Lent started this Wednesday. As senior Leah Ryan kindly explained to me, “the whole purpose of Lent is to become closer to God and to contemplate Jesus.” A Catholic, Leah eats limited meals on Fridays during Lent and picks something personal to give up each year. This year she is thinking of giving up bread.
Some non-Catholic Cobbers, like junior Melanie Gail, try to give something up each year as an exercise of self-control. Last year, Melanie reduced her caffeine intake. Other Cobbers, like sophomore Savannah Gust, try to add something into their lives during the Lenten season, rather than taking something out of it.
Savannah says that when she gives something up during the season, like time or money, she feels like she is making Lent about other people instead of about her. Judging by my conversations with friends, most Cobbers fall into a fourth category. For most of us, Lent marks no noticeable change in our lives.
As a non-Christian, I usually fall into that last category. This Lenten season, however, I am choosing to give up bottled beverages in the interest of not wasting the resources required to make the bottles and of not supporting the companies with poor environmental track records, like Coca-Cola, that make the beverages. In the consumerist society we live in, there are so many things that we could – and should – live without. This Lenten season, I challenge you to contemplate how Jesus lived his life, to exercise your self-control, to do something for others and to make a positive impact on the world by taking something out of your life. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Turn down the heat.
Members of Concordia’s Student Environmental Alliance proved that this one’s possible last week when they camped out in sub-zero temps, but I’m not asking you to go to that extreme. Try bundling up in your favorite Concordia sweatshirt and turning the thermostat in your room down by two degrees for the next 40 days. Doing so will decrease your energy usage by about 10 percent.
2. Eat less meat.
Meat is the least energy efficient of all foods we consume. It takes 15 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef! If you can, try eating more dairy and legumes (like peas and beans) for protein and cut meat out of your diet completely for the next few weeks. If that won’t work for you, try committing to no more than one serving of meat a day or to eating only chicken and fish. One pound of chicken uses five pounds of grain and a pound of fish only uses two pounds of grain.
3. If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.
If your first reaction to that was “GROSS!”, think of this: millions of people around the world don’t have running water. Most toilets flush between two and five gallons of water down with every flush. You could save hundreds of gallons of water by the time Lent is over. If that doesn’t sound right for you, consider taking fewer or shorter showers. Ten minutes in the shower uses around 25 gallons of water!
4. Park your car.
Around 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from cars. If you live on or near campus and doing so is practical for you, consider keeping your car parked for the next 40 days. If that is not possible, make a conscious choice to use your car only when necessary. A trip to Hornbacher’s can be made on foot or by bike, especially now that the weather is (hopefully!) warming up. Check out Fargo-Moorhead’s bus schedule at www.matbus.com for slightly longer trips.
If none of these ideas appeal to you, get educated.
Find something you do that the environment would have you do without and challenge yourself to stop doing it for 40 days. This Lenten season push yourself to not only do good things for the world, but to reduce the bad things you’re doing to it. Make a clear commitment, and stick to it.
Ayah Kamel is a senior Political Science and Global Studies major from Fargo. She has been verbally spouting opinions since she could talk and is happy to be able to write them down as a member of The Concordian’s opinion staff. Although Ayah does not yet know what the future holds for her, she has latent dreams of becoming the next Nicholas Kristof.