At a time of year where what to buy your family member, neighbour or business colleague jumps up the list of priorities, it is timely to consider how you can consider your Christmas Eco Footprint! In other countries considering more environmentally friendly ways of celebrating may be easier, or even cheaper in some aspects, but yes, it can be done in Barbados, through simple choices and not a lot more money.
How do we reduce our impact? Let’s consider some easy ways which suggests some sharing of the wealth, which is one of the reasons for the season, yes?
Buying locally can drastically reduce our $500 Million food import bill for the country, with many of the ‘must haves’ that we now include in the Christmas menu, coming from shores far and away. Supporting the local agricultural industry will not only ensure that you reduce the carbon footprint of your food and reduce the cost of the food, but will ensure that your food supplies are much fresher, more nutritious and you are providing sustainable local jobs!
- Support local farmers markets such as Brighton, Hastings, Cheapside, Holders and others.
- Buy from local vendors, farm co-ops, farms and farm shops such as St. George Farmers Co-op, Nature’s Produce, Greenwich Dairy, Eden Organic Farms, Redland Farm shop.
- When buying produce and meats from the supermarket make sure they are local or only buy local meats such as lamb and chicken. Local beef can be found at Cheapside market and in some supermarkets that sell local meats such as Carlton and Emerald City.
Electricity is a high expense during this time, especially if you are a householder who is attracted to the installing of Christmas lights en masse! We don’t need to tell you how your light bill can increase during the lead up to and just beyond Christmas, but can you consider reducing some of the time that your lights actually stay on.
- Turn your Christmas lights on only for a few hours per night and not during the day.
- Buy LED Christmas lights they are more efficient and last longer than conventional lights.
- Limit your use of air conditioners and fans in these cool months.
- Turn off lights and other equipment such as printers, copiers, computers, a/c units and all other electronic items when not in the room or not using them.
- Reduce the use of unnecessary lighting in low use areas.
For the Christmas shoppers, try planning your shopping trips and routes to get the best mileage out of the gas in the tank; plan little backtracking if you can; ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct level; and avoid idling while waiting for your friend or relative to just ‘run in and pick up something quick’! Idling burns gas and also creates unnecessary emissions.
Purchases and Packaging
Part of the process of Christmas in many households is to buy gifts – small or large – but buy gifts nonetheless. To invite a Green Christmas into your home, consider gifts that might have a longer life than others or support local industry:
- Buy gifts that are useful and have a long life such as reusable water bottles, plants and other environmentally friendly products. What about buying gifts for those friends who already have everything? Think outside of the box and buy them memberships or donate to their favourite charity.
- What is the packaging that it comes in – is there an alternative brand which might have less packaging?
- Purchase locally made gifts, clothing and other gift items such as local gift baskets with local fruit, vegetables, jams and other local products,
- Reduce paper usage by sending e-cards instead of physical cards this not only reduces you carbon footprint but also reduces on cost of cards as well as postage.
- Instead of using wrapping paper use gift bags that can be reused and in turn reuse wrapping paper, bows and bags from last year. Get creative and fun by using newspaper and magazine paper instead of buying wrapping paper. Newsprint could also be used from the local newspaper company and designs painted on them for added flair and creativity.
Recycle and Reuse
When buying new appliances, electronic equipment, even toys or books, consider what to do with the old ‘stuff’. Recycling and reuse of various items in today’s Barbados is much easier than it used to be and can be fairly easily organised.
- When you are having Christmas parties make sure that the caterers and/or location are using reusable ware such as cups, plates, knives and forks and serving containers. Disposable plastics are unsustainable! If your going to a party and not sure if they will be using reusables bring your own cup for drinking or only use one throughout the whole night instead of a new one for every drink .
- If you happen to be buying the family a new fridge or stove this year or have any other scrap metal lying around that needs to be discarded, please recycle at B’s Recycling.
- If you are buying a new computer, phone or electronic item and need to throw out the old one. Please contact Caribbean Ewaste or Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre for recycling options.
- Please also recycle all paper such as newspapers, office paper, gift wrap and all other paper and cardboard at either ACE Recycling or B’s Recycling. B;s recycling will also take all of your plastic packaging, plastic wrap and bags for recycling.
- Buy a reusable plastic tree that can be used annually instead of cutting down a tree every year for Christmas or get creative and use a local live tree in replacement of a tree imported from Oregon or Canada.
- Recycling should also be the last resort. Check here for the recyclers and reuse list: http://futurecentretrust.org/main/resource-centre
Christmas is a time of giving, sharing, loving and caring. It can be a great opportunity for local industry to earn those last valuable dollars before the end of the calendar year, but it can be a great spend on the environment as well. The amount of energy and water that is used to create our gifts, our food and drink, ship goods here, and by providing the opportunity to watch what the rest of the world is doing to celebrate are all great contributors to the ecological and carbon footprints of the planet. If each of us make one small change – choose a locally produced ham or turkey instead of buying an imported one; carefully select a gift that might be produced locally; recycling your Christmas cards and paper; limiting the use of your car where you can – these are all ways that each one of use can make a difference. Go on – make a commitment to be aware of at least one choice this Christmas to reduce your impact to the planet. We cannot live without it and its resources. We have to do our best to make it last for your children, their children and beyond.