Give Up Waste for Lent - Report

This report presents analysis of the Care for Creation Committee’s Lenten campaign, "Give Up Waste for Lent." The report is based on the results of a survey conducted among parishioners who either had previously indicated that they participated in the campaign or had previously indicated an interest in the work of the Care for Creation Committee.


The campaign to “Give Up Waste for Lent” had three components to it:
1) Each week during the first five weeks of Lent, a type of waste was identified and a brief narrative described the problem (the five types were single use plastics, clothing, paper, energy and food);
2) passages were identified from Laudato Si that corresponded to the type of waste and our social/moral obligations as Catholics in a Jesuit parish, along with a set of questions for reflection on the selected passages; and
3) a suggested set of actions a family could take to reduce the given type of waste they were voluntarily creating during the upcoming week.

On Palm Sunday weekend, the campaign proposed households consider ways to continue the actions they had taken for the remainder of the year. A fourth component was proposed: to have weekly group discussions related to the narrative and readings for that week, but this proposal was vetoed by parish staff as conflicting with other parish Lenten initiatives. We also had intended to have a presence in church during Lent, but that was negated by Covid-19 and the cancellation of public masses.

As a first step in the campaign, free used copies of Laudato Si were made available to parishioners after all the masses on the two weekends before Lent, and announcements regarding the campaign were posted in the parish bulletin and e-newsletter. Twenty-four individuals accepted the offer of a free copy of Laudato Si.


The restrictions associated with Covid-19 made it difficult to assess the impact of the campaign. As a result, two follow-up activities were initiated.  The first was an online survey regarding the campaign.  An email was sent to 48 households in the parish.  The names came from three sources:
1) individuals who had received a free copy of Laudato Si and left behind a legible email(16);
2) individuals who had previously expressed an interest in the work of the C4C Committee and left us their email addresses (22);
3) individuals who had been involved in C4C activities in the past year (10). An email was sent to these individuals, informing them about the survey, why they were selected to participate, and also asking if they would be wiling to participate in a Zoom meeting about the campaign and possible future parish initiatives during Laudato Si Week (May 16-24, celebrating the 5th anniversary of the publication of this important encyclical).

Two followup reminders were sent out to non-respondents, one-week and two-weeks after the initial mailing. 27 of the 48 participated in the survey (17 came in on the first invitation, another 6 after the first reminder, and the final 4 after the second reminder). Of these, 7 indicated in question number 1 that they had not been able to participate in the activities of the campaign and therefore did not answer the remaining questions (except for question 10, where three of these 7 said their inability was related to changes caused by Covid-19). The remaining 20 individuals all answered questions 1 through 9, and 11 of the 20 answered question 10. Questions 1-9 were closed-ended questions, while question 10 was open-ended.


The 10 survey questions covered three topics: level of participation (Q1-Q3), the value of different components of the campaign (Q4-Q6), and questions about the future (Q7-Q10).

  • Participation:
    60 percent of respondents stated that they participated in the campaign for all of Lent, while 40 percent reported doing so for only part of Lent. 4 of the 24 individuals who received free copies of Laudato Si responded to the survey (20 percent of those completing the survey). Ten percent of respondents used the online link, and the rest used their own personal copies of the encyclical. About half of respondents reported reading most or all of Laudato Si, while the other half were split between just reading the recommended passages and reading somewhat more than the recommended passages. Three of the four respondents who received a free copy reported reading all of the encyclical during Lent.
  •  Value of the Campaign’s Components: 
    People had a mixed reaction to the narratives provided each week for the different types of plastics. Three-fourths of respondents found only “some” of them useful. All but one of the remaining respondents found “all” of them useful (the one respondent found “none” of them useful). Respondents were more positive about the relevance and value of the selected passages from Laudato Si. About half said “all” were valuable and half said “some” were valuable (no respondent answered “none”). Ninety percent of respondents engaged in some of the suggested actions for reducing a given type of waste.  
  •  The Future: 
    Three-fourths of respondents said the program should definitely be repeated next year.  All but one of the remaining respondents agreed, but with requests for changes. Most of the suggested changes were ones that could easily be accommodated (see below). The next to last question asked about what future activities would be of value. Respondents were asked to check “all that apply,” but every respondent marked only one choice, which made this question really be about the value of the weekly tips in the bulletin (this was the first item listed and two-thirds of respondents said they found them valuable). Eighty percent of respondents said definitely or maybe to learning more about taking the Laudato Si Pledge or becoming a “Climate Household.”  Finally, the one open-ended question in the survey asked for suggestions for the future. About half of respondents offered suggestions. [Note: three-fourths of those who had gotten free copies used this space to thank us for making them available and that it was key to their participation.] The dominant suggestion was for including opportunities for discussion as part of the program. This made it clear that our initial plan for including them was important and we intend to address that for next year. Other suggestions included greater emphasis on the importance of people reading the Laudato Si passages (including putting the full text of the passages in the bulletin and/or on the website instead of just the paragraph numbers). Finally, there was a recommendation for offering some type of study group to discuss this encyclical (as the parish has done with other of Francis’ writings).  


For a variety of reasons, the follow-up meeting had to be postponed to the week after Laudato Si Week.  This change reduced participation in the meeting. Still, those present engaged in a robust discussion around three topics.

The first was making Laudato Si more relatable for parishioners. It was noted that the writing level for the encyclical was well above an 8th-grade reading level, the usual target for publications (like newspapers) aimed at a general audience. And most of the published efforts to simplify the language end up having it lose it prayerful quality which is central to Pope Francis’ message that this is a spiritual, as well as social and economic, problem. Two possible solutions include:
1) having meetings where different individuals take a section of the encyclical and say what struck them about it; and
2) have an ongoing program of publishing actions that might be taken to help the environment tied to specific passages from Laudato Si (when people see what actions follow from a given part of the text, the text itself becomes much more understandable).

The second area was around taking action in response to Pope Francis’ call. We need to increase the visibility of actions suggested each week in parish bulletin and better connect them to two points that Pope Francis makes in the encyclical:
1) proper care for our common home is not optional for Catholics; it is part of what it means to be a follower of Christ; and
2) actions must follow from our spirituality. 

There was general agreement that support from the pulpit for this call would significantly improve the congregation’s acceptance and response. It was also noted that we should begin posting activities and events outside our parish on the parish website. 

Finally, the meeting focused on gatherings going forward. The general sense was that the sooner the better, but also a recognition that at least for the next month or so, any gathering would have to be online. Two types of gatherings drew the most attention.  One was hosting a meeting with a known guest expert and to promote it beyond our parish as a way to build ties to other parishes. The second was doing some form of Laudato Si circle: a set of six meetings, once a week over a six-week period, where we read and discuss one chapter of Laudato Si each week. Each week would have a different leader, who would start the discussion by talking about what struck them (or moved them) in the encyclical and what sort of actions they saw as connected to what had struck that individual.