If you are like many Concordia students, you are unphased by the start of Lent this Wednesday. But this year, whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist or anything else, I challenge you to harness the spirit of Lent to do good for our planet.
Last week at the 23rd Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Luther College, I attended two sessions with Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America, a national non-profit that “focus[es] on economic strategies to solve social and environmental problems” (greenamerica.org). Her sessions centered on the question of what we as consumers, investors and philanthropists can do with our money to help promote justice. Her message was simple and inspiring: although none of us can completely transform the way we do things overnight, we can all start with small changes that together add up to something big.
Gravitz said that it takes six weeks for a new action to become a habit. In other words, the 40 days of Lent provide a perfect amount of time to acquire a new earth-improving habit. Here are a few things you might consider giving up for the next few weeks:
A car. We all laugh about how bad the MATBUS system in Fargo-Moorhead is, but how many of us have actually used it for more than just one trip? If more of us made use of the buses, the bus system would be able to expand and better serve our needs. For smaller trips like those to the grocery store, Dairy Queen or Safari, take advantage of the improving weather and walk.
New stuff. Try avoiding the purchase of new goods (except for food, of course) for the next 40 days. With all of the stuff that already exists in this country, it is incredible that we continue to feel the need to produce more. If you find yourself really wanting new clothes, check out one of Fargo-Moorhead’s many thrift stores or try borrowing from or exchanging with a friend.
Disposable plastic. Carry your own water bottle or coffee mug with you, so you do not need disposable plastic containers. Take reusable bags with you when you go out shopping. If you are a soda fanatic, buy aluminum cans for a few weeks, or better yet, give up soda for a little while. You might be surprised at how easy it becomes.
These are just a few ideas. If they do not appeal to you, come up with your own. Maybe you would rather not give something up and would prefer to add a positive commitment – to ride a bicycle, to make more organic purchases, to recycle, etc. As Gravitz stressed in her sessions, the key is to start small. Focus on one thing until it becomes habit and then move on to the next thing.
It may not seem as though the small ways that you tweak your lifestyle matter, but together our efforts can make a difference. Will you join me and make small steps toward justice this Lenten season?
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.