are biking to church, using energy efficient white LED lighting fixtures in their home and eating eggs laid by chickens in their backyard.

"I feel like I'm making a bigger difference, not just for me, but also for the world," said Claudia Sheppard.

Her 9-year-old daughter Nadia is participating because, "We're soon gonna run out and we won't have anything left."

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