Bishop, NGO Plead for a Greener and Simpler Christmas

Quezon City. As Christendom welcomes the season of Advent, a clarion call is sounded by a church leader and an environmental advocacy group urging the Filipino faithful to hew closer to the essence and simplicity of the first Christmas and, as real stewards of God’s creation, lead the way in “greening” the coming festivities.

Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiquez, Jr., Chairman, Permanent Committee on Public Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, joined the EcoWaste Coalition in appealing to every Juan or Juana de la Cruz to refuse crass consumerism and rejoice in a simple and ecological celebration of Christmas.

Originally a joyous celebration of the Redeemer’s birth in the simplicity and poverty of a manger, Christmas – observed the EcoWaste Coalition – has transformed into a pageant of unbridled consumerism and has become the most wasteful and most energy-consuming festivity in the Christian calendar.

“Following the example of the Babe in the Manger, Christmas should be a time of strengthening His light within us so that we can give, receive and spread the real gifts of Christmas — hope, love, charity, peace and joy,” Bishop Iñiquez said. “We pray that we will have more of this inner
radiance and less of the store-bought glitter and pomp that quickly fade away at the end of the season,” he added.

LJ Pasion, a youth campaigner from the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Let us all pay attention to the ecological and health costs of the choices we make this Christmastime. Any action we take to prevent waste and pollution as we rejoice in the birth of the Redeemer will go a long way in
conserving our depleted resources and in curbing climate change.”

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that over-the-top decorations, marketing gimmicks, shopping extravaganzas, and the ubiquitous trash created by the holiday frenzy have increasingly shrouded the true meaning of Christmas.

Unknown to many, the highly commercialized observance of Christmas and other popular festivities aggravates the country’s environmental and health problems. Unfettered consumption eats up huge quantities of raw materials and energy, and generates all types of wastes and pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions that cause our planet to heat up.

Also, such thoughtless celebrations predictably produce tons upon tons of holiday trash. Metro Manila’s trash generation of about 8,000 cubic meters daily is expected to go up by one-third during the Christmas season due to the consumption spree. Household bins will brim over with mixed discards, while stinking “guerilla” dumpsites mushroom in street corners, sidewalks
and vacant lots.

Plastic bags, disposable containers, packaging materials, kitchen waste and party leftovers from the flurry of Christmas activities usually end up in poor communities where these are dumped or burned, endangering the health of residents with toxic pollution.

To guide the public, the EcoWaste Coalition released a 25-point “Eco-Advisory on Greening and Simplifying Christmas,” containing practical steps on how to prevent drowning in wastes and toxins during the joyful season.

Eco-Advisory on Greening and Simplifying Christmas

1. Recreate the scene of Nativity using recycled materials. Let your home, school, barangay or church belen mirror the profound meaning of the Redeemer’s birth 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 materials or natural ornaments 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.

1. Create garlands made of recycled materials such as old cards, gift wraps and ribbons instead of Christmas lights to cut on energy use.

2. If you intend to adorn your home, workplace, barangay hall or church with holiday lights, choose safe, energy efficient and long lasting lights such as light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Only use Christmas lights and electrical ornaments approved by the Bureau of Product Standards.

3. Use your Christmas lights sparingly. Consider lighting them up only as Christmas nears and only when needed. Turn them off during daylight hours. Switch them off whenever you’re away or asleep.

4. Refrain from over garnishing your place with Christmas lights. The number of lights and the size of your electric bills have nothing to do with the true spirit of Christmas.

5. 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.

1. 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. Refrain from using throw-away utensils and plastic and Styrofoam containers. Go for reusables that can be washed and reused.

3. Enforce basic ecological management of party discards: implement a convenient system for separating the biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards, reuse or recycle the biodegradables, feed the food leftovers to animals or compost them to make natural soil enhancers.

4. 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.

1. Reject any overspending during the holidays. Spend sensibly and avoid stress and debt from impulsive shopping.

2. Organize your Christmas shopping wisely to avoid hasty purchases and also to cut fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Walk, cycle or take the jeepney, bus or train whenever possible.

3. Bring with you a reusable carry bag, basket or bayong when you shop. Say no to plastic bags!

4. Stay away from items with too much wrapping. Think of the litter that will be created by all those plastic, paper, carton, styro peanuts and other packaging materials. Choose eco-friendly products!

1. Give your community a special gift this Christmastime: lead or participate in a project that will benefit the poor or improve the community environment.

2. Gather unused gifts, old clothes, toys and books and donate them to a charitable institution.

3. 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. It gives the receiver the feeling that you took the time and effort to create the gift for her/him.

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

5. 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 providing recycling ideas.

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

7. 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.

8. Call or send e-cards 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.

For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at 9290376.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376