A Sustainable Jubilee is a Platform for Change
After a few years of uncertainty, the U.K. and commonwealth territories will approach this coming weekend in early June as a welcome moment of celebration and togetherness as they gather to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 70-year reign with Platinum Jubilee festivities. The Jubilee will honour the longest-serving British monarch in history. Since 1952, The Queen has guided her people with indomitable professionalism, humour and grace, and there is no doubt that this milestone will be markedly emotional. For Elizabeth personally, it is the first Jubilee since she lost her beloved Philip, and for the nation, it is one of the first significant celebrations since the pandemic. The elimination of remaining social restrictions allows communities across the U.K. to come together to in honour of their beloved monarch in a moment of heart-warming solidarity.
The four-day holiday will commence on Thursday the 2nd of June, with an extra bank holiday on Friday the 3rd. The weekend will comprise official celebrations and parades and outside gatherings (weather permitting!) for festivities on residents’ respective streets, with Union Jack bunting in abundance. But with these festivities comes the opportunity to look at how we can celebrate responsibly and carry some of the ideas from this memorable holiday into our everyday routines to impact our planet positively.
The Queen herself is leading the way in creating positive change; The Independent recently reported 'rumours that Her Majesty tours Buckingham Palace every night to switch off the lights in unused rooms as she goes'. To mark the Jubilee, through her environmental initiative, 'The Queen's Green Canopy', she is inviting everyone across the U.K. to plant trees starting in 2021 through to the end of this year. The initiative will create a network of individual trees, avenues, copses and woodlands that commemorate her legacy and service to her people. It is an enterprise that will have a beautiful lasting and positive impact on our landscape and climate, and it will enhance the lives of wildlife and future generations.
Sustainability Champions will be joining in the Jubilee festivities. And while we regularly feature advocates and innovators of sustainable living, we also aim to provide insights on
how minor adjustments to our living can make the most significant impact. We'll look at some of the celebrations you can expect to see and attend this coming weekend, including those famous street parties; we'll delve into the history behind this much-loved tradition, focusing on how we can use this time of festivity as a platform for positive change.
Photo @ Bales
Several celebrations are marked across the weekend as we gather to experience this historic moment. Here are a few experiences you can expect to enjoy:
2nd of June: The Queen's Birthday Parade - Trooping the Colour
As the official celebrations begin, one of the most dramatic aspects will be the Trooping the Colour, where over 1,400 soldiers, 200 hundred horses and 400 musicians will gather for an impressive demonstration of horsemanship and military precision for The Queen's official birthday.
Her Majesty will observe the ceremony with other members of the Royal Family, where they will watch the Royal Air Force fly past the palace along with a 41 gun salute. After the bands, the escorted Regimental Colour or flag moves down the ranks of soldiers as the principal officer directs the soldiers with over one hundred words of command.
The lighting of Platinum Jubilee Beacons
There will be a lighting of Beacons to commemorate The Queen's 70-year reign across all cities in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and all U.K. overseas territories.
The 3rd of June: Service of Thanksgiving
There will be a Thanksgiving service to commemorate The Queen's Reign held at St Paul's Cathedral.
The 4th of June: Platinum Party at the Palace
Crowds will line the streets on Saturday the 4th as some of the most revered entertainers perform and celebrate the most notable moments of The Queen's reign as part of the Platinum Party concert at Buckingham Palace.
The 5th of June: The Big Jubilee Lunch
Street parties will be in abundance across the U.K. on Sunday.
Platinum Jubilee Pageant
Various performers tell the story of The Queen's reign, including the 200 silk flags representing the 'River of Hope' along The Mall.
July: The Royal Collection Trust
Three displays during July across Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood house will mark the Queen's accession to the throne.
With more than 16,000 street parties expected around the country, neighbourhoods will be adorned in red, white and blue bunting as communities congregate around decorated tables the length of their roads to eat, drink, and play games. This tradition started over a century ago, in 1919, when parties known as 'Peace Teas' began with gatherings for local children to mark the end of the first world war. Our collective love affair with this pastime continued in honour of the Jubilee of King George V in 1935. It was finally cemented into the collective imagination with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and to this day, it continues to be a treasured part of our heritage. The street parties are a rare but ideal opportunity for locals to rebuild and strengthen community ties, meet new people, and bring some social interaction to isolated and vulnerable members of the neighbourhood.
As with so many parties, after the celebratory fun will come post-party debris. The choice of foods, tableware, and decorations that we buy now can considerably impact the waste we produce later. With careful planning and purchases, we can maximise the recycling rate of our parties, reduce global emissions, enhance our health and support local businesses. Here are some examples of ways in which you can make your street party more sustainable:
PARTY DECORATIONS AND INVITATIONS
When planning those party plates and decorations, you can do much to provide attractive, sustainable alternatives. We've listed a few ideas that are easy to adapt. Still, if you don't have time to get crafty, look out for recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable decorations; there are many choices online.
