Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cut out Christmas

It's that time of year again when I'm supposed to write and send Christmas Cards but this year, having become obsessed with the planetary consequences of the The Festive Season, the whole card business seems more pointless than ever. I mean besides investing energy sitting scribbling, signing and sticking, how can I justify all that card, ink, envelopes and stamps, not to mention the thousands of card-miles? And for what? To say hi, decorate a mantlepiece and end up in a recycling box. Not worth it.

But there's no denying the social pressure to conform. And with dozens of beautiful cards arriving each morning and the Carboncopies bringing home fistfuls from their friends, I have to admit the pressure got me. So I made a concession and let the kids send some cards. I mean it's one thing to risk being a social outcast yourself but another to see your kids in the playground with nothing to hand out to expectant friends.

So the Carboncopies got busy - making their own cards. Recycled of course; from newspaper, magazines, birthday cards and paper then stuffed into old envelopes. The productivity of my little eco-troopers was a sight to behold. And while Carbonbaby chewed on sellotape helping elder Carboncopy create complex 3D cut-out cards, little Carboncopy found the quickest method of production; taking one of last year's Christmas cards, ripping off the bit with the picture, scribbling a message on the back and sticking it in a carrier bag for delivery. In the space of half an hour, he'd made 17 eco-cards and saved 17 envelopes.

In the playground the next morning, parents and children dashed around delivering Charity Cards while little Carboncopy handed out his cut-up greetings, looking like a charity case.
Parents looked with bemusement at the scribbly scraps of card he was handing out to their off-spring.
"What's that?" one of them asked him.
"A Christmas card," he replied proudly.
The receiving child passed it to mum for inspection.
"How sweet," said the mum, looking distinctly unimpressed.

I think it's unlikely that card will make her mantelpiece. We can only hope it makes the recycling bin. Perhaps it's not just the thought that counts.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy recycled birthday?

“Happy Birthday Mummy,” the Carboncopies cried, racing into my bedroom. They clutched presents wrapped in newspaper, and bounced on my bed as I ripped open the first of their gifts. “Careful, we may want to use that wrapping again,” said the oldest Carboncopy.
Fair trade chocolate…just what a girl needs. Thank you,” I said, hugging them. They thrust the next gift into my hands and the paper came away without much of a struggle. I pulled two luminous green knobbled rubber balls out of the packaging. “Are they from Anne Summers?” I asked Carbonlite.
Amazing Dryer Balls,” announced the oldest Carboncopy, reading from the recyclable box. “Save twenty five per cent on dryer running costs and soften fabrics without any toxic chemicals.” The youngest Carboncopy was fed up with all the waiting around and ripped open the last present himself.
Ecozone Eco Balls,” said his older brother with respect in his voice, lifting out three green spheres in the shape of Jupiter. “Wow. It’s going to be a special birthday, Dad said so. We’re going to follow all of the ‘R’s.”
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” the carboncopies chanted, throwing themselves off the bed like pyjama clad lemmings.
“Happy Birthday, Eco Worrier. I’ll take you out for lunch,” said Carbonlite, helping himself to a slab of Fair Trade Chocolate.

“Where would you like to go?” he asked, as I loaded the washing machine. The Carbonbaby clutched at the glass door, attracted by the brightly coloured Eco Balls. I suggested a couple of fancy restaurants I’d heard about in the Lakes. “Ah, right. I rather hoped we could cycle,” said Carbonlite. “I know a lovely new tea shop which means we can ‘Reduce’ our petrol consumption for today.
“Reduce the bill you mean,” I replied.

The children came in from school with little paper bags. “We’re having a party,” they said. “Don’t come into the kitchen.” They reappeared some time later with sausages from the butcher cut into small pieces and decorated with organic tomatoes, tiny pizza’s made from crumpets with pepperoni toppings, bowls of fruit, raw veg and crisps. They then produced little party bags made out of paper bags they’d begged from the Post Office, decorated with stickers and felt tips, and filled them with some of their favourite miniature toys. And then the room fell silent.
“Happy Birthday to you,” they all sang, as Carbonlite came to the table holding the remains of a chocolate caterpillar cake from my son’s birthday the day before. It was decorated with thirty nine candles. “‘Reused’ cake and candles,” said Carbonlite proudly.
“Blow out the caterpillars bottom and make a wish Mummy,” said the youngest of the Carboncopies.

In the evening we watched a ‘Recycled’ movie from the video shop. We ate chocolates and wine that would never last long enough to be recycled, although I did catch Carbonlite saving his foil wrappers down the side of the sofa. Half way through the movie, I felt cold.
“Have you turned the heating off? On my birthday?” I accused my eco- husband. We snuggled under a quilt quickly produced in compensation.
“My recycled birthday was great. I think we should try to have a sustainable Christmas as well,” I suggested.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Carbonlite replied. “This Christmas perhaps we should concentrate on the fourth ‘R.’
“What’s that?” I asked.
“ ‘Refuse,’” he answered with a grin. “Refuse all the pointless trappings of Christmas. Say no to presents and definitely no to sprouts.”

Before bed I checked my e-mails. In the semi darkness of my study an e-mail pinged in from The States. “Hello, my name is Rachelle.” it said. “I'm a casting producer with ABC TV's Wife Swap. I'm contacting families who are living ‘lightly’ and came across you. We always look for families with very strong family philosophies, and hope you might consider being on our show.” I sat back and imagined a week with an American family in their air conditioned home, driving a gas guzzling SUV to the mall to stuff myself with pizza, returning for cocktails and Barbeque by the heated swimming pool. Then I thought about my quirky sustainable birthday, compliments of my own little carbon crew. My mouse hovered over the screen as I contemplated the final R; my ‘Reply.’ It didn’t take me long to ‘Refuse.’