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Shopping green and shopping smart

With Christmas in the air, the old topic of frenzied seasonal shopping is back on the script. The time to be jolly has become a retailers’ delight over recent decades, with delusional specials on offer and all sorts of goodies on display especially designed to make it a special time for loved ones—to say nothing of clients and prospective customers.

Although there are few signs the retail addiction is abating, cautionary voices have always been audible. The voices of debt counsellors, who know full well what getting caught up in the Christmas spirit can do to credit card accounts, have always been present, as have proponents of using the hard earned family dollar for more constructive projects.

The social conscience voice has campaigned for more attention to community projects and care of those who are in need, as well as a return to the spirit of promoting peace among families and the peoples of the world.

The environmental voice has been there for decades too, calling for resources not to be taken away from vital production, in addition to the problem of waste disposal.

But its voice today is more pointed, talking to the health of the very environment itself and the life-threatening damage that unfettered consumption is doing to the ecosystem.

At the launch of Angels on Earth, an initiative to bring the importance of environmental micro activities to the attention of parishes and other communities in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing and the acting secretary for the environment, Christine Loh Kung-wai, both called for a green Christmas, encouraging people not to splurge on gifts in order to conserve natural resources.

However, there is more than one reason to promote a green Christmas. The Commission for Justice and Peace has been calling on people to shop smart for years and, rather than not indulge in gift-giving, to do designer shopping—not designer labels, but designed for the recipient.

It points out that shopping can also be constructive and, apart from tailoring gifts to the person, looking to what our retail dollar is supporting. It can help sustain the multi-faceted character of the city.

Support can be given in three ways: by choosing eco-friendly, purchasing from small, independent stores and, at the same time, explaining to the recipients of gifts the reason for the choice.

It is also a way to help keep small stores in business and not prop up large conglomerates that tend to crush them, as they push the shop-till-you-drop mentality, which promotes wasteful use of natural resources.

There are other reasons to take support away from the large shopping malls too, as their trade practices do encourage high rents and low wages, both of which are currently a major curse of the people of Hong Kong.

But Christmas is still a chance to present our gifts to God and to those around us. The spirit of the gospel can be lived out in a way that promotes the health of nature and the welfare of neighbour, even in an unfair economic system.

It is possible to shop green and it is possible to shop smart for social development, as well as protecting the natural world that gives us life. JiM