Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog #105: Let’s prepare for Plastic Fasting - When on the Move!

February 2, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
This Blog is for those of you who are considering or have already decided to join me - for the 40 days (or some portion of them) of this year’s lenten period - in committing to Plastic Fasting as a lenten practice. The Blog is also dedicated to those who really have no intention to do this but are just kind of curious … to hear how disruptive, or even rewarding, it would be when avoiding - as much as possible - the use of single-use plastics that our fast food and instant gratification world has made such a big and yet environmentally damaging part of our lives.   
Today’s Blog looks at how to avoid single-use plastics when on the move: When we are out and about, on a train ride, a hike, a plane, at a museum, at work, or otherwise away from home. When on the move, we often see the nicely stocked stores in train stations, along the road, in cafeterias or other places that offer all sorts of drinks as well as a quick bite or a snack, and we will quickly see that most of what we’d like to purchase comes in a plastic bottle, is wrapped in some sort of plastic film or kept in a plastic container. Even many of the salad bars that have begun using paper-based containers will still offer plastic covers for these containers. What to do? Well, there are two answers: Bring your own drink or food - or bring your own bottle or box empty and get it filled right then and there.
Foto: My three essentials for Plastic Fasting on the move: A flask (for water), a mug (for the occasional fresh coffee), and a box (for sandwiches, carrots, nuts etc).  I may have to re-consider the box since its not great for packing salads, let's see how the journey goes...  
Purchasing your drink and asking for it to be served in your own mug, cup or bottle is a somewhat exciting endeavor - at least for an introvert - since it requires a conversation and sometimes some kind of a compromise with the staff in the coffee shop or Kiosk that you are asking for help. By now, I have done it many times - the coffee shops in Vienna that I tried seem to be totally fine with a process that involves me handing over my mug and them filling it with coffee (or hot water for a cup of tea or just tap water). Not so easy when giving them my flask - because they are unsure how to charge me, and getting the tea bag into the flask also sometimes is a challenge. Oddly enough, when in Germany I got a somewhat fearful reaction a few times - food inspectors seem to be persistent in some places, not allowing staff in coffee shops to just fill someone’s personal cup that may or may not be hygienic. In some cases, I had staff simply refuse my request, in other cases they actually took the time to clean my mug, and once or twice or so the person on the other side would whisper “Well, there is no one here right now, so I’ll just do it”. In most cases, a lovely conversation would ensue, creating space for the staff to express their appreciation of what you are doing. After all: They see how plastic (and paper) cups and mugs are mounting up and don’t like it either.
Flasks, mugs, and containers are easy to find - you probably have them in your kitchen anyways. For a flask I use one of the stainless steel ones that have recently become very attainable. The fancy hiking stores sell them, but also Spar had a cheap version on offer some time ago that is just as functional. Some people may prefer a proper thermos - but I find those heavy to carry around. Also, the flasks also take carbonized drinks and keep them (mostly) fresh, so you may find that attractive. For a mug, I use something with a lid that one can close - just to avoid accidents. And for a container, I often use a simple sandwich box. Some people may prefer something with a better lid - particularly for salads that is useful; I am still learning.
You might ask yourself how hard I find it to always have a bottle or a mug with me? Really, not so much. Yes, I’ll do it on a hike - but when I am in the city, I can’t be bothered to always carry that flask with me, was the reaction of someone I talked with. Well, you may think that, of course - but quite frankly, what I am doing here is precisely what any Mum will do that leaves the house with small children: We always have drinks and food packed, and some of us have gotten so good in the logistics of packing (empty the flask when you get home; fill it up in the morning and put it in the bag right by the door) that you end up not even thinking about it. So if every Mum can do it - so can you!  In terms of logistics, all you will need is a slightly larger shoulder bag or a small backpack to carry the mug around - and yes, I have taken one such mug in my little backpack even into the Wiener Staatsoper (somewhat uselessly because I found out that they serve drinks in porcelain cups or glass bottles anyways! - praise the Opera’s caterers).
But what about snacks and food? Here life gets to be a bit more restrictive. If you are already on the move but do not want to buy snacks that come in a plastic box or with plastic wrapping you will often restrict yourself to bakery products - because they mostly come in a paper bag. That’s perhaps attractive for some of us but definitely not always everyone’s go-to health-food. Avoiding plastic also means that I get to have a lent pretty much devoid of snack bars - so I will say good-bye to Mars, Bounty, Snickers, and their friends. I can prepare things ahead of time, of course, whether baking a cookie or making a salad, and take them with me. This does not have to be complicated. Myself, I am a big fan of white-beans-with-tomatoe salad or rustic bean salda with pumpkin seed oil - quick to make, easy to pack, and it will survive the day even in warmer temperatures. If you are pressed for time: Get those tomatoes, a cucumber or carrots on the market or in the package-free stores that you may have found out about by now. As always, the trick will be to have a good container or box. Which reminds me: You can of course also take your container to the fast food place you have in mind - you favorite Döner, the Buddha Bowls, or just your local cantina  - and have them fit your order in your box (rather than in a plastic wrap or container with a plastic lid). That really works - been there, done that - just try! 
