If you're reading this you probably already know that sustainability affects everything we do from which toothpaste we use in the morning to the transport we choose, to the way resources are used and much more more. Easter is a great time to look at sustainability through the lens of celebration and learn a few ways that we can be more sustainable in our lives (hopefully the things you learn this weekend can be carried through to other decisions and celebrations!).
Chocolate: a Bittersweet Treat
Let's start with the humble Easter Egg, synonymous with Easter for over 60,000 years. Originally Easter Eggs were carved or painted eggs used to celebrate the Christian festival and the resurrection of Christ, however in modern history, to many people, an Easter Egg is a chocolate treat wrapped in colourful foil. What's wrong with that we hear you cry!
We get chocolate from cocoa plants, these only grow in specific conditions found in the 20 degrees North and South of the equator. 70% of all cocoa production is from Western Africa, and is a major source of income for some nations, so before we go on we must point out that stopping eating chocolate all together isn't the answer. Thank goodness!
Cocoa plants can take up to 3 years to mature and produce viable cocoa pods, and even then each tree only produces enough cocoa for a small amount of chocolate and with soaring demand farmers are struggling to keep up. With Britain alone consuming around 700,000 tonnes of chocolate every year, and buying around £415 million worth of chocolate eggs at Easter the chocolate market is booming. This has lead to a greater use of pesticides and herbicides, and increased rates of deforestation. If that wasn't bad enough the deforestation plays a major role in climate change and this is having a direct impact on cocoa production with climatic changes already leading to increases in diseases and reduced crops. Some reports show that some cocoa producing regions will not be able to produce cocoa in as little as 30 years.
There are also substantial human rights issues in cocoa farming. Sadly the way that cocoa is produced has lead to child labour, human trafficking and slavery. These practices still go on today and it's our job as consumers to ensure we support the farmers and companies who shun them.
How can you have a Sustainable Easter?
Thanks for getting this far, now the fun begins!
The good news is you can have some chocolate. There are some brilliant people doing wonderful things to ensure the livelihoods of farmers around the world are secure, whilst maintaining healthy biodiversity, limiting deforestation and stopping the mistreatment of workers and children. When choosing your Easter treats please ensure they have stamps from at least one of these organisations :
Buying one large egg is also better for the environment that lots of little ones as there is less packaging, do you need another excuse to buy sustainably.....bigger really is better sometimes!
2. Easter Lunch
Another popular Easter tradition is getting together for Easter Lunch. Make yours sustainability friendly this year and source locally produced / farmed produce. Try to find a local farm that sells direct or a farm shop. If you're not near the countryside then at least buy British! Your food will taste better, have more nutrients and will have fewer carbon miles.
If you've got your own flower patch you'll be seeing the joys of spring popping up and many of us want to bring that freshness into our homes. Sales of flowers boom at this time of year with most shop bought flowers coming from mainland Europe or even further afield, creating masses of pollution and greenhouse gases as they're transported hundreds or thousands of miles. You may be limited to daffodils and other spring flowers at this time of year but surely that's better than damaging the environment. Even supermarkets sell British grown daffodils a this time of year and if you want a little more variety you can buy direct from growers in many parts of the UK. Have a look at Flowers from the Farm.
4. Easter Egg Hunt
Try a new version of your Easter Egg hunt. Instead of hiding eggs why not have a big treasure hunt with each clue leading to the next before finally discovering the 'pot of gold!' The treasure could be a Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance certified choccy egg, a toy or something else. You'll not only have great fun making it but you'll be helping the environment by reducing waste, buying sustainably and the kids can learn and play as they work through your clues.
Or, why not go for the more traditional egg hunt. Spend an afternoon painting and decorating eggs to hide the next day!
5. Days Out
Last but not least on your sustainable Easter guide is the good old 'day out'. This Easter have a think about how you are getting to your destination; can you take public transport, can you do a walk or cycle from home or can you care share with someone else? If you're going out have a look what some of our brilliant British charities are offering and support them in their missions to achieve a brighter, more sustainable future. Organisations like the RSPB, National Trust and National Parks Authority all have family events on this Easter, by choosing one of their events you are supporting the good work they do and will be doing your bit for the environment.