Updated: Oct 18
In times when everyone is working from home, meeting fewer people, having less fun, festivals are something we are looking forward to eagerly as a reason to celebrate and uplift our spirits. Festivals bring with them the joy of gifts, lots of shopping, good food and eye-catching decorations. Along with this have you thought about electricity consumption, plastic pollution and food waste that goes up to four folds every festival season? Let us try to make our minds more sensitive towards some of these issues and try to follow some simple tips to reduce the impact of our celebrations on nature.
Ø String lights
No major festival decoration can do without them, be it Christmas, Diwali Ganesh pooja or New year. Choose LED lights over regular incandescent lights. Although they are on the higher price point initially while buying LED lights last roughly 10 times longer while consuming a tenth of electricity. They will help you save on electricity bills as well as create less waste as they will last you for years and will easily recover the initial price difference. They come in multiple color options too. Plan before you set out to buy lights about how many strings you are going to need and prevent surplus buying. Consider buying 2-3 strings lesser. Switch the decorative lights off at night and during bright daylight when no one is going to admire them.
Glitter is used so commonly in festive decorations that it hardly occurs as a concern to our mind. But did you know that glitter is just tiny pieces of plastic? It eventually gets washed up to the oceans and enters our food chain through fish. We should do everything we can to avoid these microplastics. They are a growing concern and need to be removed from the system urgently. To know more about why microplastics are so dangerous please read our blog here
Ø Gifts and gift wraps
Avoid gifting showpieces. They are highly subject to personal liking and thus, often stashed away. If you know the person well, you can gift a utility item that they will value. Recently on my son’s 6th birthday a thoughtful friend gifted voucher to a place where he could go and enjoy a couple of hours of painting. Even the gift card was an E-card and since he loves art, he enjoyed this gift thoroughly.
Although greeting cards are a great way of letting someone know that you value them, maybe it is time we switch to E greeting cards. According to a 2018 report, 6.5 billion cards were bought annually in the U.S. alone. Instead of buying cards, we can send handmade cards to a select few people and Ecards to the rest.
After you chose a gift mindfully, wrap it in recycled brown paper or used newspaper and decorate it with a simple bow or locally grown real flowers. Save the ribbons and bows from the gifts you got to be used next year. Whenever possible ditch the wrapping altogether. Hide the gift somewhere in the house and create a scavenger hunt. Kids will enjoy it. After all, we need to weigh in the question, “How much waste can we afford to create for a wrapper which is going to be ripped within minutes?”
There is a massive trend of gifting in bags made of glittered polyester fabrics and decorated with plastic beads, sequins, glitter, plastic threads, etc. during Indian festivals. These bags may look appealing for that moment however, most people agree that later such bags only add to the clutter.
Fortunately, this trend is slowly changing. Organic has become the ‘new glamorous.’ Follow the trend and click here for GOTS certified organic cotton bags for Navratri and other giftings. These will be used over and over for various purposes and will not cause environmental harm at the end of their life.
Ø Plastic waste during Halloween
Halloween costumes will flood the stores soon. Did u know that most part of these is also made of plastic? They are often of poor quality since they are meant to last for just one season. Research shows that more than 2 thousand metric tons of plastic are produced from Halloween clothing alone in the UK. Try adding party decorations, ornaments, lighting, trick or treat buckets with all the candy wrapping to this, and ‘plastic waste’ will seem more horrifying than any ghost.
Create your own Halloween costumes. There are so many things lying in our houses that can be used creatively. The only limit is our imagination. Repurpose yogurt tubs or reusable cloth bags for trick or treat. Think upcycle for decorations. There are tons of ideas on the internet.
As much as we want to avoid plastic candy wrappings, the idea of unpacked treats may not go over well since we need to be safe too. Organic gifts are a good option, only it might seem pricy if you get lots of trick or treaters. There are a few simpler ideas like keeping coins as treats for each child to pick one. Even a fruit will be appreciated in the middle of all the high sugar candy. Pencils can be a treat that is easy on your pocket. May be tie a riddle to it for the kids to solve. That can make it fun.
Ø Christmas tree and its decorations
Plastic Christmas trees are generally non-recyclable. They can also pollute indoor air with harmful lead dust. Nor is a real Christmas tree sustainable here in the UAE. The moment we place any of these in our room one can be sure it is going to be dumped in a landfill. Consider decorating another indoor plant which grows here and decorate it with upcycled ornaments. Try and avoid glitter when DIYing. Maybe go all the way and DIY a small Christmas tree as well as its trinkets.
Ø Food wastage
Out of total food prepared about 38% is wasted every day in the UAE and this percentage jumps to about 60% during Ramadan. One can imagine the outrageous amount of waste associated with the packaging this food comes in. Plan and stress on RSVPs. Prepare a shopping list and do not impulse buy. A lot of food wasted does come down to overbuying. Festival or no festival, there’s only so much food one family can eat. As you are going to prepare more dishes on the festival day, prepare a lesser quantity of each one. Include some dry food items in your festive preparations which can be stored for a longer time. Give away leftover food to the less fortunate while it is still good.
Trying to be earth-friendly during festival time can be like breaking the status quo at times. We must treat it as an opportunity and be the change that we want to bring about. Let us try to do our best while we enjoy our favorite time of the year. Let us pledge to bring about at least one change in the way we celebrate our festivals this year.
By Prajakta Kelkar for the EcoLoop
This blog is for information purposes only and is not intended to change anybody’s personal views. All the information provided in this blog is true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes. The blog should not be seen as advice of medical, legal, or any other type. I reserve the right to change or update the focus or content on my published or upcoming blogs at any time.