DECEMBER 18, 2008
(STAR) By Katherine Adraneda - The global financial meltdown need not turn Christmas drab and dreary. Environmentalists say that one can still make the holidays merry and festive without putting a hole in people’s pockets by merely choosing to take the ecological celebration route.

Environment advocates recently kicked off their annual campaign to encourage the public to make the colors of Christmas red and “greener,” not only to save money but also help in efforts to conserve the natural world, especially in the face of the feared impacts of climate change due to global warming.

Manny Calonzo, president of the Ecological Waste Coalition (EcoWaste), says the public must consider “decorating green, giving green, partying green, cleaning green, and rejoicing green” at this special time of the year.

“We hope to lend a hand, to inform or educate the people in making informed choices on practices that would minimize the creation of trash,” he notes.

According to Calonzo, their “green” Christmas drive is likewise aimed at urging the public to opt for a “toxics-free” holiday, calling the attention of Filipinos against the many toxic threats “lurking behind the dazzle of the season.”

Calonzo asserts that people should reconsider the traditional merrymaking practices that pose chemical dangers to public health and the environment.

Filipinos could make the ambience of the season joyful through eco-friendly ornaments like the belen (Nativity scene) and parol (lantern) from used or locally sourced biodegradable materials, proving that simple decorations can be beautiful.

He also recommends “eco-gift ideas” that do not imperil children’s health and safety with hazardous chemicals, do not promote a culture of violence, and do not add to the usual mountains of holiday trash.

Among the eco-gift ideas he suggests are non-material gifts such as teaching a skill or participating in community endeavors.

And who says recycling should only involve garbage?

Budget-conscious consumers attest to a considerable amount of money saved by simply “recycling” gifts.

Of course, used clothing should not even be considered due to hygiene issues.

“Extra bottles of perfume which you’re not likely to use in the near future because you have lots of them; or unused bags or ceramic figurines you’ve received from previous occasions that are only gathering dust on the shelf can still make a perfect gift for someone,” says Elizabeth Jimenez, a housewife.

“In any case, though this might sound like a cliché, it is true what they say that it’s really the thought that counts,” says Joy, a student.

Sheryl Grace, a call center agent, vouched for what creative packaging can do to make up for inexpensive Christmas presents.

“An old newspaper can be turned into a colorful Christmas gift wrapper, using water colors to paint designs,” she suggests.

Meanwhile, Sonia Mendoza, chair of the Mother Earth Foundation, enumerates practical tips and information about “partying green.”

Christmas parties could be environment-friendly if people would only make a deliberate decision not to throw lavish and wasteful celebrations. Use only reusable partyware and segregate party discards for easy recycling or composting.

For her part, Gigie Cruz, of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), proposes that non-toxic cleaning materials be used to spruce up homes for the holidays. Avoid pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides that contain very harmful substances, and avoid dumping or burning trash.

As for New Year celebrations, actor Roy Alvarez, vice president of EcoWaste, advises the public to welcome the New Year without blasting expensive and polluting firecrackers and fireworks or burning used tires, and instead use substitute noisemakers that emit no pollutants and pose no threat to life or limb.

EcoWaste further warns the public anew against the risks that children face with exposure to hazardous substances such as lead in toys. Lead is a chemical that can cause brain damage in children.

EcoWaste has come out with a list of 50 Eco-tips for the public to take advantage of in order to make pro-environment holidays merry.

“By disseminating the 50 eco-tips, we hope to assist Filipino consumers in making decisions regarding practices and products that would minimize their exposure to hazardous chemicals as well as avoid the generation of garbage,” Calonzo stresses.

Find out more about the eco-tips at the Ecowaste website www.ecowastecoalition.org.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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