In essence I appreciate the sentiment and symbolism of the Remembrance Poppy Appeal and there is no doubt that the Poppies' presence serves as a poignant reminder of service men and women worldwide who have fought, or continue to fight, in global conflicts. This is important, no doubt, as we strive towards living peacefully with our fellow humans. The unspoken irony of this tradition is the environmental cost of the annual affair itself, which inevitably adds a dimension of threat to an already over-burdened planet where resources are becoming scarce and too much plastic pressures our seas and landfills.
In 1915 the beautiful poem 'In Flanders Fields' resonated with those who had seen the shoals of red petals that dispersed dormant poppy seeds in the earth. Following the introduction of silk poppies in 1921, The Royal British Legion formed to distribute their substantial sales to help WW1 veterans with housing and employment. The poppies sold today total more than 40 million each year with most being made by The Poppy Factory who themselves offer employment to disabled veterans. There is no denying that this movement has been amazing in showing thanks and solidarity with our service people and providing financial support where it is needed.
However the challenges of the 21st century need consideration to all our ways of life and traditions. I'm concerned for Earth's precious resources that we use to make these millions of 'disposable' products and where these poppies go after they've been worn for a week. The symbol and status of wearing a poppy is becoming detrimental to the cause. (I would welcome clarity from The Poppy Factory themselves as to their environmental credentials as it is not clear from their website that the impact of these items is considered on a global scale).
As consumers of these cherished items please consider;
• saving your poppy for use again in subsequent years,
• taking it apart for recycling in plastic and paper household collections,
• or simply donating to the cause without accepting a poppy to wear.
You could help by contacting the Poppy Factory on email@example.com to urge them to use recycled plastics for their products and perhaps ask them to consider creating a recycling scheme to reuse the green plastic stems.
Our oceans are at breaking point with marine life choking on our throwaway single-use existence. You only have to listen to David Attenborough on Blue Planet II to see the devastation we are causing. Right now in the United Nations our world leaders are negotiating ways of living more sustainably, at COP23 in Bonn, to help mitigate the effects of climate change on people's lives. Whole Islands are at risk of being swallowed by the rising seas leaving people of Fiji with potentially no country to live in. I can't help but feel ashamed of our commitment to consumerism and status as we flaunt our red badges. What is the carbon footprint of producing these items? How many will we see littered in the coming weeks?
Nearly 100 years since the beginning of this tradition I wonder if there is a better way to honour our history, and respect our future. My daughter asked if she could have a pound to take to school to buy a poppy. I gave her the pound with strict instructions not to take a poppy and instead I took her to the garden centre to buy real seeds and give back to the planet and the people that fight to preserve it.