Have yourself a “Green” Christmas Samoa

By Vatapuia Maiava For Conservation International 24 December 2018, 12:00AM

Family time, lots and lots of food, beautiful lights, parties, and the most exciting of them all, GIFTS!

With Christmas day just 24 hours away, it’s time to unwind and enjoy most people’s favorite day of the year.

But before we get into the usual festive season routine – not to be a Grinch before Christmas or anything – let’s have a small environmental reality-check.

Did you know that Christmas is one of the most damaging seasons for the environment?

Now where to begin… Let’s talk about waste – did you know that numerous online studies have come to the conclusion that plastic waste, during the festive season, is 30 per cent higher than an average yearly period?

We create A LOT of waste and rubbish in this period.

For our neighbors, New Zealand, waste generation rates actually doubles during the festive season according to recycle.co.nz.

So if Samoa’s current plastic waste generation is around 24.4 tonnes during an average day, this number would increase to 31.7 tonnes/day during the festive season.

And here’s the sad part – almost half of that plastic waste ends up in the ocean killing and strangling marine life. Not a joyful Christmas for our marine ecosystem right?

Plastic wrapping paper, cheap plastic toys which break on the first day, Styrofoam cups and takeaway plates during the average Samoan get-together/feast, rubbish left behind during family beach visits, plastic Christmas decorations, and the list goes on.

Aside from ending up washed out into the ocean, much of this plastic waste either ends up littering our natural surroundings (forests, streams, and lagoons) – becoming an eyesore, or it ends up adding to the mountains of waste at the Tafaigata Landfill.

Not so good right?

Now let’s talk about Christmas lights; there’s no doubt that Christmas lights are beautiful but the power consumption required may be concerning.

With Samoa making efforts to become 100 per cent renewable energy reliant by the year 2021, the hard truth is that Samoa is still using fossil fuel to generate electricity and it will be like this until the target year – which is three years away.

So in short, the more power used for Christmas lights decorations, the more it contributes to carbon emissions due to fossil fuel being burnt to provide power.

Other environmental issues relating to Samoa’s Christmas season includes; air pollution through the burning of kerosene for bamboo cannons and candles, carbon emissions from driving around a lot for last-minute shopping sprees and beach outing road trips, food wasted after large feasts with the family and all the plastic packages from the use of imported packaged goods, Christmas parties and the rubbish left behind littering party venues, and so on.

With everything mentioned above, it may be safe to say that we celebrate extravagantly at the expense of our planet.

But we can all do our parts to minimize this impact. What many don’t realize is that there are many different ways to help celebrate Christmas in a more environmentally friendly way and these environmentally friendly alternatives will most likely save you some money – which is a big deal considering how much Samoans spend during the festive season.

Here are a few Green Christmas tips from CI Samoa to help save the environment and save money – while still allowing you to celebrate the festive season joyfully.

Use energy efficient Christmas lights, such as LED’s, which will not only help you be more environmentally friendly by reducing power usage, it will also help you save money through the power you save.

Using reusable shopping bags for Christmas shopping. 

Not buying single use plastic bottles of water! Take the refillable water cooler bottle and/or invest in reusable water bottles that will last.

Cleaning up after yourself by picking up rubbish that you take with you to family outings/beaches.

Wrapping gifts with recycled or biodegradable paper.

Try to not make too much food and opt for more organic ingredients to reduce the plastic from imported packaged goods, make a compost bin for leftover food for gardens.

Use washable plates, glasses, and cutlery for food and avoid the use of plastics and Styrofoam items during family gatherings.

Using recycled items as decorations which will give a more retro look.

Get creative with gifts for Children – try to avoid cheap plastic toys that generally fall apart and come with a lot of packaging. If this is unavoidable and impractical (as plastic is everywhere!) use this as a teaching moment and let the kids know what to do with the plastic wrappings and packaging and tell them a story about plastics - and that they should look after their toys so not to harm the environment. 

Look at buying books and playing cards – these biodegrade. 

Give your children an experience rather than gifts such as creating lasting memories through fishing trips or family time at the beach or even better – have a fun tree-planting event for the family.

By Vatapuia Maiava For Conservation International 24 December 2018, 12:00AM

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