For many Christians the 40-day period of fasting and reflection before Easter known as Lent is a chance to get in mental and spiritual shape. People give up chocolate, quit drinking or smoking, avoid meat, start reading the Bible regularly, or even give up social media—small “fasts” intended to discipline and redirect one’s mind to the divine. For Catholics, liturgical Protestants, and increasingly, nondenominational Christians around the country, Lent fasts can often feel like another round of New Year’s resolutions—a second attempt at giving up small indulgences for personal betterment.

But this year thousands of Christians worldwide are making a bigger statement: giving up carbon to help save the planet.

Faith groups leading the charge dub this practice a “carbon fast.” Of course, completely giving up carbon use is nearly impossible. But from taking on daily ecological-minded actions such as walking to work to engaging in national advocacy and carbon-reduction campaigns, these groups are determined to bring awareness of human involvement in climate change and to promote stewardship of the earth throughout the 40 days of Lent.

First started by a Liverpool bishop in 2007, Carbon Fast has been developed and promoted among individuals, bible study groups, and churches by the U.K.-based Christian development organization Tearfund since 2008. Its simple message of carbon reduction as a path to environmental and spiritual renewal has taken hold, and this year communities in Canada, the Netherlands, India, Hong Kong, Australia, and Brazil are observing carbon fast as well.

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