By Ben Stromback
Christmas is one of the few holidays we have that still manages to fuel the flame of shared love and community values, in the otherwise overly materialist West void of meaningful ceremony outside of organised religion. Most of us here don’t have “fiestas” with our neighborhoods as in some places in the world nor monthly family dinners with extended family more than once or twice a year. So without spoiling the time of those wishing to celebrate the winter holidays as they choose, here is how we can have an ecosystem friendly gift-giving.
Now what is an ecosystem friendly Christmas? It is when we give and share gifts that will empower your loved ones to restore some of the lands and habitats that our species has destroyed. Now before I get to the practicalities of how you can do so, let’s first reflect on an issue that often comes up surrounding topics such as these.
What I originally was going to write about was how terrible consumerism is for our environment and our ecosystems and how those who are guilty of should change their ways. However, what would that achieve? It would not alter the ways of those who over consume unsustainably over Christmas, and in the process it would interfere with their freedom to pursue happiness as they wish. I think my first reaction to judge and try to alter behaviour, touches upon one of the fundamental issues with us “sustainable eco-friendly types”. In fact, I believe it is slowing down the transition towards an agricultural and capitalist system (or other) that does not operate at the expense of our soil, habitats, eco-systems and fellow species. For example, one reason industrial/conventional farmers, over consumers and climate change deniers etc, are taking so long to come to reason, is because proponents of the alternative openly look down their noses at them and tell them what to do. Both “sides” are guilty of doing this both publicly and online. Most of us are contributing to making it a partisan, and polarizing topic when it really shouldn’t be, and it’s counterproductive if we want to restore our landscapes and ecosystems. So I will thus try to refrain from doing the same!
Instead we need to empower, lead by example and give the tools and encouragement to people to be, for example, sustainable this Christmas if they are interested.
So, how can we have a sustainable Christmas that enables people to restore ecosystems?
At the dinner Table
At the dinner table, you can challenge yourself to eat locally and organically. In regards to vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit, try to limit the exotic ones that have traveled thousands of miles on diesel run ships. Buying more naturally grown vegetables and fruit will contribute to building soil and biodiversity on farms. In regards to meat, buy local pasture raised meat.
If there is one time to pay a bit extra for that pasture raised lamb or pork from a regenerative or biodynamic farmer, it is now. The extra money spent will be repaid in flavour and you can know that the pig was allowed to be happy and “express his pigness” while he/she was still alive! So if you are going to eat meat anyway, don’t buy it at a supermarket this time.
Products that support the habitats of endangered species
As for gifts, why not buy your partner some undies? This company’s mission is to enable the consumer to “Protect endangered species wearing undies”. How about that? The organic cotton they are made out of is so soft and a chunk of the proceeds will go to restoring bee and polar bear habitats! Additionally, each pair of underwear purchased will see 1 euro coming to the camps movement.
Thank you, Le Slibard!
Reusable wrapping paper
As a replacement for continuously buying wrapping paper each year, why not use some old fabric? The Japanese have a tradition of wrapping gifts in beautiful fabric known as Furoshiki. However, even an old sheet, pillow cover, table cloth or blanket will look really nice around a gift. Just cut it into a good sized cube or rectangle before, and when you are done opening presents just save them for next year! Additionally, you can just tie the cloth in a bow at the top and save on tape, plastic ribbon and time.
Giving a Gift that regenerates an ecosystem
As for gifts, why not give a gift that keeps on giving? My apologies for the cliché but it really is possible. You could give a loved one a membership at a land restoration initiative where the money will go to restoring ecosystems for years to come.
In simple terms, how restoration works is that it first starts with enabling the soil to be healthy by feeding it and reshaping some of the land to help slow down and infiltrate water. Then, low vegetation is planted, such as grasses and legumes, with roots that will loosen up the soil and help build and increase beneficial biology in the topsoil, after that the bushes follow and then the trees! What will follow is a multi-layered biodiverse system of native plants and animals that will stabilize climate and rain cycles, feed local communities, become a habitat for local species, and draw down atmospheric C02 into the soil.
One of the many restoration initiatives that Ecosystem Restoration Camps is helping out with is Camp Uthai Forest.
A contribution there will go to restoring a former rice paddy field in Thailand. These degraded lands just need a little help before they can rebound into life, become habitat for endangered species, and they are planting a food forest which will supply local communities with food. Also with the exchange rate being what it is, some euros or dollars will go a long, long way in Thailand.
So having given you a few tips on how to make this Christmas more sustainable and ecosystem friendly, we would like to invite you all to join us on our Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, for more content and info on topics related to land and ecosystem restoration.
We are a growing community of people concerned with finding, implementing and discussing solutions to restore the damage we have done to our land and ecosystems. We are currently on track to have 30 or more ecosystem restoration camps by 2020. So these are exciting times to get on board!