At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, Go’s ‘Shop through the drop’ article (14.11.09) about the ‘great’ return of Irish women to the New York shopping trip,
in search of a credit crunch bargain, took me on a nostalgia trip. I did exactly that in my youth, which was also back in the last century. But I thought we had all moved on a bit since then. Consumer excess is a personal choice, I guess, but carbon excess in order to feed that frenzy is just not on anymore. I am not against flying per se, but there are limits, and chasing the SJP lifestyle in Barney’s is verging on carbon trashy these days.
If you have signed up for Ireland’s 10:10 challenge (1010.ie) where people are committing to cut their personal carbon emissions by 10% in a year, you will have noticed that the first tip is ‘Fly Less, Holiday More’, encouraging us to take fewer but longer trips. The sixth tip is “Buy Good Stuff”, and think about waste and ethics on our shopping trips.
So if, for example, you are limiting your flights to one a year, and your Christmas shopping trip is it, use the Carbon Friendly Flight Search tool on flysmart.org, which finds the cheapest flight as well as the greenest. It does this by assessing the carbon efficiency of each fleet and whether the route is direct or not. It shows that a return flight from Dublin to New York, 10209.56 kms, emits1.25 tonnes of carbon per person.
For about the same price, and half the amount of carbon, you can get a real bargain in the markets of Marrakech, and keep money in the local economy, with grotto after grotto of gorgeous artisan jewellery, leather, rugs and, of course, spices. Morocco’s argan oil, for example, has to be one of the finest beauty products, and now sought after by those in the know. And no over-heated malls, over-packaged goods, and over-loaded plates of food either. Take a local guide around the souks, such as one recommended on tripbod.com (share the cost with a group of girls) to find all the best bargains and get your head around haggling. You will have to swap the Margharitas for mint tea though.
Even strolling the streets of Istanbul is half the carbon cost of fighting your way along Fifth Avenue. Choose a locally owned accommodation, treat yourself to a Turkish Bath, and bring back a load of Turkish Delight for granny. You can book a great short trip, with use of local guide, on responsibletravel.com.
Staying closer to home, take the boat and train to Edinburgh or Glasgow, where you can buy plenty of local crafts or produce, not only in some superb boutiques, but also at the capital’s Ethical Christmas Fair from 12-20 December (edinburghschristmas.com).You will feel as if you have walked onto a set of Sex In The City in Glasgow’s Che Chamille (checamille.com), which works with young designers directly, using ethically sourced materials. There are lots of other ways to enjoy Scotland in winter while you are there, as seen at white.visitscotland.com which has taken a whole white theme this year.
Or just stay at home, and support some of Ireland’s local producers. Take the train or bus to a town you don’t normally visit and stock up on local produce. The choice is endless, such as The Burren Perfumery, Sligo’s Voya seaweed products or Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway. The list is endless. Please feel free to send me all other suggestions as a comment to this article on my website, and I will add them to the list.
An edited version of this article was published in The Irish Times, 28 November 2009