Creation Franciscan Saint Francis

A Plastic-Less Lent 2018

14th February 2018

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Living without throw-away plastic

During Lent we reflect upon Christ’s passion and how he gave himself to his father’s plan. It’s a penitential season when our thoughts turn more to self-kenosis, being less of our own self and more Christ-like. We look upon Lent as a time of self-improvement and spiritual self-discipline. Or maybe deciding that it’s time to review our not so healthy habits and remove the tastiness of chocolate from our diets!

In addition to our own Lenten spiritual practices Lent 2018 could be the catalyst to encompass our stewardship and ecology of our planet by remembering that every aspect of God’s Creation seeks His nearness and goodness, and that Creation is filled not only with life giving air but with His Holy Spirit. God cares for us, as a mother does for her children and one way He expresses that love is in the wonder of our planetary home and those we share it with. We live as a community and our neighbours are an abundance of creatures whom sadly we sometimes forget.

With Christ in Creation:

“It is how Francis lived in Christ that shaped his relationship to creation. Penance, poverty, humility and compassion were the values that forged Francis into a “cosmic brother”, one who was related to all creatures and to the elements of creation. Through penance he recognised his sinfulness and need for conversion. Through poverty he became aware of the human tendency to possess, as he realised his radical dependency on all things. Through humility he realised his solidarity with all creatures. Through compassion he came to have deep feelings for the things of the earth, including the tiniest of creatures.” ~ Ilia Delio OFS

Saint Bonaventure, who wrote about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi tell us that everything in creation spoke to Francis of God. He came to see God’s goodness in every aspect of creation, so that everything ultimately led him to Christ. Christ is at the centre of Creation.

Take Up the Plastic-Less Challenge:

This year take up the “Plastic-Less” Challenge, talk about it and encourage our family, friends and parishes to reduce the daily purchase and use of “single-use” or “throw-away” plastics.

MakE a Difference:

In our individual smallness we can each play a part to make a big difference to our planet.

Plastic beginning to strangle a Hedgehog plastic pollution around its body

Saying No to Single-use, Throw-Away, Plastic:

So how can we help? How are we to help Creation live its natural wonder and holiness? First, let’s get our thoughts focused on how Creation should be:

  • Read or listen to the Canticle of the Creatures and sense the filial relationship we have with all of creation – Brothers and Sisters with each other and with every other aspect of creation.
  • Read too Psalm 148 of how Creation sings praises.
  • Watch the short video of our Earth “breathing”.
  • Remember in Genesis our responsibility is to toil and keep creation. We are here as stewards to protect and nurture every part our our blue planet.
  • Know that we are part of God’s Creation. “Francis’ respect for creation was not a duty or obligation but arose out of an inner love by which creation and the source of creation, namely God, were intimately united. All of creation was a means to contemplate the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator.” ~ Ilia Delio OFS

If you’d like to get involved here’s a few suggestions:

1. The first and foremost question in the spirit of Franciscan simplicity of living and poverty of possessions is “Do I really need this product?”. Be aware of personal WANTS versus NEEDS.
2. Purchase fruit and vegetables not packaged in plastic. Consider buying from local greengrocers instead of supermarkets, taking your own fabric shopping bag!
3. Purchase produce in glass jars and bottles instead of plastic containers – ie: drinks, jams, spreads, vitamins, etc.
4. Change your deodorant to one in a spray can or even consider recipes to make your own!
5. If purchasing butter say, no to easy-spread butters in plastic containers.
6. Think about buying bars of soap – instead of soap in plastic pump bottles. For example sell un-wrapped soap and soap bars for hair.
7. Say no to single use plastic – such as drinking straws, knives and forks, and plastic lined drinks cups.
8. Purchase washing power in cardboard boxes
9. Use loose tea leaves – most tea bags are sealed with plastic.
11. Replace cling-film with Beeswax Wrap.
12. Don’t buy bottled water. Get a reusable steel water bottle and fill it from the tap.

If the above feels a little too intense start by reducing single use or throw-away plastic in one room of the house. Challenging rooms are the bathroom and kitchen

Why Not a Plastic Free Lent?

Lent 2018 is about purchasing much less single-use, limited-use and “throw-away” plastics. This is the type of plastic, because of our behaviour, that causes the most harm to nature. It’s not about living Plastic Free. It’s about understanding the problem of throw-away plastics and evaluating our choices at the point we make a new purchase of any plastic item.

A completely plastic free life is probably impossible:

Plastic is part of our electrical wiring and sockets. It can be found in plumbing, windows and doors. It’s in our white goods, cars, computers, mobile devices, kettles, TVs, Hoovers, MP3 Players, kitchen gadgets, clothing and the buttons on our shirts. It’s used for irons, shaving equipment and hair dryers. Many baths are plastic, and plastic is an essential component of hearing aids, spectacles, and medical devices. Take a moment to think and you’ll notice that plastic has become essential in some areas of life. It can be found in just about every room in every house, in hospitals, factories, and on boats, planes and trains.

So our focus must be not only on proper disposal of all plastics but to dramatically reducing the use of “unnecessary” single-use or throw-away plastics. These are the plastics strangling and suffocating God’s Creation.

Seagull with plastic sealing its mouth - plastic pollution Lent 2018

Plastic has become so convenient, it’s as though we’ve created another element, essential because of its versatility, low-cost and convenience. Yet the bacteria which breaks down organic material, returning it to the Earth and Creation, does not recognise plastic and so the plastic used in every toothbrush made since the 1920s, like the plastic bottles we use today, takes at least 450 years to degrade. Recycling is brilliant and good, it’s necessary, but it doesn’t address the problem at its source. Us and our use of plastic.

Plastic Pollution on Isle of Wight beach
Plastic pollution on Compton Bay, Isle of Wight

We’re surrounded by throw-away plastic, we have allowed it, with silent stealth, to become integral to daily living – but with discipline of mind we must try our best – to help Creation smile a little more.


Elizabeth is a member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. She has had an interest in Franciscan Spirituality for over 20 years.

Comments (1)

  1. What a positive thing for Lent,I have long not done ‘giving up’ which seemed so negative. Your suggestions are really helpful though I follow most anyway. I am in far south Costa Rica right now and this year instead of looking for shells I pick up as much plastic as I can carry.