Avoid unnecessary paper and ink and create your Jubilee invite online.
No Jubilee would be complete without the traditional bunting. This popular decoration dates to the beginning of the seventeenth century with a connection to the flags used on the ships of the Royal Navy. You can take this historical decoration into the present day by creating your home-crafted version with reused materials. Use old clothes and bedsheets to give old life to unwanted items; by reusing existing fabrics, you can make unique bunting that you can repeatedly use with good conscience.
Avoid specific 70th Jubilee banners that you will only use once; choose traditional red, white and blue, suitable for later festivities.
The average latex balloon takes up to four years to biodegrade, with Vinyl and Helium balloons not breaking down at all due to plastics. Consider avoiding balloons altogether; your local wildlife will appreciate it. Furthermore, if you consider using helium to inflate them, bear in mind that this precious resource is low in supply and vital for MRI machines in hospitals and labs. Instead of opting for balloons, consider the following options:
You can make natural confetti and table decorations with petals from your garden or soon to be discarded flowers from your vase.
Reuse paper from old magazines and scrap paper.
Photo @ The Humble
CUTLERY, UTENSILS AND TABLEWARE
When considering what tableware to purchase, it is essential to note that current yearly government estimates for the purchase of single-use plates stand at 11 billion and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery. Currently, we are only recycling 10% of these. Though using one-use items may seem more practical, plenty of eco-friendly and unused alternatives will be just as useful. Think about borrowing instead of buying things like trays and tablecloths from neighbours who will be away or not participating. And if they are using their supplies, why not try looking in your local charity shop for old trays and bowls.
When it comes to cutlery, there is a range of available options, from wood to bamboo and compostable bioplastics. Bamboo utensils, an eco-friendly alternative, are compostable, degrade, and are a more sustainable option than wood due to their fast growth rate. The Compostable Cutlery Company offers a range of eco-friendly BPA-free and economical options.
Palm leaf plates are a better alternative to their paper counterparts; made from fallen plant leaves, they are biodegradable and renewable, making for minimal environmental impact.
Many of us have already adopted reusable coffee cups; why not ask your neighbours to bring their own? They'll be easily recognisable at the party table and much more eco-friendly!
While there has been a successful national movement to ban plastic straws, many paper options quickly become soggy and unusable. Stroodles offer a range of straws made from pasta that will remain firm and last several hours in your drink. You can also try a reusable metal straw.
You will probably have all the bowls, tools, and supplies you need for the celebration, but consider alternatives to paper when providing baked goods. Instead, choose reusable silicone cake liners and cases or even compostable ones.
SUSTAINABLE PARTY FOOD
So, what is traditional Street Party fayre, and how can we think about feeding ourselves and our neighbours with the environment in mind? In the U.K., all the old favourites will fill this Jubilee's table, from sandwiches to sausage rolls, pork pies, scotch eggs, scones, tarts and cakes. But as we have become increasingly health-conscious, there will likely be healthier options containing fresher produce amongst those traditional favourites.
Shop locally and in-season
Consider locally sourced produce wherever possible. By purchasing products near your vicinity, you contribute to a decrease in the necessity for food transportation while supporting regional growers. If you plan your menu around in-season, freshly harvested foods that require fewer preservatives to keep them fresh on a long journey, it's better for the environment and your health. Think realistically about the number of people in attendance. If each neighbour supplies their food individually, this will encourage guests to create food appropriate to their expectations with less waste.
When the street party ends, there will inevitably be leftover food. Consider storing items safely in your fridge for lunch the next day using eco-food covers such as Kitchen Kraft's organic cotton bowl covers or compostable cling film like Biobag's version.
Organise party waste
Organise and label bins so that each guest can take responsibility for their waste. Alternatively, create a central recycling point where guests can place empty bottles, cans and food waste, ensuring it is conspicuous and accessible.
Think about distributing food waste across several neighbours' composts or use your council food waste bins to ensure that maximum amounts of leftovers are disposed of responsibly.
Photo @ Markus Spiske
Ultimately the Jubilee is not only an optimistic moment in history and a chance for us to come together, but it is also a time for us to make history by using our celebrations as a platform for further discussion. By uniting as a community to plan our parties thoughtfully, we can share ideas and change perceptions. Small steps taken now, will set a pattern for a change of behaviour and mindset that can be effortlessly adopted and adapted across all aspects of our lives. And by making minor changes, applying best practices for sourcing food, making decorations, and shopping for eco-alternatives, we will demonstrate to our neighbours and children how we can easily live more sustainable lives without significant financial loss or logistical challenges. These changes will enhance not only our well-being and the environment they will leave a legacy for future generations. Using the Jubilee as an opportunity to share our thoughts and show that we can plan a celebration mindfully, we will ensure that the festivities are not only successful on the day, but they are positively impactful long after the party is over.