So, yes, Plastic Fasting when on the move requires you to plan ahead. Pack your flask, mug, or container. Maybe prepare a snack and pack that, too. It may involve replacing your favorite but plastic-wrapped snacks with something else that you perhaps brought from home. But isn’t that what fasting is about? Re-considering our lives of convenience and instant gratification and instead getting our eyes off ourselves and off what serves and pleases us - so that we can get them back onto the Lord and our life of faith. Christians around the world are practicing Plastic Fasting, here and there, and the Anglican Communion as well as the Anglican Church have formally embraced such initiatives various times and in various places. In fact, the GreenAnglicans offer day-by-day schedule on what to do and how when committing to Plastic Fasting. So, please do feel invited to join me (and many others) on this special lenten journey.
Stay tuned - next week’s Tips and Tricks for Plastic Fasting will take a look at what to shop for regular food, how and where!
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Blog #104: Will you join me - in a few weeks - for Plastic Fasting?

January 26, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
It’s still January, just about, and Lent is right around the corner. In just under four weeks, Ash Wednesday will remind us of our mortality and mark the beginning of Lent. Our church invites us once again to prepare our hearts for Easter - through acts of penance, prayer and works of mercy. And yes, fasting is one such act of penance. This year, would it be a good idea to abstain not so much from our (favorite) food - but rather from purchasing or using items that come packaged in disposable plastic, as a way to reduce our own harmful impact on creation? Do you want to join me - this year - in committing to Plastic Fasting for all or some of the 40 days of the lenten period?   
Plastic Fasting can be a great lenten excercise, for those of us caring for God’s Creation as much as for anyone else: After all, our society’s dependence on - and obsession with - anything and everything made from plastic greatly and negatively impacts all living beings. This includes the fish that feed on plastic parts that someone has carelessly deposited in a river or sea, the birds that eat the fish or are attracted by sparkling little plastic things themselves, and the plants that cannot live in plastic polluted environments. While plastics as a material have their place in our society - when carefully used and mindfully recycled or disposed of - the biggest problem for nature is the (over)use of disposable and single-use plastics. Mostly, this is driven by some form of packaging - and as consumers we can directly influence the choices that large firms make when they decide how to market and deliver their goods to us. But even where our choices have little influence: Taking a period of our time to consciously renounce everything that comes packed in plastic will create in us awareness of our responsibility for God’s Creation and opportunity for prayer and action. In fact, studies have shown that those of us using lent as a moment to change our habits - avoiding products packed in plastic - have often also after lent continued their new habits.
Foto: Let's abstain from Single Use Plastics during Lent! It will not be an easy journey - but others are doing it, too, and so we won't be alone. I spoke to others who have done Plastic Fasting during lent - they all found it a great way to focus our minds and hearts on what we need and can do for God's Creation.  
So are you in? Will you join me? One thing is sure: As a penance, Plastic Fasting is great - simply because it will not come easy. In some cases it may not even be possible to avoid purchasing and using anything that comes in plastic wrapping -  certainly when you consider the period (for 40 days) and the scope (everything and anything that we purchase on an everyday basis). Successful Plastic Fasting will require some thought and perhaps even more preparation. In fact, in reflecting on what I would need to plan for, I realized that there are four quite different challenges: Firstly, there is the food I buy - most of it comes in plastic wrapping, certainly when I purchase it from the regular stores, Hofer, Billa, Spar, and so on. Secondly, there are personal hygiene products, from tooth paste through to shampoo - also here no shortage of plastics, at least when considering the containers. Thirdly, what about household hygiene - the tabs for my dish washer, the flasks for the detergent?  And fourthly, there is what I consume on the go, when on a train or when ordering in. Can I really avoid all plastics here? The good news is: We live in Vienna - which means we are not alone in wanting to avoid plastics, and this means there are more solutions available than we might think. The bad news is: I will very likely have to say goodbye to my favorite yoghurts and even to tofu, tempeh and other goodies that I simply cannot not find in the package free stores or markets that I have checked. But on the other hand, abstaining is the point of fasting, is it not?
To make things a wee bit easier for anyone contemplating to join me on my journey towards 40 Days of Plastic Fasting, I will use the next three blogs to help you out with some tips and tricks - for shopping for food and for household management choices, and for consuming food on the go. Importantly, if there is anyone reading these lines who has some practical ideas or references and resources on how to make Plastic Fasting more feasible and easier: Please do share those via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) so that I can make them available more broadly.
