Tree Seedlings to Supplement Firework Sales Over Next 3 Years

Fireworks Exploding over Reykjavík

ICE-SAR will continue to sell tree seedlings at its fireworks outlets according to a new agreement with the Icelandic Forestry Association, RÚV reports. The contract expires in 2023.

Extravagant Pyrotechnics

As environmental issues have moved to the fore of the national consciousness, Iceland’s longstanding fireworks tradition has come under scrutiny lately. Most of the fireworks ignited in Iceland are imported from China, translating into a sizeable carbon footprint. Fireworks also produce smoke and dust, which besides causing lung damage, also contain various heavy metals and harmful chemicals. Residents of Iceland have ignited some 600 tonnes’ worth of fireworks annually since 2005. Many have called for moderation.

Such appeals are problematic, given that the sale of fireworks is the largest source of income for the Icelandic Association of Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR). According to some estimates, ICE-SAR enjoys a 75% share of the fireworks market in Iceland, which, in turn, accounts for about one-third of the association’s total funding (although it may account for up to 90% of the financing of individual rescue teams in rural Iceland). ICE-SAR handles approximately 1,200 emergency calls annually.

Money Growing on Trees

Last year, in response to growing environmental concerns, ICE-SAR began supplementing its sale of fireworks by offering tree seedlings – under the heading Skjótum rótum (Put Down Roots) – at its outlets. Buyers do not receive the seedlings. Instead, the Icelandic Forestry Association, in partnership with other forestry associations (there are ca. 60 forestry associations in Iceland), plant them on their behalf. ICE-SAR sold approximately 13,000 seedlings last year.

This year, ICE-SAR and the Icelandic Forestry Association hope to expand the number of forestry associations participating in the project, aiming to spread the programme to more parts of the country. The proceeds from the sale of seedlings will go directly to ICE-SAR. The seedlings will be sold around the country until New Year’s.

Pollution a Genuine Concern

According to a report introduced by the Environment Agency of Iceland this week, the Greater Reykjavík Area saw a significant increase in suspended particulate matter on New Year’s Eve last year. Measuring stations in the Greater Reykajvík Area recorded sixteen different types of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and seventeen chemical elements.

“The Environment Agency of Iceland encourages everyone to exercise moderation in their use of fireworks. We emphasise that pollution from fireworks is a genuine concern in Iceland, with suspended particulate matter accounting for the most adverse health effects. The Agency would also like to point out that the pollution harms those who experience it, especially those who are vulnerable, like children, the elderly, or the infirm. Suspended particulate matter not only causes discomfort but also reduces the quality of life for many.”

Tourism, Consumption Main Culprits in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increase

tourists on perlan

The release of greenhouse gases increased in Iceland by 2% between 2016 and 2017 according to a new report by the The Environment Agency of Iceland, RÚV reports. Elva Rakel Jónsdóttir, a director at the agency says the results of the report are a disappointment, although not unexpected.

“This is obviously not the results we’d like to see,” Elva says. “We’d like to see these numbers lowering, everybody does. However, we are taking action that we expect to bear fruit in the coming years.”

Elva says that a big part of the increase in greenhouse emissions is the increase in tourism in Iceland and their consumption. She would like to see a change in the rate of consumption among locals and tourists.

“I’m allowing myself to be optimistic in saying that a lot will change in the coming years, especially considering the attention these matters have been getting lately,” Elva says. According to her, people are appalled at how much greenhouse gases are released as a result of their own consumption and how temporarily they use the stuff they buy. “The situation is very serious and we need to take it seriously.”

Elva says that quickest and most effective way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions would be a switch to electric cars, a project the government in Iceland could play a decisive role in making a success. “In Norway we see that their implementation of electric cars has been very fast and that there is a high correlation between government intervention and the popularity of electric cars in the market.”