Villanova Sustainability and Campus Ministry partnered to invite students to participate in a Plastic Free Lent again this year. Starting on Ash Wednesday, February 17, students who signed up to participate committed to eliminating two to three plastic items from their daily lives while also being more intentional about consumer habits and what that means for the environment.
In addition to this commitment, participants have been meeting weekly for small group reflections with the aim of deepening their relationship to the Earth and others who share their environmental concerns. According to the Plastic Free Lent promotion, “[Students] will have the opportunity to engage in supportive community building while meeting new people.” Students who accepted the invitation to participate are allowed to reflect on their daily actions while also engaging in meaningful dialogue about what it means to live intentionally.
Participating students also received a couple of plastic-free giveaways. This included a bamboo toothbrush and a bar of soap.
Sophomore Megan Fitzpatrick is participating in Plastic Free Lent as a facilitator.
“Plastic Free Lent is a program that brings together sustainability and faith,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s an opportunity to build a community with like-minded students who also care about living more sustainably and a chance to talk about how that relates to your spiritual life.”
As a facilitator, Fitzpatrick leads weekly, one-hour sessions of small group dialogue.
“I wanted to take a leadership role in it because I felt really strongly about connecting my passion for my faith with my passion for sustainability, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm and knowledge with others,” Fitzpatrick said. “I always love getting involved with campus ministry because it is such a supportive community.”
Another facilitator for small group discussion as part of Plastic Free Lent is junior Emily Jaenicke.
“Plastic Free Lent became a space for me freshman year to connect with people who value the intersection of faith and environmentalism,” Jaenicke said.
Hosting an event like Plastic Free Lent is important for Villanova as a Catholic institution.
“On Villanova’s campus, I think we are doing a good job of looking at how the church has historically overlooked sustainability, but now we are working to face the issue head on,” Jaenicke said.
Last year, Jaenicke worked with Campus Ministry to enhance the Plastic Free Lent initiative.
“I connected with Ed Sloan to work toward making Plastic Free Lent an open discussion and provide accountability for the plastic free covenant,” Jaenicke said.
Because of COVID-19, the Plastic Free Lent has changed, with group discussions now occurring over Zoom.
“This year, I am facilitating a small group to ensure that there is still a sense of community for anyone participating in it,” Jaenicke said.
Additionally, the Plastic Free Lent initiative is important because of how difficult COVID-19 has made it to focus on making environmentally friendly choices.
“I think it is especially important to talk about the environment now because of how hard it is to live sustainably in COVID times,” Fitzpatrick said.
“It is important because environmental issues should be included in the social justice narrative that has been growing stronger recently.”