A Slow and Green Christmas won’t cost the Earth
26th September 2019
This article first appeared in issue 1 of Alban Life (December 2018) – a quarterly printed magazine which is distributed to all parishes in the diocese. Click here to read more articles from the ‘Alban Bites’ blog.
Predictions point to the biggest consumer Christmas yet, and thoughtful people are beginning to question the spending, overproduction and waste generated by many Christmas celebrations. These excesses pose a further risk to our already beleaguered environment on several fronts.
The danger is underlined by that very recent trumpet call to the world from scientists in the UN Report on Climate Change. “Time is running faster than we are – and we are running out of time” said the UN Secretary General in October, introducing the most vivid picture we have yet seen of what will happen between a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees.
If we fail to stop the rise in the next twelve years there will be changes in every aspect of society as we know it, massive destruction of the natural world and untold suffering for billions of people.
One response to this could be a counter-cultural and environmentally-friendly Christmas linked to the current thinking about stress and human wellbeing as advocated in the Scandinavian ‘Slow Phenomenon’. The spirit of this is easily understood in the videos of a log fire and radio tracks of birdsong, inspiring us to slow us down. A ‘Slow and Green Christmas’ could be the way to go!
In fact many Christmas services attract people precisely because they offer a time to pause, reflect and connect with our past. In candlelight and with beautiful music, no wonder churches are packed to the rafters at Christmas!
But why stop there? The charity, Green Christian, suggests keeping our churches open and inviting the community in during the 12 days of Christmas, sharing the celebrations in a new way and offering something for those who dread the loneliness that often accompanies this season.
A Slow and Green Christmas means enjoyment without spending that is costing the earth. It ranges from decorating your house to making gifts and preparing food and maybe reducing non-essential travel, although visiting relatives at Christmas is probably an essential to many people.
Slow and Green means:
- Don’t buy more decorations: look at what your garden could provide: seed heads, pine cones, bay and laurel leaves and garden herbs can form the basis for wreaths and swags. No garden? Go foraging (responsibly!) in your local hedgerows: old man’s beard, holly, mistletoe, rose hips are common but don’t strip the hedge, just take a little and leave some for others and the birds!
- If forgoing a Christmas Tree is unpopular at home, find one approved by the Soil Association, sustainably grown and pesticide free, and send it for composting afterwards. Or plant a Christmas tree (with roots) outside and put the fairy lights on a timer. Create a Christmas Tree with lots of fat balls and other nibbles for the birds in your churchyard.
- Make and bake gifts – less stressful than shopping or staring at a screen late at night!
- Book the church hall one Saturday in Advent and invite all ages to a ‘craft day’ making green decorations for people to buy at your Christmas Fair. In the kitchen bake fruit loaves, decorated biscuits (boiled sweets make brilliant stained glass biscuits) and spiced chutney made from this year’s glut of apples and sell your surplus. Home-made wine and spiced bread and a pot of local honey wrapped in brown paper with hand stamped Christmas motifs, what better symbol of a Slow and Green Christian Christmas than this!
- As to the Christmas feast, the Soil Association advises that food is the single most important way for us to reduce our individual environment impact. “Eat less, but better meat” and choose organic, free range meat as a treat when you do. Similarly with fruit and vegetables, try and eat what’s local and in season.
Remember that the Gospel is good news for creation as well as for people. With a Slow and Green Christian Christmas we can challenge the prevailing consumer ethos and offer a calm message of hope and witness in every town and village across St Albans Diocese this coming season!
A reality check
A massive amount of the 1-1.5 billion UK Christmas cards discarded every year along with wrapping paper, sticky tape, ‘out of date’ digital gadgets and left-over food finds its way into the oceans, the land and the atmosphere with horrible consequences for natural life.
We gobble up the earth’s resources faster than the earth can replenish them. Some Christmas presents – from the latest smartphones to tinsel to children’s plastic toys – contain plastic which comes from earth’s non-renewable fossil fuels.
Make your 2020 Slow and Green too
The New Year offers a great opportunity to make parish and personal pledges to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
New Year Checklist:
- Are you using a renewable energy supplier?
- Conserve, collect and re-cycle water around your church and home
- Consider solar panels on the church hall or on a south facing house roof
- Make more journeys on foot, bike or public transport
- Grow more of your own food or start a parish allotment
- Twice a week in Lent eat fish and/or a vegan dish
- Plant more trees – the single best thing you can do to slow global warming
- ‘Walk to Church Sunday’ is the 2nd Sunday in May in our diocese
- Renew your pledges during the Season of Creation. It begins on 1st September with a World Day of Prayer for Creation (organise an event with your local Churches Together) and ends on October 4, the Feast day of St Francis of Assissi.
- At Harvest Festival make a commitment to live more simply. Repair, re-use and re-cycle. Focus on improving biodiversity in your churchyard, demonstrating that humans are part of God’s creation and not a separate species.
- Aim to reduce your air miles over the next 5 years.
Helen Hutchison, (former Diocesan Environment Officer)