Ours is a culture of fast food and fast living - and we often value personal convenience and instant gratification higher than common goods. Fasting can help us in getting our eyes off ourselves and off what serves and pleases us - so that we can get them back onto the Lord and our life of faith. Christians around the world are practicing Plastic Fasting, in different locations and contexts, and the Anglican Communion as well as the Anglican Church have formally embraced such initiatives various times and in various places. In fact, the GreenAnglicans offer a day-by-day schedule on what to do and how when committing to Plastic Fasting. So, please do feel invited to join me (and many others) in this endeavour. I can promise one thing: It will be an unusual journey, full of surprises and learnings, with opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection on each and every day of the forty days of lent!
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #103: Enjoy - and help - our Winter Birds!

January 19, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
And don’t forget to feed your birds…!, the lady in the gardening shop had told me in November as I left her store, equipped with some practical things for my terrace. Feed the birds - really? I had thought to myself, somewhat irritated. Was this not interfering with nature? My doubts must have shown on my face. It’s good for your garden…!” she added, “if the birds like your garden, in spring and summer they’ll eat 80 percent of the pests that may otherwise stop your flowers and veggies from growing. Great advice, but time took over and, as often happens, I forgot. I remembered her only two weeks ago - when I heard the calls in the Austrian radio for anyone with a little bit of time and motivation to Help Count Our Birds.   
The winter-time counting of birds - between January 6 and January 8 - is a big citizen science effort specific to Austria and Germany, orchestrated by birdlife Austria together with BluehendesOesterreich in the former and by Nabu and in the latter. In Austria, it takes place already for the 14th time, and from what I could gather over 23,000 people participated this year. You can check out the results yourself online; I found it rather interesting to scroll through what’s going in birds’ lives across different parts of Austria. Overall, it seems that the warm temperatures during the counting period affected how many birds showed up in everyone’s garden: Fewer of the feathered friends were spotted than last year, mostly - the experts say -  because they found good feeding opportunities elsewhere in nature. The most frequently spotted bird, by the way were Sparrow, Great Tit, and Tree Sparrow.
Foto: You can check the results from last week's Austrian bird counting effort online and see which birds were spotted in the areas near you - quite fun, and also helpful in figuring out which birds you may see when you decide to help them by offering food throughout the cold winter months.  
But counting is not all we would want to do for these most beautiful of little creatures. Winter is coming, finally, and they will be looking for food that nature is not giving them anymore as she should. If we pay attention, we will see our feathery friends looking for nourishment - and can offer some, in our gardens, on the balcony, or simply on the window sill. So last week, I decided to set up a Bird Feeder in our garden. And I discovered that, like most things, also feeding birds is not that simple. Firstly, not all Bird Feeders are equally great - one should pick (or build) a model that allows the birds to keep the food separate from the poop (of others). Actually buying a Bird Feeder was the next hurdle: I could not find the nice little corner store for bird equipment that I had dreamed of - they probably exist, but my research ended up leading me to an OBI market (there is one in St. Marx, reachable with the U3). OBI only has limited options for the Feeding Silos that are most highly recommended, so I purchased a little wooden Bird House-type feeder and only a small Silo. Later I found better options are available at the Lagerhaus markets - the S7 stops right in front of their Schwechat outlet: That’s for next time.
What bird food to buy? Apparently, one can do all sorts of things wrongly - but the main advice is: Look out for Ambrosia/Ragweed feeds. Ambrosia is a Northamerican invasive plant that causes problems for people with allergies, a good reason for European organizations to try limiting its spread through bird feed. Therefore, most bird feed will have signs saying Ambrosia kontrolliert - but only those with a sign that says Ambrosia frei will actually be (mostly) free of the unwanted seeds. At OBI’s I could not find any of those - and I ended up buying the wrong one, I think. Next time, I’ll check out some of the online options for Ambrosia-free feeds. Also, a tip from the lady in the garden store: Be aware of bird food containing Hirse (millet) - you might not want to find it all over your garden once spring and summer come.
Last Saturday then, I installed my Bird Feeders - everything is ready for the cold and the birds to come. What about your garden, balcony or windowsill? Want to join in the effort of making winter a bit easier for our bids? I can confirm: Feeding birds is not just something you may enjoy because it puts you in touch with these lovely little animals - it also seems indeed to be a service to nature: Since our civilization is steadily shrinking the habitats that normally would feed our birds, providing additional food throughout the winter helps maintain and sometimes even increase bird population and health, both for domestic birds and for migratory birds. In fact, the Natural History Museum here in Vienna just last month put out a new exhibition - “The Grand Bouffe ..”  explaining why and where birds in Austria struggle to find the food they need. Worthwhile checking out!
