An ecofestive season: Your environmentally friendly guide to the holidays

An ecofestive season: Your environmentally friendly guide to the holidays
Furoshiki gifting. (Photo: Supplied)

Keep the planet in mind when buying gifts or planning for the holidays.

As we head into the festive season and turn off anything that requires effort, we ought to remember that the environment has no off season and constantly experiences the effects of our lifestyles.

Thinking of the environment doesn’t mean doing away with your traditions and festive season favourites, it just means thinking differently about them. Can you swap that plastic-filled gift and its wrapping for a more ecoconscious one? Perhaps even choose a more ecofriendly holiday destination?

Pavs Pillay, environmental behaviour change practitioner at WWF SA, tells DM168 that South Africa is running out of landfill space. “If it doesn’t make it to a landfill, it gets washed into our waterways, ending up in the ocean and it impacts marine life.”

Ecofriendly shopping reduces your carbon footprint, household waste and has less impact on the environment.

Shop Zero owner Janneke Blake says: “Reusable fabric gift wrap can help the world eliminate some of the waste that has long accompanied Christmas.”

Examples of Furoshiki wrapping. (Photo: Supplied)

In countries such as the US and the UK, waste during the festive season increases by up to 30%. eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Solid Waste Department collected 930,297 tonnes of waste along the beachfront and its surrounding spaces over the 2015/16 season.

Stores such as Nude Foods offer the option of practising conscious consumerism by ensuring that your groceries are plastic-free and zero-waste.

Nude Foods managing director Paul Rubin says: “We all vote with our spending power, so shopping with us is a vote for low-impact living and consuming more mindfully.” The store is introducing low-waste, curated gift sets, which are plastic-free and focused on kitchen, sun care and personal hygiene.

Sam Moleta, owner and founder of The Refillery, urges consumers to be more conscious. “[Consumers must know] that their buying power has an impact on business decisions. Sustainability needs to be more prominent in businesses from the ground up as it’s crucial for the planet and our overall health and wellbeing.”

Ecoelephant store owner Tina Beyer says: “Low-impact gifts are a wonderful way to spread your love for the environment in a kind way. We encourage everyone to choose products from small local businesses. All of these items are like a triple gift – give a little something to your loved one, support a team of women behind these products and lessen the impact on the environment.”

Ecotourism is another way to lessen your impact on the environment. It focuses on visiting threatened natural spaces to support conservation efforts.

“When we talk about ecotourism, we talk about visiting game lodges that are really good at using solar power, using grey water … going out into nature,” Pillay says.  

In SA, wildlife-based ecotourism was estimated to be worth about R323-billion annually towards GDP, much of this contributing to the management of protected areas.

Some of the cost-effective ways that Pillay recommends for an ecofriendly festive season is to replace mall time with a walk.

“Do things like whale watching, go out to sea and look at the seals. If you’re in a landlocked province, go on a hike. Visit your local craft shop. One of the best ways is going to one of those little markets on the side of the road to support [another] local form of ecotourism,” says Pillay. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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