Dubuque Sister to Avoid Plastic Bags for Lent

Actually, she would like us all to do that.

Sister Michelle Balek said, “lent is a really good time when a lot of people look at their own behaviors and say what can I improve on in my life?”

But for Sister Balek, this year’s lenten promise takes on a modern day issue.

“Plastic bags to have a lot of implications for health - both human and in the natural world," said Balek

That’s why she’s asking people to stop using plastic grocery bags for at least the next 40 days…


Sr Balek, who is with the Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, has already convinced several businesses and organizations to stop using plastic bags for the next 40 days. And she is working on getting the city on board.

However, she isn’t saying don’t use plastic bags if you already have them. Instead, she would like us conserve them. She wrote a list of practical suggestion, along with Lenten reflections for the next few weeks.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think this isn’t exactly what Lent is about though. I am all for not using plastic bags, but really…giving up plastic bags for Lent? This sounds like a way of this nun furthering “her cause” than actually thinking this is something people should give up for Lent. Isn’t Lent more about giving up something that would be a sacrifice?


Same thing came to my mind when reading about this.


Don’t we have enough green prophets to go by as it is? She has the quintessence of truth but gives in to yet another environmental fad. I can picture myself on my personal judgement, trying to come up with some sort of defense for myself: “But Jesus, I gave up plastic bags for Lent once” How impressed would he be?

I agree. What in the world does giving up using plastic bags have to do with Lent?


Uh, yeah…
Turning Lent into her own personal political cause…nice.:mad:

Just for that, I will use ONLY plastic!

Actually, I use plastic most often, because I have pets, and with pets comes pet waste, and what is better for holding that when cleaning up than plastic bags!

I really dislike people who think it is their place to TELL us what we should or should not use…I don’t mind people sharing their opinions, etc., but then allow each person to decide on matters like this. ESPECIALLY tying this into Lent is really nefarious.

Maybe I should just give up on cleaning up after my pets for Lent…:wink: …nah, I guess it has to be a sacrifice! Oh,well…give me a bag, will ya?:wink:


I dunno… I am not sure that it is any different from more common pledges, such as giving up soda pop or sweets. And in some ways, I think it is superior. Not only does it involve self-sacrifice and inconvenience, but it also helps in the stewardship of Earth’s resources. In that way, it is helping others and is not simply concerned with self.

To be sure, environmental concerns do seem important to Sr. Balek. She currently holds a VISTA position with the city of Dubuque where she works on such concerns. And it seems that ten years ago she was instrumental in creating a Franciscan organization concerned with environmental stewardship. However, I think such concerns are consistent with Franciscan spirituality.

As for the ease of fulfilling this Lenten promise, it might be harder than apparent. More than using shopping bags (instead of store provided plastic bags) it also involves washing, drying and reusing the plastic we already have instead of simply using new ones (e.g. for sandwiches or the vegetables we buy at the supermarket.)

Sr. Balek’s suggestion requires planning to follow through. It involves a change of life, and certainly involves repeated inconvenience which is a form of self-renunciation.

Giving up food items is different because people enjoy them, and desire them and therefore it is a sacrifice to give them up. I do not enjoy or like the plastic bags. It is not a sacrifice to put items in a paper bag or carry a tote. As for inconvenient, maybe. But I don’t think we are being called to make our lives inconvenient.

Lent is in part, all about being concerned with self though. It is the most soul searching time of year. No one can do that for me, I have to do it for myself.

This isn’t someone trying to “advance her own political agenda” or taking advantage of an “environmental fad”. (By the way, I have no idea how being environmentally conscious is a “fad” in the first place. It’s everyone’s responsibility.)

We should all remember that the Earth (and everything else, for that matter) is a gift from God and as such, we are called to take good care of it. And, to be perfectly honest, we haven’t really been doing the best job (Amurrica, especially). I mean, if you get a gift from another person, you don’t destroy it. That’s just rude! Even if you don’t like it that much, you at least return it or exchange it. It’s the same concept, except the gift is EARTH, the giver is GOD and we can’t exactly return or exchange it.

So, in that respect, this is probably one of the best Lenten sacrifices I’ve heard of. I mean, Lent is a season for one to come closer to God by either eliminating something that invariably separates us from Him or adding something that brings us closer. What’s a better way of coming closer to God than by saying, “Hey, God! Thanks for THE EARTH! I’m trying to take better care of it for You!”

But I don’t think we are being called to make our lives inconvenient.

The whole purpose of Lent is to remind us of Jesus’ time in the desert. Was forty days and forty nights of fasting in the desert not inconvenient? Because I know after about, 12 hours in the desert, most of us would be saying, “Wow…This is pretty inconvenient.” :stuck_out_tongue:

Chadathin, so my using plastic bags to dispose of my garbage is rude to God? Mind you, I pay a nickel a piece for those when I do my grocery, because, y’ know, I’m a bad eco-citizen. How about worrying less about the planet and more about the people who inhabit it? How about skipping one’s daily Starbuck or McDonald’s coffee during Lent, and sending the amount saved to a crisis center for pregnant teens, or to an organization helping the poor in developping countries? There’s so much human misery of all kinds in this world, and all she could think of are the lousy plastic bags…

What’s “Amurrica”?

I got the impression that Irishmom meant that we aren’t called to do something *merely *inconvenient.

In reality, not using paper bags is more inconvenient to the person waiting on the Sister, than it will be to the Sister.

“Please, I would like paper bags.” :shrug: Then the cashier has to go and find them, move the holder for the plastic bags, finally bagging the goods. Not a big deal for the Sister, big deal for the poor cashier.

Rrather than demanding paper bags when they aren’t normally provided, I think her point was to bring our own bags from home. Reusable shopping bags have become very common during the past five years or so.

I guess I don’t see giving up disposable plastic as merely inconvenient, anymore than I would see giving up soda pop or fast food as merely inconvenient. All involve some degree of refraining from self-indulgence, which, after all disposable plastic bags are. Its just that, at least in the US, we aren’t used to thinking about the waste of resources that such bags are.

I don’t see saying, “please, I would like paper bags,” as demanding anything. Rather asking for a something you prefer.

And of course you could and should bring the reusable bags, but if you forget???:shrug: Maybe she is saying to go back home if you forget. :shrug:

A note for those that use those reusable bags. Be sure to wash them. They harbor bacteria.

Good point. I use them and they do need to be washed regularly.

i think its great:thumbsup:

people are giving up all kinds of stuff that has nothing to do with religion…at least this sacrifice also helps the planet by reducing waste in landfills while at the same time teaching you to reuse and recycle and it also give you a lenten sacrifice to offer up to god…maybe some dont agree with her…but i think shes doing great

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