Green party

Typical Christmas dinner travels 30,000 miles

16 December 2004

Ingredients for a typical Christmas dinner may have travelled 30,000 milesfrom producers and growers to the UK dinner table - damaging the environmentand undermining local economies, Green MEP Caroline Lucas warned this week.

The figures, reported in a national newspaper this week, show that ourEuropean turkeys, African vegetables, Australian wine and American cranberrysauce will have notched up enough 'food miles' between them tocircumnavigate the globe.

Dr Lucas, who is a member of the European Parliament's International TradeCommittee and author of the influential 2002 report "Stopping the Great FoodSwap", said the international trade in locally available produce wasdamaging the environment - contributing significantly to the aviationindustry's greenhouse gas emissions and monoculture farming - localeconomies - and the enjoyment of fresh, tasty, seasonal food.

"Ingredients for a traditional Christmas Dinner are in season in the UKright now - that's why they're traditionally eaten at Christmas! There'ssimply no need to eat mange tout from Zimbabwe, runner beans from Zambia orcarrots from South Africa," she said.

"By eating locally grown produce we can enjoy fresher, tastier food, supportour local economies - and cut out some of the greenhouse gas emissionsproduced by the aviation industry as it flies all these vegetables aroundthe world."

South-East England's Green Party MEP also warned of the financial andethical pitfalls facing families at Christmas.

With UK households already owing more than £1 trillion, festive spendingrisks pushing thousands deeper into a spiral of debt, Dr Lucas added.

"The gifts we buy are often unnecessarily transported from the other side ofthe world - 70 per cent of the EU's toy imports come from China, for example- and are all-too-often produced by poorly paid and ill-treated factoryworkers.

"Changing our approach needn't get in the way of having a fun Christmas - wejust need to think about the resources we waste, the cash we spend, thesocial and environmental impact of our celebrations, supporting our localeconomies - and the amount of rubbish we throw away when it's all over."

"By shopping at farmers' markets, watching our waste and reining in ourspending we can enjoy a Merry Christmas without sacrificing our Happy NewYear."

Some Christmas facts and figures:

- 200,000 trees are felled each year to supply the 1.7 billion Christmascards sent annually in the UK.

- 40,000 trees are felled to make the 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper we use- enough to wrap Guernsey!

- The UK throws out three million tonnes of extra waste over Christmas

- Ten million turkeys are bred each year for UK Christmas consumption - mostin dark cramped conditions

- Almost six million Christmas trees end up in UK landfill sites everyJanuary.

Notes to Editors:

- For copies of "Stopping the Great Food Swap" seewww.carolinelucasmep.org.uk

- Some useful Christmas web resources:

www.woodland-trust.org.uk/recycling(recycling Christmas cards),

www.goodgifts.org (ethically-sourced and fairtrade Christmas shopping),

www.soilassociation.org (contacts for local foodsuppliers),

www.vegsoc.org/info/xmas.html (alternative Christmas mealideas),

www.christmastree.org.uk (for suppliers of UK-grown sustainableChristmas trees)