Some Oregon Catholics, in addition to fasting from chocolate or coffee this Lent, will try to cut down on the amount of CO2 they cause to be emitted.
What's being called a "carbon fast" calls on the faithful to drive less, unplug and even plant trees or other greenery, all to care for God's creation by forestalling climate change.
"I think I was most surprised by the creativity of people once they got involved with the carbon fast," says Barb Upson, a member of St. Juan Diego Parish in Portland who helped promote the practice last year in her community. "The kids seemed to pick up first on the significance of small daily acts and gradually got their parents more involved. I believe it made a life-changing difference to the whole family. Some people even bought chickens."
Families were able to take home a meter to measure how much power various appliances pull.
Jackie Keil, another organizer at St. Juan Diego, says the carbon fast has succeeded at the parish because leaders presented it in so many different ways. Volunteers led sustainability classes and built a regularly-updated web page that showed how individuals can cut carbon production.
The parish gave prizes to households that really transformed.
"One family turned off their computer and TV and had a board-game night each week of Lent," Kreil reports. "Another started a veggie garden."
The St. Juan Diego Social Justice Ministry created a Lenten calendar giving ideas. The idea of a carbon fast emerged five years ago in England, with Anglican leaders pointing out what Pope Benedict has also said — climate change's affects will come first and worst for people who are poor.
The Vatican hosted a climate change conference in 2007 and put up 2,400 solar panels in 2008. In 2009, the Holy See installed solar collectors to help heat and cool buildings.
Late last year, an advisor to Pope Benedict said the Holy Father would welcome having an electric popemobile as a further sign of his commitment to protecting natural resources and safeguarding the earth. One Vatican technician said that the city-state is close to having a fleet of electric vehicles.