Manila City. A citizens’ environmental watchdog today gathered in front of Tutuban Mall in Divisoria, Manila to urge Filipinos to celebrate Christmas sans extravagance and wastefulness in deference to the catastrophic super typhoon that struck our kababayans in various portions of the country last month.
Exactly one month after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated some provinces in the Visayas leaving nearly 6,000 people dead with still thousands of people missing, and rendering hundreds of thousands homeless, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with Chorus Profundis, called for a simple and waste-free celebration of the holiday season.
Dramatizing their advocacy for “Simpleng Pasko,” some members of the group held bare star lanterns or parols devoid of their usual colorful designs and glistening glitters while others sung appropriately modified Christmas carols to signify a humble observance of this joyous occasion and demonstrate solidarity with the victims of the Philippines’ deadliest typhoon on record.
“In unity with our fellowmen coping with sorrow and loss, we invite the Filipino people to celebrate the Christmas season in a subdued manner reminiscent of the spirit and simplicity of the first Christmas,” said Ochie Tolentino, Vice President of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“By toning down seasonal revelries to bare essentials, we avoid falling victim to frantic consumerism that has drown out the genuine meaning of Christmas and literally wrapped our surroundings with trash,” she explained.
For her part, Tin Vergara, EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Campaigner said that “money saved from lavish gifts, extravagant festivities and wasteful fireworks can be used to help Yolanda survivors reconstruct their homes and rebuild their lives.”
“We’re not asking people to cast aside Christmas, but to adopt a “Simpleng Pasko” and find abundant joy in responding to the call for humanitarian help from the disaster survivors,” she added.
As humanitarian assistance continues to pour in from countless generous donors worldwide, the group continually exhorted the public to give and specifically urged everyone to junk planned firework shows and instead divert the funds allocated for such pyrotechnics to aid grief-stricken families in reconstructing their houses and in dealing with their psychological and economic losses.
A “Simpleng Pasko,” according to the group, would require a conscious effort to cut down holiday expenses and reduce waste generation, and instead rejoice in an austere and eco-sensitive celebration of Christmas.
The group also pointed out that huge amounts of raw materials and energy are consumed while volumes of wastes and pollutants are generated during unrestrained gatherings and festivities.
The EcoWaste Coalition suggests the following eco-friendly tips to guide the public in reducing trash this coming Christmas season:
A. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS
1. Reuse decorations from past celebrations.
2. Make garlands made from recycled materials such as old cards, gift wraps and ribbons.
3. Recreate the Belen (Nativity scene) using recycled materials.
4. Create a Christmas tree using potted plants or trees, twigs or broomsticks.
5. If buying new items, look for those that are locally made, non-toxic, reusable and require no electricity.
B. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
1. Choose safe, energy efficient and long lasting Christmas lights with genuine Import Commodity Clearance (ICC).
2. Use your Christmas lights sparingly, light them up only as Christmas nears and only when needed. Turn them off during daylight hours and turn them off whenever you are away or asleep.
3. Refrain from over-the-top use of Christmas lights: conserve electricity.
C. CHRISTMAS PARTIES
1. Go for austere Christmas get-togethers. Money saved from lavish parties can be shared to families and communities in need.
2. Say no to disposable party supplies such as plastic plates, cups and cutlery. Go for items that can be cleaned and reused.
3. Adopt a no left-over policy to prevent wasting food.
4. Implement a system for ecological party waste management to make reusing, recycling and composting easy. Consider sharing clean food leftovers with the poor.
D. CHRISTMAS SHOPPING
1. Organize Christmas shopping wisely to avoid impulsive purchases and overspending and also to cut fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Walk, cycle or take the jeepney, bus or train whenever possible.
2. Break the plastic bags habit. Bring with you a reusable carry bag, basket or bayong when you shop.
3. Avoid items wrapped in excessive packaging and go for healthy and eco-friendly products.
E. CHRISTMAS GIFTS
1. Give non-material presents such as giving your loved ones the more precious gift of time and company.
2. Give unused gifts, old clothes and books to charity.
3. Give locally-produced products or delicacies from your province such as fruits, vegetables, plants, sweets, condiments, decorative and functional crafts, etc.
4. Give eco-friendly products that support sustainable lifestyle (for example, reusable non-polycarbonate water jug, solar-powered flashlight, non-toxic personal and household care products, organic and GMO-free foodstuff, etc.).
5. Choose gifts that do not need to be wrapped such as potted plants, massage from blind masseurs, gift checks, concert or game passes, raffle tickets etc. If wrapping is needed, use old magazines or comics page of newspapers, old bandannas, etc.