11 December 2007

Carbon And Christmas

Researchers in Manchester have calculated that a carbon footprint equivalent to 6,000 car journeys around the world will be produced by the UK's Christmas dinners. Half of the carbon emissions are down to the "food production and processing" of the "life cycle" of the turkey, as well as transporting cranberry sauce from North America.

Here are a few tips on how we can make this the first of many green Christmases in Coventry.

- When shopping, think about what Christmas presents will be useful, not leckie-hungry gadgets that will be abandoned after a few weeks. You could give someone membership to HDRA, the charity behind Garden Organic Ryton (free admission, a quarterly magazine, and reduced rates on courses). You could decide to buy only second-hand goods for gifts. Or only give gifts that you have made. Or decide that all your gifts will be homemade food. I recently bought a book on bread making, and I've enjoyed learning how to bake apricot spelt and olive spelt loaves.

- Instead of a few dozen Christmas cards, you could send e-cards to friends and family: http://www.foe.co.uk/cards/index.html.

- Christmas lights are incredibly inefficient -- a set of 200 bulbs use the same electricity in the average home as a television set. If every home in the country switched from traditional Christmas lights to energy efficient LED bulbs, it would be the same as taking 70 000 cars off the road.

- If you do buy cotton clothing for gifts (socks, socks and more socks!), please buy organic fair-trade cotton. Cotton producers use more than 10% of the world's pesticides and nearly 25% of the world's insecticides. Pesticides poison farm workers, contaminate ground and surface water, and kill beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms. You can even go one better and buy organic hemp products. It takes 760 litres of water to "grow" each cotton T-shirt, and hemp needs far less water as a crop.

- For the main meal, cut down on "Christmas food-miles" by picking local and seasonal products. Such items could include English beer, root veg (roasted with honey and mustard and oil), cabbages, nuts, chutneys, local cheese, sprouts, and dried fruit.

- Finally, after the holiday, you can do two things. Recycle your wrapping paper (Britons use over 250 000 trees of wrapping paper each Christmas). Take advantage of the council’s service to shred/recycle your Christmas tree ... or, even better, buy a potted tree that you can keep in your backyard to enjoy next year as well.

We can’t keep looking at Christmas as an orgy of consumerism. Instead, we can get a sense of fulfilment, closer to the reason for the season, from looking at all aspects of our lives and helping to avoid drastic climate change.

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