04 December 2008

COMPLETE GUIDE: Toxics-Free Pasko, Handog Natin sa Mundo

EcoWaste Coalition 50 Tips on How to:
  • Decorate Green

  • Give Green

  • Party Green

  • Clean Green

  • Rejoice Green


I. DECORATING GREEN:
Many Filipinos welcome the coming of Christmas with happiness, color and glitter as families show their feelings by adorning their house, work place, schools with decorations and symbols radiantly vibrating the spirit and warmth of the holidays. How can we avoid waste and toxic while decorating our havens?

1. Create your own belen (crib) using recycled materials that will reflect the profound meaning of the birth of the Redeemer amidst the simplicity and poverty of the manger.

2. Recycle decorations from previous celebrations or create new ones from discards or from what you already have. Decorate with used and biodegradable materials as much as possible.

3. Reuse old Christmas trees or create your own using potted plants or trees, twigs or broomsticks.

4. If you are to buy some holiday decorations, look for items that are locally made, non-toxic, reusable and require no electricity.

5. Avoid decorations and products that create waste and/or use hazardous chemicals such lead in paint; for art designs, opt for water-based, non-toxic decorative paints.

6. In lieu of Christmas lights, create a garland made of recycled materials such as old cards, gift wraps and ribbons in lieu of Christmas lights to prevent electric consumption.

7. If you really want to light up, use bulbs with low wattage to save on energy or better, choose safe, energy efficient and long lasting lights such as light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

8. Use Christmas lights sparingly. Consider lighting them on as Christmas nears and only when needed. Turn them off during day light. Switch them off whenever you’re away or asleep.

9. Avoid stringing too many Christmas lights. The number of lights and the size of your electric bills have nothing to do with the true spirit of Christmas.

10. Stop competing for the cutest, brightest and longest Christmas lighting in your neighborhood. Conserve electricity and celebrate in the savings that you can share with Christmas carolers in your neighborhood.


WATCH OUT: Some decorations and gift toys use disposable batteries, some of which contain highly toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. Throwing spent batteries, a form of electronic waste, to the bin or to the dump raises the possibility environmental contamination. In lieu of disposable batteries, opt for rechargeable ones.


II. GIVING GREEN:
Every Christmas a lot of us dig deep into our coffers to give our loved ones, especially the children, gifts to warm the heart or fill the belly. How do we avoid creating more holiday trash? How do we make sure we are not unwittingly poisoning the children? How do we tackle crass consumerism so that the real reason for the season is not drowned out by the festive celebration?

1. Collect unused gifts, old clothes, toys, books and other materials and donate them to a charitable institution.

2. Personalize gifts by making them yourself. Why not gift friends and family with your specialty dish, plants from your own backyard, scrapbooks, or a CD music selection.

3. Volunteer your time and talents to projects and services for the community and the environment. Ask your barangay, church, school or organization how you can be of help.

4. Give old items that you already have a new look. This not only prevents waste generation, it also allows room for personal creativity. It also gives the receiver the feeling that you took the time and effort to create for her/him.

5. When buying gifts, choose eco-friendly products that do not come from old-growth forests, contain no GMOs, are not fossil fuel based, nontoxic, and not made from child or abusive labor practices.

6. Give products, delicacies from your province. Go for fruits, vegetables, plants, sweets, condiments, decorative and functional crafts, etc.

7. Give environment-friendly gifts made of recycled materials or products or services that advocate sustainable living. Share items that will teach recycling such as handouts, primers and manuals on the different kinds of recycling.

8. Choose gifts that do not need to be wrapped such as potted plants, massage from blind masseurs, gift checks, concert tickets, raffle tickets etc.

9. If you need to wrap the gift, use old magazines or newspapers (especially the comics section), old bandannas, etc. You can also use craft paper and jazz it up with colored pencils.

10. Call or send e-card to family and friends with Internet access. Create your own greeting card to give it a more personal touch or buy cards from groups with a special mission or advocacy.


WATCH OUT: Ensure that gifts, especially toys, school supplies and instructional materials for children, do not contain hazardous ingredients such as bisphenol A, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern. Carefully read the product labels. If the information is inadequate or is written in a language that you do not understand, better not buy it. You have the right to be informed and to be protected against dishonest or misleading product label or advertisement.


III. PARTY GREEN:
No Christmas is complete without the office party or the family reunion. But before we start spending for sumptuous meals and putting on those extra pounds, plan in advance to make your “salo-salo” not only healthy and environmentally-friendly, but also sensitive to the widespread poverty around us. How do we make it sure that party discards will be managed well and not end up in far away communities where they are dumped or burned?

1. Prepare for modest festivities and use party savings to bring Christmas cheer to deprived families and communities. Refuse to organize lavish and wasteful parties. Collectively decide in favor of more austere gatherings and give the money saved to individuals or families in need.

2. If food is catered, request for reusable utensils. If food is bought from restaurants, bring containers to avoid throw-away plastic and Styrofoam containers, which only end up in dumpsites and water bodies. Ask the caterer to provide bins for biodegradable waste for big parties. Refrain from using throw-away utensils and plastic and Styrofoam containers. Go for reusables that can be washed and reused.

