Celebrating Diwali sustainably

November 4, 2021

Diwali is the festival of lights, it celebrates and symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, freedom, enlightenment and the start of the Hindu New Year. It’s celebrated by millions of people around the world from several different faiths including Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

As with any festival or celebration, it involves tradition and ritual behaviours that have evolved over time and which in their modern forms can generate waste. However, it’s possible to observe the traditions sustainably, and as Diwali 2021 coincides with COP26 we’ve put together a few tips for making your celebrations as green and as waste free as possible.

Feast without food waste

Food waste is bad for the environment. Wasting 1kg of food produces carbon emissions equivalent to wasting 25kg plastic bottles. Reducing food waste is therefore one of the most effective ways of reducing your impact on the environment during Diwali, and at any other time of year.

Planning is key to reducing food waste, and it will also help you to save money and enjoy a stress-free festival. Over the holy days it will help to know how many meals you’ll be preparing (so decide early if you’ll be eating at temple or elsewhere) and how many people you’ll be feeding. Plan your meals according to the appetites of those attending each meal and buy just enough ingredients accordingly. You’ll find a complete guide to meal planning here: meal-planning guide

Once you’ve bought your food, how you store it can make a huge difference to how long it will keep. The following links will help you to make the most of the food you buy:

  • Get to know your dates  Foods are safe to eat after the ‘best before’ date but may no longer be at their tastiest. Fresh items must be eaten before the ‘use by date’ to avoid health risks.
  • Learn how to store your food  Storing your food in the best place, such as the fridge, freezer or even the cupboard, will help your food stay fresher for longer.
  • The A-Z of food storage  is useful tool to help you know your storage options.
  • Chill the fridge out  will help you to check that your fridge is at the correct temperature.
  • Top freezer tips  The freezer is such a useful tool, it acts as a pause button, giving you more time to eat the food you’ve bought, even your leftovers. Watch the video to see: how to safely freeze and defrost rice  

If you do find that you’ve bought or prepared too much food, don’t let it go to waste. You could:

If you are indulging your loved ones with sweets treats, remember that those made with ghee can go off quite quickly. Don’t gift food waste by giving more sweets than can be eaten over a few days.

 

Keep the lights on

Traditional oil lamps are surprisingly sustainable owing to the fact that they are reusable and produce very little waste. Candles also have a relatively low environmental impact, especially when you turn off the mains powered lights to fully enjoy the magical glow of the flames. Just remember to keep a close eye on naked flames in your home and enjoy them safely.

Battery and mains electricity powered lights can of course be beautiful too and are generally a safer, longer lasting option. When your batteries do finally run out (if you haven’t invested in rechargeable batteries of course), bulbs need to be replaced or lamps simply stop working, it is important to know how to dispose of them correctly.

Batteries, bulbs and electrical items can all be recycled, but they need to be collected separately from your other household recycling collection for cardboard, glass and suchlike. Some councils do have an additional separate collection for these items so check with your local council if you aren’t sure. Alternatively, they can be taken to your local recycling centre in Leicestershire or Leicester, or a collection point in a Supermarket, DIY store or other local shop. The best way to find where to take your waste electrical items is using an online locator tool like those linked below:

Recycling 

It’s important to recycle as much of the waste you make as possible, but keep in mind that not all the waste you produce will be recyclable.

Placing non-recyclable items in your recycling collection can render the whole collection non-recyclable. This doesn’t just affect your recycling; it can affect an entire bin lorry’s-worth.

Use these links to find out what you can and can’t recycle at home in Leicestershire, (North West Leicestershire) and Leicester City, and what can be recycled at your local Recycling Centre (Leicestershire or Leicester).

It’s not just about what you can and can’t recycle, it’s about how you present your waste too. Everything in your recycling collection should be:

  • Clean – so rinse off food residue
  • Dry – so leave rinsed items to dry and empty liquids from bottles and jars
  • Loose – so don’t stuff recycling inside bags or other items of waste e.g. plastic wrappers shouldn’t be stuffed inside old cereal boxes
  • With lids on – keep bottle and jar tops screwed onto bottles and jars

Care for your clothing

Wearing new clothing has become a Diwali tradition, but one that can have a heavy cost for the environment.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, just behind the oil industry. As such, your fashion choices have a direct impact on the environment.  If you are investing in new clothing for Diwali, it’s worth making the effort to keep the environmental costs down. You can:

  • Buy smarter. New doesn’t have to mean factory fresh. New to you secondhand clothing can be just as stylish, and you’ll often get better quality clothing for your money too. Swapping with friends or family is even cheaper. If you do have to buy new clothing, invest in good quality, durable and well-made clothing that’s versatile, that you’ll be proud to wear for years to come and which is possible to alter and repair over time.
  • Put together new combinations of clothing from your existing wardrobe to create a new look. It’s worth stopping to think whether your existing clothing could be altered, repaired, refashioned or upcycled to inject new life into it. The Love Your Clothes website has a wealth of advice covering everything from washing your clothes and removing stains to doing simple repairs and alterations, right up to creatively restyling.
  • Donate what you don’t want: It’s a good idea to check with a charity shop as to where, when and how they prefer to accept donations of clothing (and other items) before you show up. You can find charity shops and their contact details at the Charity Retail association website.
  • Never leave clothes in front of a closed charity shop or clothes bank – this is fly-tipping and a criminal offence. Unwanted clothing and textiles shouldn’t ever be thrown in your general waste or put in your kerbside recycling, unless you have a dedicated textile collection.

Fireworks

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The cardboard tubes and heat resistant hard plastic fragments from spent fireworks are a common sight in gardens, parks and on pavements at this time of the year. Unfortunately, these remnants can’t be recycled. In part this is due to the possibility of dangerous unspent fireworks finding their way into waste collection vehicles (bin lorries) and recycling facilities where they might explode, and partly because these materials are often heavily loaded with high concentrations of heavy metals such as barium, antimony, copper and titanium which give the fireworks their vibrant colours and sparkle, but which also contaminate otherwise recyclable materials when placed in recycling collections. These metals also make an unwelcome addition to soils in significant concentrations as they can harm wildlife and plants, so it’s not a good idea to put the cardboard tubes in your compost bin, or to leave them in your garden for any length of time. Spent fireworks should ideally be soaked in water for 15 minutes before being disposed of in the general waste.

Attending  a well organised communal display might be a more environmentally friendly way of enjoying fireworks. Most large fireworks displays in public venues will have a pre-organised clean-up to remove the resultant waste, and of course centralising the event limits the spread of the resultant waste to just one area. If you do buy your own fireworks for use at home there’s nothing stopping you from having your own post-celebration clean up. Also, it’s worth knowing that fireworks with a white coloured flame typically contain fewer heavy metals than coloured varieties and are therefore less toxic to both soils and wildlife.