Wednesday, March 2, 2011


A lot of us don’t keep much of a Sabbath. If we go to church on Sunday morning, we feel that we did our religious duty for that day. But, most everyone knows that the Sabbath is supposed to be, according to the Bible, a day of rest. Maybe, like many people, you don't feel like that Sunday is a special day, set apart from the other six days. But, wait! Here is a chance to celebrate an eco-Sabbath. It’s another way that we could be motivated to make one day of the week, a real day of rest. The eco-Sabbath can be a special time for you, alone or accompanied by friends and family, to thank God for another day of life and, at the same time, demonstrate your Earth-friendly convictions.

Now, most of us own-up to having a sizeable carbon footprint, which, sadly, amounts to having done our share of damage to the Earth. What’s more, we would like to see an end to the ghastly level of carbon emissions that we've all created. The question is: How can we go about doing something like that? Probably, you're not ready for a “no-impact” life or even a “no-impact” year, as was done and documented by Colin Beavan. But some of us should be able to try out a “no-impact”, 24-hour day.

So, what might our eco-Sabbath look like? It would clearly be a quiet day. On that day, we would make no purchases, not use any machines or anything electric, including computers, TVs or cell phones. That also means no cooking, either (unless it’s with a solar oven). And no transportation methods other than walking or biking. And we'd use as little water as possible - that being only the necessary for maintaining good health and minimal hygiene. How much water might that be? Well, I suppose each participant would need a gallon or so to drink and another gallon or so to wash up. (You notice I didn’t say shower.) And, maybe, we’d need two gallons of water for rinsing out dishes and another few gallons for toilet flushing (and that only when plainly needed).

O.K. That was the negative part – what we won’t be doing on our eco-Sabbath. So, what’s to be gained by going through all this? First of all, it's a perfect way to take some time from day-to-day work and other kinds of responsibilities and to rekindle your religious faith, while, simultaneously, giving our planet a break. By not using any resources for 24 hours, we can cut our carbon impact for the year by 1/365 or 0. 03%. Now, that may not sound like very much. But once we learn how to do this, there’s always a fair chance that it could be repeated. If we did this for one day a week for the whole year, our personal carbon emission would be reduced by some 14%. And, second and equally important, these hours, taken out from our normal routines, can help us think about ways to make our lives more Earth-friendly on a full-time basis.

And, here’s more of the positive part. There are many good things that a person can do well and thoroughly appreciate on an eco-Sabbath. You may remember a simpler time from your youth when on Sunday you went to church and spent the rest of the day visiting with family and friends, eating an unhurried "Sunday dinner", playing games, and singing songs around the piano. Back then, there was enough time to do things on Sundays that were totally different from our regular routines. How did so many of us lose that perspective on Sundays? An eco-Sabbath can be a reason to enjoy some of the same enjoyable (and low carbon-impact) activities with friends and family.

Beyond that, from my own viewpoint, I’ll try out my first eco-Sabbath in good weather. That way I’ll not need any home heating or fans. Also, the good weather should allow for plenty of sunlight, and I’ll be able to carry out all my activities with daylight. Oh, and there won’t be any electric usage for the refrigerator either. I’ll do my "no-impact" day just before I do my weekly grocery shopping and, so, it won’t be difficult to put the remaining items in an ice chest. (This will be a perfect time for me to clean the empty refrigerator, a task that I dislike and am known to put off.)

I can reduce my carbon footprint a bit more on eco-Sabbath by not using any products other than hand soap, dish soap or a laundry bar soap for washing out a clothing item or a towel. That also means no use of paper (other than toilet paper) and, certainly, no plastic products. I’ll probably use olive oil instead of my all-purpose skin cream. Olive oil works as well or better than most commercial skin creams – the only drawback to it is the cost – as price of olive oil has increased a lot lately. My food won’t be heated, but I can eat it cooled - directly from the ice chest - or at room temperature, picnic style.

For my part, I’m pretty sure that I can carry out an eco-Sabbath at least one day a month (that’s 3% of the year) without any suffering at all. On such days, I would be able to enjoy a leisurely conversation at the kitchen table with my husband and take a nice long walk, alone or with my husband (or with my dogs). I could also do some inspirational reading, draw or paint, work in my small garden, write in my journal, do needlework or yoga. I would surely benefit from getting up with the sun in the morning and going to bed early, allowing me at least 10 hours of sleep time. And that would be a really healthy start to the rest of my week.

Now, I've told you some of my ideas about how I'd celebrate a "no-impact" (or "low-carbon impact") Sabbath. What would your eco-Sabbath look like?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Jews have been doing this for about five thousand years.
I worked for Chabad House, a homeless shelter and also, (and as it was intended orrigionally,) a respite for Jews who are traveling.
I learned a lot in those years.
They do all these things, once a week, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.