And if you want to take things further and also contribute to bird counting: There are global citizen science efforts to support birds at different times throughout the year  everywhere around the world - orchestrated by The next bird counting exercise in Austria will be in May - from May 12 to 14. I’ll remind you ;-).
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #102: Glued to the Streets of Vienna?! 

January 12, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Some of you may have seen it with your own eyes this week - anyone on their way during the morning rush-hour in Vienna would have had a chance: Protesters of the Letzte Generation Oesterreich movement had literally glued themselves to the street in many locations, looking to use the press coverage this brought them to draw attention to the massive gaps and delays  in policy action to combat climate change.  If you missed it, there are videos online from various news agencies, worthwhile checking out in that they convey the sense of determination that the protesters have about them. And just to clarify: The Letzte Generation or Last Generation movement has little to do with Last Generation Theology: While the latter is a belief that the second coming of Christ is around the corner, the former draws its name from a statement attributed to Kristalina Georgieva, then COO of the World Bank who warned in 2018 at the Katowice Climate Conference that “we are the last generation that can stop climate change”.
Having been on the road myself this Tuesday, on Lasallestrasse and on Praterstrasse, I respectively got to to watch the three or four protesters, brightly clothed in safety vests sitting on the street, facing the morning traffic while being surrounded by what seemed like 20 police cars and 60 or so police men and women. I walked away with a mix of contradictory feelings and thoughts. Yes, disrupting traffic creates a nuisance for many people - and it can be dangerous (what if there is an ambulance in the traffic that gets stuck) - but why are all these people on the streets in their cars in the first place, many of them young and solo-drivers? Should not most of us be using public transport?  And: The government has been slow in implementing new policies that would really get us closer to the climate goals, even the Austrian Court of Auditors has confirmed this, and despite some great initiatives such as the Klimaticket, the demands of the Government’s own Climate Council have been largely ignored sofar. Progress in reducing climate change relevant emissions matters enormously, for all countries, and doing so speedily is just as important. Sometimes I feel grateful that there are people who take on the task to protest, drawing attention to the need to get on with things here.
Foto: A protester in Vienna who has glued herself to the street, looking to bring attention to the urgency of introducing stronger climate change policies in Austria.  
Who are these people? Why should we care? And what makes them put themselves out there, in the cold weather and with the uncomfortable prospect of being shouted at by bystanders? And is it not dangerous to literally glue oneself to the street? When I saw the protesters on the street, they seemed to be rather regular people, of different ages and backgrounds. The Letzte Generation Oesterreich is only one of several similar organizations that have, over the past 15 months or so, undertaken very public civil obedience-type protests mostly in the rich parts of the world, including Just Stop Oil in the UK, in the US, Letzte Generation in Germany, and Extinction Rebellion. They seem to be motivated by a genuine concern for the future, guided by scientific insights on the climate crisis, and looking to pressure for faster policy action on things such as introducing a strict speed limit on motorways (to reduce petrol used when driving). A few weeks ago, having read about all the gluing-to-the-street protests over the summer, mostly in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, I tuned into a radio interview with some of the protestors and discovered that there are quite a few faith-based folks amongst them.  In fact, in Germany, the Evangelische Kirche has publicly sympathiized with the protesters’ cause and asked that they not be criminalized; on the catholic side, there is even a Jesuit is actively participating in the protests.
On the Anglican side, the picture is a bit more mixed. On the one hand, Extinction Rebellion has been seen interrupting services at St Paul’s in London and at Lichfield Cathedral to demand that the Church divests its assets from companies profiting from fossil fuels. On the other hand, there are individual priests who have joined the protest movements, and amongst church leaders there seem to be mixed reactions, with some expressing sympathy for the cause but not having a lot of time for the way the protests are delivered. In the meantime, some 30+ Anglican dioceses have begun or completed divesting from fossil fuels.
Indeed, many people I have talked to in the past days are quite annoyed about the protesters. All they do is disturb others, these views claim. I will not change my behaviors because someone glues themselves to the street. Well, yes and no. When the suffragettes demanded voting rights for women in the Uk in the 19th century, they did get a lot of sympathy but not a lot of action initially. It was not until Emmiline Pankhurst with her motto Deeds not Words began resorting to more radical methods that truely created disturbances that new legislation was actually introduced. Don’t get me wrong: I am definitely not advocating for climate change protesters to put bombs into postboxes! But I am wondering about just how much nuisance protesters will have to create so that policymakers in the end will find it easier to take the decisions we all need them to take.
Civil disobedience is a broad topic - and whether or not anyone chooses to participate is a very personal decision. In any case, it is a decision that I cannot but respect - at least here, where the protesters's cause is one I care so deeply about. 
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.