PORTLAND, Ore. — Alcohol, chocolate and maybe caffeine are some of the most popular things people give up during Lent.
But this year some Portland-area churches are encouraging congregants to give up something else they likely depend upon: plastics.
The challenge is called "Plastic Free Pilgrimage to Earth Day."
During each of the 40 days of Lent, participants are encouraged to give up a specific plastic item they would normally use.
For example, one day participants are encouraged to give up single use plastic bottles and instead opt for a reusable bottle. Another day, they're encouraged to use reusable bags.
The First United Methodist Church modeled its 40 day calendar after a similar plastic-free lent challenge done by the Church of England last year.
What started as a small endeavor has quickly grown into a much bigger one than the church every imagined.
"The next thing we know there's probably like four or six different organizations and people kind of keep hopping onto it, people as far north as Bellingham and as far south as Ashland," said Rev. Joshua Kingsley.
The United Nations estimates the world produces about 300 million tons of plastic every year and if the current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
The church points out anyone can take part in this plastic-free pilgrimage, even those who don't traditionally observe Lent.