For Lent, Consider an Energy Fast February 16, 2024

This past October, on the Feast of Saint Francis, Pope Francis delivered the Apostolic Exhortation, “Laudate Deum”. In it he shares very directly his great concern about the condition of “our suffering planet” and urges us to take steps in care of “our common home.” After reading, it’s clear to me that this pope has done his homework and is sharing the unvarnished reality that our global family is facing. If you are concerned about the dignity of human life, the issue of climate change needs your attention.

Honestly this feels like a heavy cross to bear, and I’m not surprised why many people turn away from it. But remember: you are not alone. Pope Francis asks everyone to join “this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful.” Being able to see that I’m part of a community of people who are all on this same journey gives me hope and inspires me to take the next step together with others and with Jesus.

So where to begin? First remember that as Fr. Daniel says “No matter where you are on your faith journey, you are welcome here”.  Each of us can only start our journey from where we are. A home Energy Fast done as a person or family for lent might help you set about your way. 

Second, start small. What that means to me is just putting something on the calendar, like a visit with the Home Energy Squad. Many cities, including Minneapolis, offer these visits on a cost sharing basis or even for free in some cases. Visit the Home Energy Squad (HES) for more info.

What I love about HES is that they literally meet you where you are: in your home! And they bring along products, like weather stripping or LED bulbs, which they can help you install right then and there. A couple of hours later, your home is already more efficient. Plus they bring along cool gadgets like a heat sensing camera so you can see in red and blue where your drafts are. I was surprised to learn on my visit that a big loss of heat was via the door to my attic. Four pieces of weather stripping later, the problem was solved.

The Home Energy Squad likely won’t heal all your home’s sins in one visit. They will leave you with a gentle list of recommendations. Step two might be to pull something off that list. I recommend you pick the low hanging fruit, and build on your success from there. Here are some examples:

  • Stop the vampires! Many gadgets drain power even when not in use. Use a power strip with a switch to power them completely off.
  • Sleep your computer. If you aren’t using it, give it a rest. Here’s how to find the power settings for Windows or Mac
  • Mellow your water heater. Lowering the temperature setting on your hot water heater a few degrees can save a bunch. Also this is a good idea to reduce the risk of burns. HES can show you where to do this on your unit.
  • Wash your clothes in cold. If you can avoid using hot water to begin with, even better.
  • Get a programmable thermostat. HES can help you find a model that will work for your home. It doesn’t have to be super fancy. And consider setting the home & awake portion of your day to 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer. Dressing for the weather is “Minnesota sheik”. 
  • Change your filters. A dirty furnace filter means your furnace and AC have to work harder. This needs to be done on a regular basis.
  • Clean your fins. If you have a central AC unit the outside of it has a bajillion little metal strips that air gets sucked through by the fan. When these are dirty, the AC unit won’t work as well. It is recommended you clean them once a year.
  • Insulate! This can be a bigger ticket item, but often it pays for itself. HES can tell you where you’ll get the most bang for the buck.
  • Follow the links below for other efficiency ideas.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, just take things one at a time.  Before you know it, you’ll find yourself on a roll. When your domicile is a model of efficiency, take a breath to congratulate yourself! 

Then, consider electrifying. That is (when the timing is right for your household) replacing your gas appliances with electric ones. We’re getting beyond the realm of just fasting here.  This is how you take emissions reductions to the next level. And there are other benefits, too, like improved indoor air quality. Did you know that gas stoves are linked to higher rates of asthma in kids? Also there are rebates and incentives becoming available to make the transition affordable. Visit Electrify Everything MN for more information on this.

For even more bonus points, share what you are doing. If possible, bring a friend to join you on the journey. You’ll go farther if you can be accountable to each other. But the main thing is just to start in whatever way will give you success that you can build on. 

I see lowering energy use as a way to become more connected to the world. It’s part of the ethos of living simply and noticing the world around you. Recognize that the actions you take (or don’t take) have impacts on all life. If everything is connected, then, perhaps, everything is holy and should be treated as such. Even your hot water heater.

Andy Willette

Member of the Basilica Creation Justice Committee


Home Energy Squad: 

Other efficiency tips:

Tips with renters in mind:

Electrify Everything MN: 

Every Friday in Lent, our Creation Justice Committee (CJC) will offer some suggestions as to how we might be gentler with our planet and help implement the vision Pope Francis set out in his encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care of creation and his more recent Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Dominum.