Blog #104: Will you join me - in a few weeks - for Plastic Fasting?

January 26, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
It’s still January, just about, and Lent is right around the corner. In just under four weeks, Ash Wednesday will remind us of our mortality and mark the beginning of Lent. Our church invites us once again to prepare our hearts for Easter - through acts of penance, prayer and works of mercy. And yes, fasting is one such act of penance. This year, would it be a good idea to abstain not so much from our (favorite) food - but rather from purchasing or using items that come packaged in disposable plastic, as a way to reduce our own harmful impact on creation? Do you want to join me - this year - in committing to Plastic Fasting for all or some of the 40 days of the lenten period?   
Plastic Fasting can be a great lenten excercise, for those of us caring for God’s Creation as much as for anyone else: After all, our society’s dependence on - and obsession with - anything and everything made from plastic greatly and negatively impacts all living beings. This includes the fish that feed on plastic parts that someone has carelessly deposited in a river or sea, the birds that eat the fish or are attracted by sparkling little plastic things themselves, and the plants that cannot live in plastic polluted environments. While plastics as a material have their place in our society - when carefully used and mindfully recycled or disposed of - the biggest problem for nature is the (over)use of disposable and single-use plastics. Mostly, this is driven by some form of packaging - and as consumers we can directly influence the choices that large firms make when they decide how to market and deliver their goods to us. But even where our choices have little influence: Taking a period of our time to consciously renounce everything that comes packed in plastic will create in us awareness of our responsibility for God’s Creation and opportunity for prayer and action. In fact, studies have shown that those of us using lent as a moment to change our habits - avoiding products packed in plastic - have often also after lent continued their new habits.
Foto: Let's abstain from Single Use Plastics during Lent! It will not be an easy journey - but others are doing it, too, and so we won't be alone. I spoke to others who have done Plastic Fasting during lent - they all found it a great way to focus our minds and hearts on what we need and can do for God's Creation.  
So are you in? Will you join me? One thing is sure: As a penance, Plastic Fasting is great - simply because it will not come easy. In some cases it may not even be possible to avoid purchasing and using anything that comes in plastic wrapping -  certainly when you consider the period (for 40 days) and the scope (everything and anything that we purchase on an everyday basis). Successful Plastic Fasting will require some thought and perhaps even more preparation. In fact, in reflecting on what I would need to plan for, I realized that there are four quite different challenges: Firstly, there is the food I buy - most of it comes in plastic wrapping, certainly when I purchase it from the regular stores, Hofer, Billa, Spar, and so on. Secondly, there are personal hygiene products, from tooth paste through to shampoo - also here no shortage of plastics, at least when considering the containers. Thirdly, what about household hygiene - the tabs for my dish washer, the flasks for the detergent?  And fourthly, there is what I consume on the go, when on a train or when ordering in. Can I really avoid all plastics here? The good news is: We live in Vienna - which means we are not alone in wanting to avoid plastics, and this means there are more solutions available than we might think. The bad news is: I will very likely have to say goodbye to my favorite yoghurts and even to tofu, tempeh and other goodies that I simply cannot not find in the package free stores or markets that I have checked. But on the other hand, abstaining is the point of fasting, is it not?
To make things a wee bit easier for anyone contemplating to join me on my journey towards 40 Days of Plastic Fasting, I will use the next three blogs to help you out with some tips and tricks - for shopping for food and for household management choices, and for consuming food on the go. Importantly, if there is anyone reading these lines who has some practical ideas or references and resources on how to make Plastic Fasting more feasible and easier: Please do share those via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) so that I can make them available more broadly.
Ours is a culture of fast food and fast living - and we often value personal convenience and instant gratification higher than common goods. Fasting can help us in getting our eyes off ourselves and off what serves and pleases us - so that we can get them back onto the Lord and our life of faith. Christians around the world are practicing Plastic Fasting, in different locations and contexts, and the Anglican Communion as well as the Anglican Church have formally embraced such initiatives various times and in various places. In fact, the GreenAnglicans offer a day-by-day schedule on what to do and how when committing to Plastic Fasting. So, please do feel invited to join me (and many others) in this endeavour. I can promise one thing: It will be an unusual journey, full of surprises and learnings, with opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection on each and every day of the forty days of lent!
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