Monday, 20 February 2012

EcoLent - upgrade your life 47 days at a time.

Two years ago, for the period of Lent, I became vegetarian, to see how I would respond to not having meat for 40 days. Once Easter came round, I had found it so easy to give up my carnivore lifestyle, that I became a full-time Vegetarian. Last year, I decided that Lent was maybe a good opportunity to give up another part of my life that was bad for the environment and so I gave up plastic packaging. This went pretty well, as many of you know, but was a really tough challenge, and I must confess (shrove tuesday is a day of confession) that plastics swam very quickly back into my life, especially once I started working in London. This year I have decided that I am going to permanently adopt this period of the christian calendar, as a part of my environmental calendar (christians of the world - I hope you don't mind). Every year, for Lent, I will change a part of my life that has detrimental impacts on the world, by upgrading it in a way that will preserve and protect the world. If I can successfully change for the 47 days until Easter (sundays are not a day off in my EcoLent challenge), then I can permanently upgrade that part of my life.

Why lent?
I'm not a practising christian, I don't worship God or praise Jesus, I don't go to church or pray, but I am from a culture founded in christianity.  Shrove Tuesday, Lent and Easter are all celebrations that have become a core part of the British calendar and I believe that the founding principles behind them are ones that are important regardless of a person's beliefs. Shrove Tuesday is about confessing (to yourself or others) about something you do or have done, then having one last glutinous indulgence before Lent.  Lent is a period of 40 days (you get sundays off) before Easter, when you practice self control, in the face of temptation, by giving up something desirable. Traditionally this involves giving up milk, fats and eggs.  In more modern times, this had involved giving up sweets, chocolates and cakes. Easter represents the resurrection of Christ and is about celebrating new life and spring, after a period of abstinence.  This its where traditionally ornamental eggs, carved eggs or painted eggs are given as a gift, to celebrate new life.  In modern times, this has developed into a chocolate egg frenzy.

So whats Ecolent?
In Ecolent, on Pancake Day, you identify something you do on a daily or weekly basis which has some negative impact on the environment or the people of the world, such as buying fish from an unsustainable source or purchasing clothes from a shop whose ethics you know are questionable. Then you make a commitment to change that part of your life in a way that will preserve the environment or human societies.  So you could buy your fish but with an MSC stamp on it, thereby supporting sustainable fishing practices and increasing the consumer demand for it. You could go charity shop hunting for your clothes, thereby putting money into charities and reducing the degredation of natural resources and the consumption of energy through increasing recycling activity, or you hit the vintage clothes stores which also increases recycling activity, AND supports your local economy. You commit to this life upgrade for the 47 days until Easter.  Its a short-term contract with yourself, giving yourself the opportunity to trial a better alternative.  If you manage to successfully upgrade within 47 days, why downgrade after?

Peer Pressure!
You may be worried about what your friends will say, but in my experience, my friends and family have admired and been impressed with the resolve and determination the EcoLent challenge requires.  It's also a really great way of raising awareness, because, when asked, you can explain to people why you've embarked on the challenge, focusing on your own experiences, instead out preaching to them.  People are really interested.

Picking your challenge.
The key is to make the challenge achievable and specific, giving yourself some clear boundaries on what is and isnt permissable during the 47 days.  I made the mistake with plastic packaging of saying ALL plastic packaging, which is a really hard thing to do, as plastic really permeates every part of our lives. Next time I do plastic packing, it will be more specific, for example, I will only buy naked vegetables (not wrapped in plastic) or I will trial having milk delivered in glass bottles.

My Challenge:
This year however for EcoLent 2012, I will be focusing on chocolate and will only eat organic and ethical chocolate.

This counts for:
Cakes, Desserts, Yoghurts, Biscuits, Chocolate Bars, Ice-Cream and Sweets.
It includes even the tiniest bit of chocolate in any of the above items.
It includes Dark, Milk and White chocolate.

Permissable brands - Green & Blacks, Traidcraft, Divine, Montezuma's, Booja-booja, Organica, Cocoa loco.

Non-permissable brands - Cadburys, Nestle, Mars, Thorntons, Frys, Kraft, Foxs, Maryland, Gu.

The list of permissable brands are those that I am confident have ethics at the heart of their production.  The list of non-permissables are those I suspect or understand have poor ethics in their production.

During the next 47 days I will be taking the opportunity of the challenge to research all aspects of the chocolate industry and I will post my findings here on this blog.

Joining in:
Ideas for newbs
• Join me with chocolate.
• Eat sustainable fish.
• Charity shop (and vintage shop) shopping.
• Trial the milkman ; ).
• Naked veg only.
• Movie lover? - rent from your library.
• Go veggie -its easier than you think.
• On your bike (take the peddle of faith and leave the car at home).
• Magazine mad? - go digital.

If you'd like more of the EcoLent action and would like to take on a challenge or have questions or comments on any of the above, comment on this blog or tweet at me @jadelaurencawth #ecolent.

Until then, wish me luck,