More Information on the 40/40 for Earth Challenge

Why a Pledge?

According to Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff, our world is facing three major problems right now: we’re trashing the planet, we’re trashing each other, and we’re not even having fun.  

For Earth Day, we’re asking congregations to take a look deeper at all three of these challenges, through the lens of a particular issue. By learning more about a particular topic, we can identify ways that we can live our lives more in line with our principles and values, at least for a few weeks. By doing this in the support of a community, we not only increase the impact of our commitments, but it can also be easier to find the courage to make change and the accountability to one another to stick with it. It can even be fun! 

Many participants in the 2010 campaign reported behavior changes that outlasted the campaign. Pledges large and small, held in community, have allowed UUs across the country to examine how they can live in right relationship with the planet and each other and find the support needed to try out a change that would ultimately change their lives and the lives of those affected by their new choices.

Why 40 Days?

In 2010, the Ethical Eating Core Team proposed a 40/40/40 campaign, asking 40 UUs in each congregation (or 40% of a congregation, if that number made more sense) to commit to making a change to eat more ethically for 40 days, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. The campaign was widely adopted within weeks of its introduction. We have kept the campaign at 40 days for continuity and because we found it to be a good length of time.

Forty days is a long enough period of time to allow for deep reflection about an issue and its impact on our own lives and the lives of others. It can be long enough to create a new habit. It’s also short enough to be realistic. Committing to make a change for 40 days is short enough to allow people to take risks with their commitments and try something they may not be able to commit to for a year or more. 

For some people, the number 40 carries great biblical significance. Lent is 40 days, Noah spent 40 days on the ark, and the Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. If this carries meaning for you, embrace it!  Whatever your beliefs, this campaign presents each of us with a great opportunity to make positive change in community.

Is this going to happen again next year?

Yes! We would love to see UUs make Earth Day a part of the liturgical calendar, celebrating the great planet that gives us life, and dedicating 40 days to renew one’s commitment to living in right relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants, as we respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. We think an annual 40/40 for Earth Challenge is a great way to do it!