ASHWEDNESDAYJDPOLEYAP

How about giving up plastic this Lent?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Christian season of Lent, which continues during the six weeks before Easter.

For many, Ash Wednesday also kicks off the practice of giving something up as an act of penance. I’m Catholic, and growing up that always was an integral part of Lent. Among us kids there’d always be big discussions as to what it should be: dessert and candy, particularly chocolate, always were popular choices. (But oh, the struggle to stick with it the entire season!)

Oftentimes we continue the practice into adulthood, but without moving on from our childhood choices.

For a long time, I’d volunteer at some sort of charitable activity during the season, but I kinda miss giving something up. That’s why I like this recommendation a colleague posted on Facebook.

The blog post — written by Carol Janus on the website Center for a New American Dream — explains why giving up plastic, particularly the single-use variety, would be a great choice.

A retired pediatrician, Janus had been thinking for awhile that giving up plastic made a lot more sense than chocolate. All that plastic wreaks havoc on our environment. A chance encounter at a bus stop with a woman from the Plastic Pollution Coalition led to a program that’s going on this Lenten season.

What sort of things would you have to do? Well, instead of grabbing for a plastic bottle of water, fill a stainless steel or reusable plastic container. (As an aside, I have to mention this is a huge money saver and it does promote the habit of drinking more water. I started doing this a few years back and it really has increased my water intake dramatically.) Another strategy: Ditch plastic bags used for that lunch sandwich.

That’s the one that caught my eye. Several months back I bought some reusable sandwich- and snack-size bags, and have I used them? No. (I wish I could give you a good reason why not, but I cannot.) This initiative has prompted me to pull them out and finally put them to use.

In Chicago, the ban on plastic bags at big-box stores already has meant shoppers need to bring their own bags. We can extend that practice to our visits to mom-and-pop stores as well.

In actuality, giving something up for Lent was supposed to bring a permanent — not temporary — change in behavior, but somehow that’s gotten lost in the hoopla. With that in mind, I know I’d much rather face a future without single-use plastic than candy.

No single-use plastic for me this Lent. Wish me luck.  

FILE PHOTO: J.D. POLEY~AP