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Dreaming of a green Christmas in Barbados

by Lani Edghill

Dreaming of a green Christmas in Barbados

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AT A TIME OF YEAR when what to buy your family member, neighbour or business colleague jumps up the list of priorities, it is timely to consider your Christmas eco footprint.
Considering more environmentally friendly ways of celebrating may be easier in other countries 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 that suggest 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 and 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 a 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 use
Electricity is a high expense during this time, especially if you are a householder  installing Christmas lights en masse! We don’t need to tell you how your light bill can increase around Christmas, but consider reducing some of the time your lights actually stay on.
• Turn Christmas lights on only for a few hours per night and off 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, air conditioners and equipment such as printers, copiers, computers and all other electronic items when not in the room or not using them.
•Reduce unnecessary lighting in low-use areas.
For Christmas shoppers, try planning your shopping trips and routes to get the best mileage out of the gas in your tank; avoid backtracking if you can; ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure; and do not idle 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. To invite a green Christmas into your home, consider gifts that last longer 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 gifts for friends who already have everything? Think outside the box and buy them memberships or donate to their favourite charity.
•Look at the packaging – is there an alternative brand with less packaging?
• Purchase locally made gifts, clothing and other gift items such as gift baskets with local fruit, vegetables, jams and other local products,  
• Reduce paper waste by sending e-cards instead of conventional cards – it not only reduces your carbon footprint but eliminates the cost of cards as well as postage.
• Instead of wrapping paper, use gift bags that can be reused and also reuse wrapping paper, bows and bags from last year. Get creative by using newspaper and magazine paper instead of buying wrapping paper. Newsprint from the local newspaper company could also be used and designs painted on it 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 reusing various items in today’s Barbados is much easier than it used to be and can be fairly easily organized.
• When you are having Christmas parties, make sure the caterers and/or venues are using reusable ware such as cups, plates, knives, forks and serving containers. Disposable plastics are unsustainable.
If you’re going to a party and aren’t 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 Management or Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre for disposal options.
•Please also recycle all paper – newspapers, office paper, gift wrap and all other paper and cardboard at either ACE Recycling or B’s Recycling. B’s will also take all of your plastic packaging, plastic wrap and bags.
• 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 instead of a tree imported from Oregon or Canada.
• Recycling should be the first choice. Check here for recyclers and a reuse list:
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.  
If each of us makes one small change – chooses a locally produced ham or turkey instead of buying an imported one, carefully selects a gift that might be produced locally, recycles Christmas cards and paper, limits using a car where possible – it can make a difference.
Make a commitment to be aware of at least one choice this Christmas that reduces your impact on the planet. We cannot live without it and its resources. We have to do our best to make it last for our children, their children and beyond.