Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the joy of welcoming Lunar New Year is still overwhelming Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Korea. There is only one week left until the end of the Year of the Ox, and the atmosphere of preparing to welcome the Lunar New Year of the Tiger is becoming more and more bustling.
However, the increase in demand for consumer products, groceries, food, or even decorations, as well as the amount of waste generated by the traditional spring cleaning, is causing significant pressure on the environment. As another Lunar New Year is coming, it’s time to sit down and talk about the negative effects of holidays – especially the new year – on the environment, not to erase it, but to find solutions to celebrate it in a more sustainable way.
From Celebrating The Holiday to Generating Havoc
Unique traditional customs are what make the colors of the Lunar New Year, but they also indirectly cause the overuse of natural resources, leading to many serious environmental problems. Giving each other red envelopes is the way Asians wish for good luck in the new year, and it’s estimated that there are over 320 million red envelopes sent out every Lunar New Year in China alone. In order to meet this high demand for red envelopes, more than 16,300 trees are cut down every year, and this number can be even more terrible when all Asian countries are included.
Landfill overload is also a problem that many developing countries are facing, and during the Lunar New Year, this issue becomes more troublesome. In 2021, even though the overall waste generation in the Asia region has decreased by around 11% compared to 2020, the amount of waste generated still increased significantly in the period before and during the Lunar New Year. About 4.12 million tons of waste was generated, including food waste, textile waste, etc. in 2020, and much of it is the result of year-end cleaning and over-consumption of food for the new year.
The negative effects of holidays don’t stop there. As a great amount of waste was generated at the same time during the Lunar New Year, landfills and incineration plants had to operate at full capacity. This was the main cause of increasing air pollution in recent years with over 73.3 million tons of air pollutants generated in 2020 including Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ammonia (NH3), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), etc. These pollutants are the by-products of waste incineration and landfilling, especially waste landfilling, can generate methane (CH4), which is even tens of times worse than others.
Besides, as the need to exchange new notes often increases in the time leading up to the new year, countries that celebrate Lunar New Year also have to issue hundreds of millions of new notes in order to meet this need. However, have you ever wondered where all those old notes go? Part of those old bills will be destroyed, and the process of destroying old notes, as well as making and transporting new notes will generate a lot of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is – obviously – what we’re fighting against but haven’t succeeded just yet.
Solutions To Have A Greener Year of Tiger
Reduce The Use of Red Envelopes and New Notes
Despite being an important traditional custom of the Lunar New Year, giving each other lucky money doesn’t necessarily include red envelopes. The importance of technology in everyday life is becoming more and more obvious, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual envelopes are one of the best ways to send blessings to your friend and family while reducing the use of physical red envelopes. Fewer envelopes used means fewer trees being cut down, and this is the goal that every country is aiming for.
In addition, people are also encouraged to reuse notes instead of exchanging them for new ones in order to reduce waste and negative impacts to the environment due to the issuance of new notes. Gifting your loved ones old notes doesn’t make your wishes for them any less meaningful.
Reduce Food Waste
Get rid of the thought that the bigger the celebration, the better your new year will be. By saying that, I don’t mean that you should take it less serious or stop celebrating the new year at all. However, you should be a little more concerned about what is enough when it comes to preparing food for the Lunar New Year.
Besides main dishes to display on the tray of offerings to ancestors, it’s important to estimate the number of family members as well as their preferences in order to prepare a suitable amount of food for the holiday. You can consider buying products from eco-friendly stores through Tenere in order to save money, plant trees, and protect the environment while preparing for the new year.
In case you have leftovers, you can donate them to non-profit organizations that provide excess food to those in need around the world such as Food Bank in Singapore, Center for Pan Asian Community Services in Atlanta, USA, or Meal Share in Canada. All these organizations encourage people to donate unused, non-perishable food products so that families or individuals in need can also celebrate the new year without going hungry.
Celebrate The Lunar New Year With Responsibility
The negative effects of holidays on the environment do not come from the holiday itself, but from our carelessness, and therefore only humans can fix it. The changes in the way of celebrating the Lunar New Year mentioned above are not somewhat difficult to apply, but they contribute a lot to creating a greener planet for future generations. Celebrate the Lunar New Year with responsibility, not trash.