Dreaming of a Green Christmas
As we hurtle through the season of compulsory/compulsive purchasing and obligatory jollity it might be useful to stop and consider our options before we get caught up in the snow globe of retail frenzy that has come to define Christmas. While no one wants to hear a diatribe of misery or Grinch disgruntlery in the already dark days that lead up to the festive season, we cannot, any longer, afford to ignore the now obvious consequences of unsustainable consumerism. We need to address our personal role in the reduction of CO2 emissions. It is not a fad to be eco aware. Sir David Attenborough has made a passionate contribution to the UN climate change conference in Poland by articulating the fear we must all recognise; climate change is our greatest threat.
Rather than feel helpless and despairing in the face of such global crises we can use this season to highlight and actively change the destructive forces that underline every aspect of our modern lifestyles. No matter how small our gesture is, we can and must demonstrate a shift in our pattern by growing, making, sharing, eating, buying and giving the kind of festive comfort that everyone loves and needs during these short winter days.
A few simple limitations to our shopping list can have a significant impact, however small, on the environment, our health, and the future of the planet. The challenge to find eco- friendly gifts and groceries can even help us to avoid the stressful choices that line the shelves on the high street. By reducing the mountain of non- degradable waste from packaging we can take personal responsibility and demand producers to be equally accountable. By choosing to support local businesses we are helping to sustain a community while reducing our carbon footprint and demanding unpolluted food produce. Local crafters, bakers, farmers and small businesses need our support at Christmas.
If we can make even one active change to our purchasing it can be the start of an urgent challenge to claim our own power and responsibility in the marketplace. We may understandably feel powerless or ineffective when we consider the scale of plastic production and usage, but it is our own domestic behaviour and the marketing skills of the mass producers that has brought us, in a relatively short time, to this state of crises.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when we lived without clingfilm, plastic bottles, face wipes and all manner of ‘disposable’ wear that promised to simplify our lives. Now is the time to examine what alternatives there are in the kitchen and bathroom where most of these culprits reside. Gladly there are new and interesting products moving forward to help us replace some of these harmful ‘convenience’ goods. Waxed cotton wraps are a colourful alternative for covering food in the fridge or to parcel your sandwich.
Shampoo bars are an amazingly simple way to reduce the gallery of plastic bottles in the bathroom.
Bamboo toothbrushes and coffee mugs are a smart alternative to the non-degradable plastic ones that are destined for landfill.
Cosmetics and confectionery rank high on the Christmas shopping list and a critical look at their labels might guide us towards a more considered choice throughout the year. If we only decide to eliminate products containing unsustainable palm oil it will impact on the destruction of indigenous communities and animal habitats in Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa. The- ever growing demand for palm oil is responsible for vast areas of deforestation and the wrecking of biodiversity. As consumers, we must curb the demand by informing ourselves of the link between seemingly harmless products and the environmental destruction they are causing.
It may be well-nigh impossible to avoid palm oil entirely as it has become an ingredient in so many products and may not always be obvious on the label. You may be surprised to find out just how ubiquitous it has insidiously become. Breads, margarines, snacks, chocolates, nut spreads, shampoos, soaps, vegan cheeses, biofuels……. the list goes on.
Dairy butter, cheese and quality vegetable oils, in moderation and preferably organic, are surely preferable to highly processed substitutes that are largely reliant on the cheaper option of palm oil in their manufacture.
The pre -Christmas shopping aisles are bulging with wrapping material, which is rarely biodegradable, has itself become a commodity, sometimes costing more than the gift it might enclose. It is not difficult to present cheerful and stylish gifts with recycled or natural trimmings and the results are always individual. Do you need a plastic wreath from China?
It is surely an absurdity that our reputation as a Green Island should be shamefully listed as the worst in Europe for action against climate change. If our politicians display indifference, we will have to be more active and vocal on a personal level by voting with our proverbial feet. In the marketplace. It may sound like a hollow cliché, but we can begin to face the challenges ahead by gifting and sharing something that doesn’t cost the earth. Yes, I am dreaming….
Have a Happy Christmas wherever you are.