As we approach Christmas, we are approaching the time when we do most damage to the planet as a species. As a child, this was my favourite time of the year, but as I've grown older, I have ever more problems with what was originally a religious festival celebrating new life. Christmas is, in our culture, a mash up of a christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, a prophet who came to tell us to be less materialistic and a pagan festival to celebrate the winter solstice, celebrating the fact that the days would soon start getting lighter and longer.
What is it today? Well we eat too much, we drink too much, we buy all manner of rubbish that we wrap up in non recyclable packagings, often open, put in a cupboard and chuck out in about six months. It is the one day a year when we actively encourage our kids to eat as many things that are bad for them as possible. It is the one day that many of us light coal fires in our little used fireplaces, drive half way across the country (you can't go by public transport because it's usually shut) to visit friends and rellies, get millions of trees chopped down so we can put them on display in our front room and buy all manner of pre packed foods, specially flown half way across the planet for the festival.
In truth its is a very strange way to celebrate the birth of a bloke who came to tell us to be more responsible and a festival inspired by people with a love of mother earth. One aspect of the 'nativity story' that is especially interesting is that Mary had to give birth in a barn, as the inn was full. No central heating there, just the warmth of a donkey and a cow, rather different to our celebrations? And the tradition of presents? Allegedly they came from the East, bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense a Myrrh. This has always puzzled me. Clearly the gold was useful, not quite sure what parents would do with Frankincense and TBH I don't even know what you do with Myrrh! It is maybe rather ironic that between the three wise men, they could only muster on thing the parents might use. It is never mentioned whether Mary and Joseph took the gold and booked into the five star hotel up the road. But the tradition of pretty useless gifts was established and it has been going ever since. The fate of Xmas trees is even more ironic. I'm not a historian, but I believe the tree is a symbol of life, making it bizarre that we cut millions down and they die?
Now I'm not a killjoy and I will be just as bad as everyone else. I'll be buying presents that will be going back the day after, because they are the wrong size/colour etc. I'll be cooking far too many spuds and drinking far too many strange and wonderful concoctions. There are a few things we can do, which will to some extent mitigate the worst excess. Here are a few suggestions
Buy things that people actually want. Returns generate a huge carbon footprint
Buy Smart: Think 'Green' Look for Locally Made Gifts.
Lower the Impact of Holiday Lighting.
Choose a Live Tree.
Get the kids to make Homemade Cards for granny
Find Alternatives to shop bought Wrapping Paper.
Buy local produce, check the origin
Buy products that are in recyclable packaging
Get a few good recipes for leftovers.
Now as Xmas is still a while off, why this blog today? Well tomorrow is bonfire night, so on Wednesday, our thoughts turn to Xmas. So now is the start to start planning a sustainable Xmas. I was looking through some old photo's of past Xmas celebrations. If I could have one gift for Xmas it would be to have my parents back for the meal. The things that really matter are people, not products. Use the break to reconnect with people you love. You may ask what has all this got to do with environment? Well we need to reconnect with what matters. The people we love and the planet we live on. Festivals such as Xmas should have a spiritual element, by that I don't necessarily mean going to church, I mean finding some time for quiet reflection on what we are doing with our lives. I don't think any of us will really change until we actively reconnect with our environment. There are many ways to reconnect. This may be a walk through the countryside, it may be as simple as enjoying a beautiful sunset. I believe the journey starts with appreciation of what we've got. When that starts, we might actually realise that buying beans flown in from the other side of the planet is not really the way we should be celebrating this Xmas.