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Make Christmas a ‘Green’ one

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As we move into the final days of our preparations for the Christmas season,

and then the festivities themselves, “Nine Mornings” included, it would be appropriate for us to bear in mind our precious environment and to consider how we can enjoy times like these with minimum damage to our planet. That in turn can influence our approaches at the individual, community, business and national levels.

We hear a lot about “greening” these days, but in a very different context to some years ago when, given the emphasis on Christmas being “white”, conscious efforts were made to situate the festival in our Caribbean experiences, and hence the call to make our Christmases “green”. Today, we cannot help but extend that concept towards the preservation of our environment and keeping it “green”.

It is very relevant to the Christmas season, for in no other season is there the high level of consumption as there is at Christmas time. This is even more so these days, with the emphasis on commercialization of the festival and the resultant “shop till you drop” philosophy being implanted in us. That, in turn, presents a formidable challenge in terms of our generation of waste and its disposal.

This is the season for cleaning at the home and community levels. That process generates waste at an unprecedented level, as we throw out the old to make way for the new. However, we do not always consider the method of disposal and our drains, rivers, beaches and the like, suffer as a result. It is to the credit of the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) that it has introduced its “white goods” disposal service to implement a safer means of disposal of unwanted appliances and discarded household items.

This has had a very positive impact on our environment, for we had this very bad habit of throwing old stoves, refrigerators and other used appliances in gullies and river valleys, clogging them and creating environmental hazards. Old vehicle disposal is also an area of major concern, and again we must give praise to the CWSA and the Police Traffic Department for initiatives to tackle this problem.

One particular challenge is that of being overrun by plastic and the consequences for life on the planet. This problem is, of course, multiplied at Christmas with the drastic increase in consumption. The widespread use of plastic is about 60/70 years old, but perhaps no other commodity has transformed the way we live, nor has had such a dramatic and negative effect on our environment and, in particular, marine life. It affects the way we do almost everything – cooking, cleaning, engineering, even engaging in sexual activities.

There is a downside to this “convenience”, for it is not easy to get rid of plastic. It is estimated that up to the year 2015, more than SIX BILLION TONNES of plastic waste had been generated. Less than 10 per cent of this had been recycled, about 12 per cent incinerated, while almost 80 per cent has been accumulated to do further harm to our environment. Plastic bottles rank high in this environmental threat, with about 480 billion plastic bottles sold globally in 2016, about one million per minute.

These end up in our oceans, literally strangling our precious marine life. Many of us are not conscious of the danger, so when Government moved to ban styrofoam, some persons were critical. But styrofoam takes an estimated 50 years to biodegrade, plastic bottles about 450 years and aluminium cans about 600 years. How many of these are we using for Christmas?

So, making our Christmas “green”, has to do with conscious decisions as regards consumption and waste disposal. We cannot continue in the old reckless ways, endangering future generations and life on this planet. Whether during Nine Mornings or Christmas, let us keep this in mind and act responsibly.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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