Eco-Diwali

Diwali is the festival of lights in the Hindu calendar, falling on 28 October this year. Homes are prepared to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Abundance, and enthusiastic celebrations are planned, including fireworks and lots of lights to brighten the home.

In recent years, however, concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of this traditionally very happy holiday. Firecrackers cause air and noise pollution, with the remnants of the pyrotechnics littering streets and waterways, and turning on — and leaving on — every light in the house is a big energy drain.

There are also worries that the tendency to spend during the holiday — after all, what better way to celebrate abundance than through consumer purchases? — encourages wasteful buying and counteracts efforts to reuse and repurpose.

Some groups are recommending the use of oil lamps instead of electric lights during the festival, and suggest donations of goods like clothing to those who are less fortunate as a means of celebrating prosperity. More information about observing an “environmentally safe” holiday is available on The Diwali Festival website.

As we slip into the darker months of the year, there are many religious traditions celebrating festivals of light, providing no small measure of psychological comfort as the harvest comes to a close and winter settles in. Historically, this is a time when people took stock of their stores and provisions and started rationing out supplies to ensure survival until the spring.

It’s actually a perfect time for celebrating abundance and for gratitude for what has been reaped. The seeds we’ve sown in the spring have come to full fruition, and we might even plant a winter garden at this time to enjoy root vegetables like carrots and hardy greens like collards and escarole through the colder months.

Abundance isn’t always just about what’s in our pocketbooks — a lesson I’m afraid more of us are having forced on us these days — and celebrations need not focus on material wealth. Why not celebrate the abundance of love and friendship in our lives? Diwali is a wonderful time to note the natural resources we still have available to us — here in the Northwest, that’s going to mean evergreen trees and a lot of rain.

It’s an opportunity to remember that responsible stewardship goes hand in hand with abundance. Just as there would be no harvest in the fall without planning and planting in the spring, we could easily lose our clean water and clean air tomorrow without careful attention to our habits today.

As Diwali rolls around each year, we can celebrate an increase in our natural resources by making eco-conscious choices from one year to the next. So let the oil lamps burn — in moderation — and let them light the way not only for the Goddess Lakshmi to bless our homes, but also for “green” inspiration to touch our minds and hearts so that every Diwali festival is an honest celebration of the Earth’s abundance resources, rather than becoming a sad reminder of how much we have lost.

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