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Carbon Fast – worth a go or just a gimmick?

With spring finally on the way, thoughts turn to new projects, and an initiative to cut our personal carbon footprint sounds like it could be just the positive ticket - or does it? The earth section takes a look...

Written by Adam Bollard

Day_8._Eat_by_candlelightCarbon Fast Day 8: Eat by candlelight. All images: Anieszka Banks

Well, pills I’m sure you’re all aware of the fact that within the last few weeks we passed into Lent – that period of forty days and nights between Shrove Tuesday and Easter when Christians everywhere are encouraged to give up something dear to them, approved often food-related. Now, I can’t profess to being Christian, nor a dedicated subscriber to Lent whenever it swings round each year, but here’s something I’ve come across that has made me sit up and take notice. Tearfund, a UK Christian NGO that works to reduce poverty and change lives around the world through relief and development projects, has come up with a novel twist on this year’s Lent – for those willing to give it a go. Yes, it’s running a project called Carbon Fast that claims to encourage people to give up or do things each day that cuts their carbon emissions.

Now, practically everyday I feel like I could do more to use less energy and be greener (don’t we all?), so, I asked myself, why not check out what this Carbon Fast asks one to do? So, I visited Tearfund’s website and sent off for the leaflet (reassuringly printed on recycled paper) that is supposed to inform me what to do on each of the days of Lent – the charity posts you the leaflet for no cost and mine arrived within two days; not bad that, I thought. But what’s the itinerary like?

A mixed bag perhaps, but it does contain some decent daily activities or, should I say, changed-from-the-norm daily activities. Yes, while on Day 26 of Lent it suggests you ask yourself ‘what does life to the full mean to you? Reflect and pray through this today’ and on Day 40 ‘pray for the work of the church, building God’s kingdom now by caring for and renewing the earth to protect poor people, fighting injustice and poverty’ (hmmm, not sure how either of those are actually going to reduce your carbon emissions, myself), many of the suggestions are practical and specific.

For instance, there’s Day 6: ‘Turn it down: if you need to add cold water when you fill the sink or run a bath, then your hot water thermostat is too high – it should be set at 60C or 140F. Then there’s Day 15: ‘Limescale reduces efficiency: Fill the kettle with one-third vinegar and two-thirds water, and soak overnight. Rinse, then boil the kettle – and discard the water’. And there’s Day 38: ‘Avoid short car journeys. A cold engine uses twice as much fuel, so walk, cycle or get the bus instead of using unnecessary fuel’. A good, solid suggestion that.


Day 32: Grow your own food

But here’s the acid test, have I been convinced enough to partake in any of Carbon Fast’s suggestions? Well, yes, actually. In as much as there’s some I’m planning on trying and sticking with beyond Lent. After all, there’s little point in having a go at one of these suggestions once and never again giving it a thought. On Day 37 you’re supposed to recycle ‘radically’; my council certainly recycles some of the rubbish it collects from my home, but how much? I’ve always felt I should make sure I recycle more, such as furniture I no longer need. In fact, furniture from a neighbour a couple of doors down the road from me, who sadly passed away recently, needs recycling – and I’ve decided to get on the case and look into who locally might want or need a new table, wardrobe or bookcase or any other bits and bobs that would otherwise get thrown out from that house. Plus, as Carbon Fast’s Day 20 encourages, we could all use less technology – I certainly don’t need to watch as much TV as I do. Surely I can cut down on that on a regular basis?


Day 36: Don’t leave the tap running

Admittedly, this initiative isn’t going to do anything outstanding and put pressure on the big corporations to become carbon neutral, but at least it’s something that does encourage the environmentally-minded – and who knows, maybe one or two who haven’t been before – to keep up their efforts. Still, lest we forget, like a puppy at Christmas, cutting carbon emissions isn’t just for Lent, it needs to be life.


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