9 December 2023

Why make Christmas green?

Major Heather Poxon

A photo shows Christmas presents wrapped in brown and green paper under a Christmas tree.

Major Heather Poxon challenges us to have a very eco Christmas.

Traditionally, the Christmas tree stands as a symbol of celebration. But my dream this Christmas is that everyone connected with The Salvation Army will be inspired by that evergreen symbol to think of ways in which their festivities can be more environmentally friendly.

Why should we be dreaming of a green Christmas? If Christmas is about goodwill to all, then we have already started to answer that question. According to the UN Environment Programme’s (Unep) Emissions Gap Report 2023, the issue of climate heating is moving towards a perilous scenario whereby 3C of heating would be reached this century. This dilemma is currently under discussion at COP28 in Dubai, with 2023 on track to become the warmest year on record and floods, heatwaves and droughts impacting people across the globe.

‘Every increment of warming results in rapidly escalating hazards with extensive implications for human livelihoods and ecosystems,’ warns the Unep report.

As Christians, we respond to the ‘why’ with a ‘who’. Jesus stressed the importance of loving our neighbour, and our neighbour in this instance is anyone whose lives and livelihoods are being devastated by these disturbing trends. Inger Andersen, the Unep executive director, stated: ‘There is no person or economy left on the planet untouched by climate change.’

If we are aware of how to play our part in influencing this situation, then ‘why’ also becomes the challenging: ‘Why not?’ We are sufficiently informed and enabled to take steps that, individually and corporately, can amount to change – locally, nationally and internationally. Asking ourselves ‘why not?’ encourages us towards personal action steps.

In many households up and down the country, Christmas Day is traditionally marked by music. In years gone by, children and teenagers would play their new singles and LPs. Carols would feature in the background. These days, perhaps, record players have been replaced by electronic gadgets, but Christmas melodies – Carols from King’s, for example – provide an important backdrop in thousands of homes.

When launching the report, subtitled Broken Record, Unep said: ‘If all conditional Nationally Determined Contributions and long-term net-zero pledges were met, limiting the temperature rise to 2C would be possible. However, net-zero pledges are not currently considered credible: none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions at a pace consistent with their net-zero targets.’

Given this patent urgency, ‘why’ becomes ‘when’. The festive season can easily be a time when our consumption can harm the environment – from food waste to the materials that we use in our celebrations. If not this Christmas, then why not, and when?

Reflect and respond

Written by

Photo of Heather Poxon.

Major Heather Poxon

Territorial Environmental Officer, THQ

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