3. Announce a no left-over suggestion before the party starts to prevent wasting food.

4. Ensure the ecological management of discards: reuse and recycle the non-biodegradables, feed the food leftovers to animals or compost them to make nutrients for healthy soils. Announce that there are bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards for small parties.

5. Choose reusable cloth napkins instead of single use paper napkins. You can make cheap cloth napkins from cheesecloth or flour bags. Simply wash and store for future use. Use a little starch to make them more presentable and to give a new look all the time.

6. Choose healthy and, if possible, vegetarian dishes.

7. Avoid foods cooked with trans fat, use our local cooking oil made from coconut oil

8. Avoid soft drinks. Prepare juices from calamansi, dalanghita and other healthy sources like kamias, tanglad etc. Use brown or muscovado sugar as sweeteners.

9. Avoid junk food like chips, for appetizers. Instead prepare vegetable strips, small chunks of boiled saba, camote,

10. Use fruits for dessert instead of pastries that use a lot of white sugar and are more expensive because of packaging which are mostly non-biodegradable.


WATCH OUT:
The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor, can leach from warming food in containers marked “microwave-safe,” and can expose infants to high doses of this hazardous chemical. As a precautionary measure, do not microwave food or beverages in plastic or heat plastic cling wraps.


IV. CLEANING GREEN:
Advertisements made us believe that the way to keep our homes clean is to buy these mainstream easily-accessible cleaning products. Little did we know that these products that have chemical contents (often difficult to read and pronounce) are dangerous to both our health and the environment. They may be effective in getting rid of bad bacteria but they also kill good bacteria and poison our bodies, too, thus the need to make cleaning green and safe.

1. Go for natural, inexpensive and easily accessible household cleaning substitutes. It helps to keep basic ingredients for your non-toxic cleaning recipes like:

    • Baking Soda which cleans and deodorizes

    • Lemon Juice which cuts grease, deodorizes and freshens.

    • Plant/vegetable based soap. Avoid soaps with strong scents, colors and other additives as they sometimes contain artificial fragrances and unnecessary chemicals.

    • White Vinegar – disinfects and freshens

    • Washing Soda - Cuts grease and removes stains. Disinfects. Softens water. Available in laundry section of grocery store or in pure form from chemical supply houses as "sodium carbonate."


2. Explore environment-friendly, natural, organic and safer cleaning materials available in the market. Never compromise your family’s health and safety by buying cheap but toxic-ridden products.

3. Ensure safety by reading the label of the products you buy. It is important that you know what chemicals are in the product you use and its possible impacts to your health

4. Store cleaning materials and ingredients safely out of children’s reach. Properly labelled cleaning materials will also help avoid confusion.


5. When you feel the urge to clean up your room, think before you throw. Donate clothes, books and other items that can still be reused to your neighbors, parish or favorite charity. Segregate items that can be recycled.

6. Refrain from using insecticides as they contain many hazardous substances. Seek information on natural pest control and environment friendly alternatives to toxic chemicals.

7. Never burn your discards as this will release dangerous pollutants such as dioxins and particulate matters, while destroying materials that could have been recycled or composted.

8. Use damped cloth when dusting. This will keep the dust from moving around the house avoiding inhalation of these allergens. Avoid using paper towels to clean up your mess. More trees are cut to produce these towels. Protect the trees, use reusable towels and rags instead.

9. Make sure that you ventilate the room very well when cleaning up. This will make fumes dissipate faster especially when using toxic-cleaners.

10. Save on water, electricity and cleaning materials as you do your chores. Read and learn more about green cleaning substitutes and take time to share these tips with your friends.


V. REJOICE GREEN:

Bursting firecrackers can cause serious if not fatal injuries. Incorrect handling of firecrackers can lead to the loss of limbs, lives and properties. Also, blasting firecrackers produces smoke and dust loaded with harmful chemical compounds, aggravating the already poor air quality, causing throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for those with asthma and chemical sensitivities. What are the alternative noisemakers that we can use to herald the New Year minus the bloodshed and the noxious cocktail of pollutants dirtying the air?


1. Blow traditional horns or "torotot" to welcome the New Year.

2. Place pebbles, seeds or coins in used tin cans, beverage containers or soap boxes for improvised maracas or shakers.

3. String together bottle caps or "tansan" for recycled tambourines

4. Bang pot lids, pans or washbasins.

5. Strike bamboo or any wooden slat.

6. Knock empty coconut shells.

7. Play your favorite musical instruments.

8. Honk bicycle or car horns.

9. Clap your hands and stumping your feet.

10. Sing, dance or shout at the top of your lungs and wishing everyone a "Happy New Year."


WATCH OUT: Setting off firecrackers and other polluting noisemakers also leaves behind residual waste such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers, and PVC pipes that add to the piles of holiday trash. In lieu of "bawang," "sinturon ni hudas," "baby rocket," "trompillo," sparklers, "atomic big triangulo," "pla-pla," "lolo thunder," "super lolo" and "watusi" (the last five are officially banned), the Ecowaste Coalition urges New Year revelers to opt for safe and eco-friendly noisemakers.


EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium,
Matalino Street, Quezon City
(+63) 29290376
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

www.ecowastecoalition.org

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