Each year my family spends Christmas/New Year with my parents. The whole family gets together and all except one of us has to travel a long way. And it’s worth it as we all come together for the celebrations. 🙂
Travel Planning Goes Walkabout
Many years ago my family started travelling by train to get there. It is much more environmentally friendly and cheaper than travelling by air…and it’s a relaxing and restful way to get quickly into holiday mode.
Then our little dog wasn’t able to stay behind with carers any more. So we had to take him with us. And, while dogs can go on planes, they can’t travel on long-distance trains. (At least, they can’t in Australia.)
So we have made the trip by car the last couple of years. It’s an arduous, boring 9-hour drive. Nevertheless, I still get to spend several hours at once with my kids, our young learner and provisional drivers get long-distance driving practice, our dog likes it because he knows he’s going on holiday…and with 3 people in the car the environmental impact isn’t quite as bad as if there was only the driver.
This year I knew I would probably driving back alone. (Well, not quite – I had our dog for company ;).)
My kids would be travelling back together on the train. That was the all-round assumption and plan (thanks to those years of train travel ;)).
The youngest, now 18, had to be back by a certain time…except that she hadn’t clearly communicated that time to us…and it turned out she wasn’t that sure of the time anyway.
So there was a last-minute rush to sort out their travel.
While we were doing that, the last tickets on the trains were sold. 🙁 Then the last tickets on the coaches. (They couldn’t understand why…!) 🙁 Then they asked if they could take the car and the (provisional) driver was surprised when I said no (confirming the current ban on using the car!).
And so they ended up travelling by air…at great personal expense to me and – at nearly doubling our greenhouse gas emissions for the whole trip – to our planet’s ability to support life.
I know that the forward-thinking part of my children’s brains is still developing, so I can only hope that they have learned a lesson on the need to plan their (environmentally friendly) travel ahead.
And if I have to drive back alone again, instead of listening to a couple of books on the way, I may ask any friends who are there if they’d like a lift back with me.
Waste Reductions Wasted
Another major part of Christmas and New Year festivities are presents and feasting.
A couple of years ago I suggested that we make charitable donations instead of spending money on material presents for the adults at least.
It can be hard thinking of a suitable present…especially when you factor in luggage for long-distance (overseas) travel home and thinking of suitable presents for people who don’t want – or need – anything. And then there’s the huge amounts of time and packaging involved…especially with people who use gift wrap (instead of re-useable packaging) and wildly rip open presents (instead of opening them carefully so that the paper can be re-used). Finally, there’s the message of ‘consumption’ that all those presents and packaging gives to the children.
We all agreed that our money would be put to better use by people who needed it more than us.
At least, that’s what I thought we’d agreed.
For Christmas 2013, I was the only one who followed through. And at least some other people received chooks*, goats, vegetable seeds, help with water collection, and electricity (solar-powered, of course!) 🙂
In the lead-up to Christmas 2014, I sent out a reminder of our decision. Some had forgotten – one even queried whether it had been for more than one year! – but a couple of others remembered…and even more people without electricity will get solar power and new skills in 2015. 🙂
As a result, I’ve decided to write to everyone soon (!) to emphasise my desire that, instead of buying each other presents, we make donations – gifts to those who need them more than us. I am going to include suggestions of where I would like donations in my name to be sent. As well as overseas development organisations, they will include organisations working actively to protect our environment. I will particularly ask for donations to those grass-roots organisations that do not have tax deductability status yet carry out vital work to:
- stop coal seam gas and coal mining from damaging to our atmosphere, oceans, ground water, soils, landscapes and people’s health…and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change (for example Maules Creek Community Council and Lock The Gate)
- protect natural forests (for example Palm Oil Investigations)
Try, Try And Try Again
At this time of year, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions.
And, despite our best intentions, we may have failed on keeping them…so far. (I certainly have! ;))
The important thing with trying to change a habit, with trying out a new way of doing something or thinking about something, is to keep trying and not give up at the first hurdle.
We’re not necessarily going to get things right from the moment we start.
Yet if we’re going to make a change we want – and need – to make, then the only way we’re going to do it is to keep at it until it becomes second nature.
We might need to re-start.
We might need to think of a different – easier – way of reaching our goal.
The important thing is that we keep our eyes on the end-goal and do whatever it takes to get there.
This especially applies to our efforts to live more sustainably, to tread more lightly on our Earth and rehabilitate it…for no goal is more important to us as human animals than to ensure that our precious Earth can continue to support life as we know it.
Join me this year as I make 52-ish posts of steps toward that goal…and let me know what you are doing or any questions that you may have or topics you want to see covered.
* ‘Chook’ is Australian for hen.