Happy New Year? Yes, Happy New Day!

Eid Norooz Mobarak - this is my Sofreh Haft Sin
Eid Norooz Mobarak – this is my Sofreh Haft Sin

The last week has been a particularly busy one. I have had my new year to celebrate and my daughter’s birthday. She arrived 2 years ago on the day of the Persian New Year. She was about a week late! I had had my ‘show’ at work and was convinced that I was about to go into labour. My mum had come from Sydney to be with me, but little miss decided to be fashionably late. I awoke on the night of the Persian New Year with labour pains and there she was at 6:25 am 21 March 2011. This day was also the UAE Mother’s Day which meant I got lots of presents and visitors in the hospital.
I mention this day because not only does it have more significance to me now that my daughter is here, but also because it is something that I try to continue to celebrate in my life and is a cultural link for my children.
Eid e Norooz which literally means New Day, comes on the first day of the northern hemisphere spring and the moment of the spring equinox becomes the moment of the new year. It has been celebrated in ancient Iran for over 3000 years and is now recognised by the UN on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I love this time of year. It means the end of winter and the start of spring. It means time with family and celebrating around the Sofreh Haft Sin which is the 7 things that start with the letter ‘s’ with each symbolising something.
Apple – Sib symbolises beauty and health
Garlic – Sir symbolises medecine
Wheat pudding – Samanu symbolises affluence
Vinegar – Serkeh symbolises wisdom and patience
Oleaster – Senject symbolises love
Sumac symbolises colour of sunrise
Sprouts – Sabzeh symbolises rebirth
Other things that usually included are a mirror, candles, decorated eggs and goldfish. I have been skipping the goldfish bit because they usually die and I feel terrible having a dead goldfish on my table. Not very auspicious I don’t think.
Unlike other holidays in Iran, this is not a religious one and is secular. I love that it is celebrated by all ethnic groups in the country and the different religions both in Iran and other neighbouring countries.
I enjoyed sharing this with my children this year. So to everyone, happy new year ‘Eid e norooz mobarak’1 hopefully the next year brings much joy, health, success and love.

Travelling Neutrally

I recently went back to the UAE and Iran to visit family and friends. It was a great trip. My son got to hang out with his ‘best friend Jack’. These two munchkins were inseparable and I know that my son found it difficult being separated from Jack. When they saw each other again, it was not like they had been separated for over a year.
While the trip was relaxing, I did wander about my carbon emissions from the flights.In the past I had purchased carbon credits to ‘neutralise’ my emissions.
What are carbon credits?
As part of global efforts to address the greenhouse effect or climate change, a mechanism has been developed called the Clean Development Mechanism with the aim of trading carbon between countries. The way it works is that a country is given an amount of carbon that they are allowed to emit (their quota). The Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protcol allows developed (Annex 1) countries to exceed their CO2 quota by investing in projects that help the developing countries and also result in a reduction in carbon emissions.
So how does this relate to my holiday?
As Carbon dioxide emissions are released through the aviation sector (the aviation industry is said to account for 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions ), reductions are important. Some airlines provide the opportunity for travellers to offset their carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits (Eg Japanese Airlines, Virgin, Scandanavian Airlines), while other don’t.
I flew with Etihad who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Masdar (big carbon ‘neutral’ project in the UAE. For more information on Masdar, go to: http://www.masdar.ae ). However I had decided to offset the emissions from my travel with my family. Using an on-line calculator I have estimated that for my return flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi and from Dubai to Esfahan that we emitted 5.5 tonnes of CO2.! (to calculate your carbon emissions, go to: http://www.carbonneutral.com.au/carbon-calculator.html )
Who offers carbon offsets?
There are a range of companies that offer certified carbon offsets and that is the key word ‘certified’. It’s important to buy from a trusted company with third party independent verification of their projects and their claims.
There are various ways that carbon offsets are ‘produced’:
• Renewable energy projects;
• Energy efficiency projects;
• Reforestation; and
• Preservation of forests (that is paying to prevent forestry).
As an individual, there may be different criteria that you have personally for how you want your money invested. For me I am interested in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Of the renewable energy options I prefer solar and wind and do not want to support hydro projects.
For this trip, after much much research, I have selected a project on improved cooking methods in South Africa from Fair Climate Fund (http://www.fairclimatefund.nl/en/projecten/). This project provides stoves to families which they can use for their cooking. It improves their health and reduces their carbon emissions as compared the stoves they previously used. By purchasing to offset 6 tonnes of CO2 from my trip I can now say that I travelled neutrally and to top it off, it didn’t really cost too much at all (about $AUD70)!
Lessons Learnt
After navigating the world web for hours, I have come to realize that it is quite hard to find the information that may help others make a similar decision. The Australian websites seemed to be very much geared towards corporate companies, rather than individuals. The language was technical and the links not intuitive.
Overall, it was quite hard. The website that I found the least cumbersome was this:

Home


Another source of information was this website, however many of the websites I searched did not have the offsets ready to purchase: http://www.carbonoffsetguide.com.au/providers/Australasian+Carbon+Credits Provides a guide on companies offering carbon offsets

Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach
Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach

Esfahan Iran
Esfahan Iran