For Lent, Laila Thompson usually gives up chocolate or other indulgent sweets. But after talking with her religious leader this year, she decided to slim down something different: her carbon footprint. "I realized that I'm doing a lot of things that are harming the world, and I feel obligated to take care of God's creation," says Thompson. So for the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, she's doing without plastic bags, wasted electricity and excess driving.
Her carbon diet brings with it the newest display of green thinking that connects environmental vigilance with religious salvation. English bishops Richard Chartres and James Jones joined with the Christian charity Tearfund to push cutting back on carbon emissions during Lent as the most effective way to protect communities already affected by climate changes. So far, the charity has received 300,000 requests for the list of suggested actions, which range from the creative ("Ask your city council for more recycling options") to the spiritual ("Reflect on ways to love our neighbors").
Other religious leaders have also touched on forms of environmental responsibility. Last spring, the pope called abuse of the environment "against God's will," and a year before, prominent evangelicals called on the U.S. govern-ment to step up its efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions. Laila Thompson credits the infusion of spirituality as her reasoning. Plus, she says, "this is way easier than giving up chocolate." Amen to that.