Forget chocolate – 40 steps to cut carbon for Lent

The Tearfund is a UK-based development agency which has come up with a novel idea for this Lent. Instead of cutting down on treats, how about reducing your carbon instead?

They are clearly placing the effects of climate change as a justice issue, as right now, people in the Third World are paying for our excesses in droughts, famines and other climate-driven crises.

The 40-day plan lists simple energy-saving actions that can lead to a lighter carbon footprint, including snubbing plastic bags (at least we in Ireland are ahead of the UK here), giving the dishwasher a day off, insulating the hot-water tank and checking the house for drafts.

The full list of pledges for the carbon fast:
Day one
(Ash Wednesday) Remove one light bulb and live without it for the next 40 days (OK, that one’s gone, so we’ll have to cram a bit to catch up…)

Day two
Check your house for draughts with a ribbon or feather. If it flutters, buy a draught excluder.
Day three
Tread lightly – whether that’s by foot, by bike, on to a bus or on the gas as you drive. Find a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when you travel today.
Day four
Are you recycling everything possible? Really – everything? Look into it today.
Day five
Can you talk about your Carbon Fast at church or with your neighbours, friends or the people in the golf club today? Encourage others to join in.
Day six
Turn your central heating thermostat down by one degree.
Day seven
Say goodbye to standby. Check that all electrical equipment is switched off when not in use. The TV alone will save a hefty 20kg of carbon dioxide per year.
Day eight
Unplug your mobile phone charger: it uses electricity even when it’s not charging.
Day nine
Climate change isn’t a distant threat – it’s affecting poor communities now. If you believe in prayer, pray for Tearfund’s work to help vulnerable communities adapt to the changing weather.
Day 10
Give your dishwasher a day off or promote it to a Grade A energy efficient appliance.
Day 11
Use local shops or farmers’ markets ( instead of driving to out-of-town shopping parks. They will thank you; supermarkets won’t notice your absence.
Day 12
Tell politicians to take action on climate change today. Check out Tearfund’s campaign work at
Day 13
Put the heat on your electricity or gas suppliers and ask them if they have a green plan. Make the switch and feel cosy.
Day 14
Take a shower instead of a bath: you’ll heat less water. Maybe you can share the shower with a friend!

Day 15
Snub plastic bags. Get into the habit of taking your rucksack to the supermarket or go retro with a trolley. Ask your supermarket to remove unnecessary packaging.
Day 16
Switch off lights as you leave the room.
Day 17
Only fill your kettle with as much water as you need.
Day 18
Cut the air miles. Don’t consume any food that you know has been imported by plane (apart from Fairtrade products).
Day 19
Grace Maglasey and her husband Andrew struggle to grow enough food because their village in Malawi is caught in a cycle of floods and droughts. Join in with Grace today: “We pray that those of us who farm should harvest a lot of food so that this year we will not have hunger”.
Day 20
Compost. Put the nutrients from food waste back into the soil – not into a methane-emitting landfill.
Day 21
Only run your washing machine when you have a full load.
Day 22
Find one way to save paper today: re-use an old envelope or print double-sided.
Day 23
Turn the taps off and check for drips and leaks. In one day a hot, dripping tap could fill a bath.
Day 24
Counsel your local council. Thank them for their recycling facilities but ask them if they could provide any more.
Day 25
Who works hardest in the house? Mum? Dad? No, the fridge. It’s churning away 24/7. Treat it to a good de-icing to make sure it’s running efficiently.
Day 26
“Love does no harm to its neighbour” Romans 13:10. But while our lifestyles consume more and more energy, our poorer neighbours are suffering. Reflect on ways to love – and not harm – our neighbours in our increasingly connected world.
Day 27
Pressure a car owner to check their tyre pressures. Low tyre pressure means high fuel consumption.
Day 28
Do a home energy check at the SEI website You could save up to hundreds a a year on bills.
Day 29
Run your washing machine at 30 degrees. This uses 40% less electricity than running at 40 degrees.
Day 30
Find out a new fact about the impact of climate change today. Amaze your friends.
Day 31
Fit aluminium foil behind your radiator – allowing you to turn the radiator down and save €15 a year per radiator.
Day 32
Any old iron? If they’re on their last legs replace old electrical appliances with energy-efficient models. They could save a third of the energy.
Day 33
Have an embrace-the-silence Sunday. Turn off everything. No TV, no radio, no ringtones, no cars. It’ll be good for the soul. And the ears.
Day 34
Tell An Post that you want to stop junk mail. Sign up to Tearfund’s e-newsletter Twelve at
Day 35
Put an insulation jacket on your hot-water tank. If everyone does, we’ll cut enough carbon dioxide to fill 148,000 hot-air balloons.
Day 36
Re-use an item you would have thrown away – such as a jam jar, an envelope or an ice-cream container.
Day 37
Put a lid on it. That’s pans when cooking; and use a kettle to boil water.
Day 38
Draw the curtains to keep the heat in.
Day 39
Could your church or local community centre be greener? Talk to people about obvious examples of waste.

Day 40
Replace your missing bulb with an energy-saving lightbulb. Over its lifetime, you will save 60kg of carbon dioxide per year and up to €90. Make a personal pledge to serve others by pursuing a more sustainable way of life.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? The Irish campaign is called One Small Step, but as this example shows, a series of modest steps will bring us all a lot further down the road of a much less carbon-intense future.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
This entry was posted in Global Warming, Habitat/Species, Irish Focus, Sustainability and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Forget chocolate – 40 steps to cut carbon for Lent

  1. Central Heat says:

    Hi there, I found your blog on Google while searching for Central Heat andsome other things and your post regarding Forget chocolate – 40 steps to cut carbon for Lent was intersting. I have added you to my Digg account.

  2. Jim O'Brien says:

    suppose it beats giving up Mars Bars for Lent. Any more suggestions on where to start with this? by the way, arent the religous groups the ones dead set against any kind of population or birth control in places like Africa, so arent they part of the problem as much as anyone else??

  3. Brendan MacHale says:

    Love the radiator (Day 31) suggestion…lots of radiators in my building…disappointed though to see only two replies to this wonderful Lent campaign!

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