Back Scratching
Friday Ephemera

Like Fun, But Less So

With bonfire night almost upon us – and with it a feeling of crushing ecological terror – let’s turn for reassurance to the pages of a certain newspaper. A troubled Guardian reader asks,

Setting light to bonfires and sending fireworks up into the sky don’t strike me as very environmentally friendly. Is there a better way to mark bonfire night?

Mercifully, Leo Hickman has some thoughts.

Attend an organised public display instead of setting off fireworks yourself in your own backyard. Surely it’s better to contain the noise and pollution in one area than see it dispersed across a wider area?

This fairly innocuous suggestion leads Mr Hickman to more emphatic, and revealing, territory:

Quite why fireworks are not just restricted to organised public events has always been beyond me, given how dangerous they can be to children. Or maybe – as was fiercely debated on this site last year – fireworks should be banned altogether?

An earlier Guardian poll - Should Fireworks be Banned on Environmental Grounds? - was a close-run thing, with a narrow majority willing to permit an evening of explosive hedonism. The Guardian’s Felicity Carus suggested a possible compromise in the form of “green fireworks,” a quieter, less colourful, less explosive alternative made from sawdust and rice chaff.

As regulars will know, Mr Hickman and his colleague Lucy Siegle steer Guardianistas through the labyrinth of modern living with their Ask Leo & Lucy column - “your ethical dilemmas sorted.” Dilemmas that, for Guardian readers, include, Should I Employ a Cleaner? (“If you employ a cleaner, their pay should be fair. Buy some less toxic cleaning products or make them yourself using ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice or vegetable-based soap.”) Among many other agonies of note are, What’s the Greenest Way to Wrap my Sandwiches? and What Should I Do with the Fur Coats I Inherited from my Mother? (Since you ask, suggestions range from the inventive – “donate them to an animal sanctuary that uses them as bedding for abandoned puppies” – to the slightly surreal - “Turn the central heating down and wear them indoors.” And, “Use them in the home, where everyone understands their history etc.”)

Mr Hickman, whose radical credentials have impressed us previously, is also the author of A Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying to Live Ethically, the cover of which displays the Guardian’s eco-gnome denuded and brandishing his veg box. Positioned to the right of Mr Hickman’s shirtless torso is an approving comment by Radio 4’s Libby Purves:

Very entertaining.

Full of useful new things to fret about.

The Observer’s Carol McDaid was equally thrilled:

There are plenty of facts - Quaker Oats and Tropicana juices are both owned by George Bush-backing PepsiCo - and a selection of helpful letters, like the inspiring one from a woman who crochets her own dishcloths.

An essential purchase, clearly.