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Heal the Bay Blog

Meredith McCarthy, our Operations Director, is going plastic-free for 46 days. Pray for her soul.

Each year my faith tradition gives me the gift of a 46-day reflection period called Lent. I think of it as a spring cleaning of the soul. The season starts today, Ash Wednesday. The ashes are a sign of repentance, humility and mortality. Through the placement of the ashes on the forehead, believers acknowledge we have failed to be agents of love. We acknowledge our sins and work towards renewal.

Fasting is also big part of Lent. Going without feasts has its roots in early Christian tradition. As a child in Chicago, I’d often have to give up candy, making it a truly miserable month. I thought about giving up my nightly glass of wine this Lent, for a moment. Nah, let’s not go crazy, I thought.

But divine inspiration came from appropriate places this year – the Creation Care teams at Holy Family in Pasadena and American Martyrs in Manhattan Beach. I had been asked by the Catholic congregations to give a talk about plastic’s impact on our oceans. The parishes are encouraging their congregants to go on a Styrofoam fast and give up single-use plastic for lent. It’s part of a larger movement taking place across many faith communities.

As Director of Operations at Heal the Bay, I have stood hundreds of times ankle deep in plastic on our beach. It’s moved me to tears at times. You can see what I discovered recently on Santa Monica beaches after the first winter storm in this video.

All this plastic waste laying siege to our shorelines doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the sad byproduct of our daily “feast” of convenience. As a working mother of two, I too often partake in this feast. I am busy and tired most of the time. Using the handy excuse of harried motherhood, I have tried to absolve myself. But my faith and my planet require more. There may be no better way to renew my relationship with Mother Earth than to take responsibility for my lifestyle and the harm it may cause.

“We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic,” Pope Francis said in Laudato Si, his major encyclical on the environment. “Our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency.”

So in order to be an agent of love, my family and I are giving up single-use plastic for the next 46 days. We have our metal sporks, plates and reusable coffee cups ready to go. I still have to  Google “how to shave legs with a safety razor,” but that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned. I will be sharing my trials and tribulations. I’ll be toting a lot of reusable items for the family with me now. I think we’re going to need a bigger handbag!