The different holidays bring their own unique environmental challenges.
October is the start of a party that doesn’t really end until January. Diwali, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year’s are great excuses to celebrate. However, they do present their own environmental problems. Here are just some ways of how to be environmentally aware during the festivities:
Buy ethical costumes where possible – or make your own
Halloween is the perfect time to dress up, but we can do so in a way that is ethical. This could mean making sure you use make up brands which don’t test on animals, avoiding fur as part of costumes and even some retailers have been caught out for selling faux fur products that actually had fur in them. Avoid wool too if possible, or make sure that it is used minimally – given the increasing scrutiny the wool industry is put under with regards to its animal rights record.
Make sure any jewelry is ethically sourced as its production is catastrophic for the environment
This is the time of year where jewelry sales go through the roof, either as components to costumes and cosplays or as a gift to a loved one. The production of jewelry however, is disastrous for the planet. Mining for the materials used – gold, silver, gemstones etc- can cause water pollution, emit green house gases, cause soil erosion and have also seen land cleared, all of which puts species under threat. The indri lemur in Madagascar is facing extinction in part because of gold mining. There are eco-friendly jewelry retailers out there though so if you want an accessory try and shop with them. If you can’t though, then who says we need jewelry anyway? Fight the weird misogynistic capitalist system that associates women’s beauty with diamonds. They don’t have to be our best friend…
Don’t release fireworks – stick to sparklers
Fireworks can cause huge problems. They can terrify pets, and it’s just not fair on neighbours to have to deal with terrified animals just for pretty lights. The other huge problem with fireworks though is that they are actually toxic. They contribute towards air pollution when they’re launched, but also the debris of what’s left behind can end up in water sources such as lakes and cause damage to the environment. Research focused upon Diwali and Guy Fawkes found that airborne particles from fireworks and flares depleted lung defences more than pollution from traffic. As London is under increasing scrutiny for its air pollution levels, it’s critical that the number of fireworks are cut. Sparklers are a fun and arguably less damaging alternative in the long run.
Don’t host bonfires or increase demand for public bonfires
They obviously are a danger to the environment as they release carbon dioxide but often they can bring a very horrific death for some of our species. Tiny creatures, including hedgehogs, often seek warmth and so when a bonfire is lit there could be animals and critters hiding in the bonfire that nobody knows about. That results in a painful and completely avoidable death. Public displays can be worse than hosting your own because often bonfires are put together hours before the public turn up, giving greater opportunity for creatures to tuck themselves away in the piles of wood.
Don’t release balloons or lanterns
Always keep them tied so that they don’t float away. When they land, lit lanterns can cause fires but it is also a form of littering. Animals may try to chew the waste that’s left behind or could end up stuck in it.
Make sure decorations like balloons are biodegradable
If you are going to have balloons up around the house than there are biogradable options which are reasonably priced.
Switch tree and garden lights off whenever possible
We all know that one person in the street who has a thousand lights up outside and leaves them on day and night. Not only will the electricity bill be spectacular, but it really does all add up to huge environmental damage when we don’t turn off lights. Limit time lights are on, either for when guests are present or for an hour or so of family time. It’s a small step but it does have a big impact.
Embrace recycled gifts
It’s the thought that counts, right? Recycling gifts is environmentally friendly. It saves on shipping and production and the more we reuse resources the better. Got a pop! you’ve grown out of? Give it to your friend who is dying to add it to their collection. Why buy something new that will just get thrown away?
Minimise food wastage
With all of the different holidays comes all of the different excuses for a feast. There’s a risk of making more than we ever need though so share food with the neighbours, donate to foodbanks and use leftovers in sandwiches. Food waste in landfills emits huge amounts of methane which is disastrous to the environment. Make sure that what you buy has good dates, and that you are proactive in sharing or limiting any surplus.
Some people get lonely over Christmas so invite them to stay. The more people share and come together the better for the environment. Similarly, we have a huge problem of people facing the battle between “heating or eating” during the winter and older people are especially vulnerable. Share spare blankets, hot water bottles, meals and co-ordinate as much as possible. We can all try to do a little. We may not be able to make energy bills affordable ourselves, but we can find new ways to support those who may be struggling. It’s a time of year where it’s easy to feel isolated and we can try to change that.
These aren’t huge steps. Anyone can try to change how they act so that small steps are taken to try to protect the environment, while still getting to enjoy the different holidays. There are many other actions that can be taken too. What’s important is that communities can come together and celebrate, but it can be done in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.