Back in the early 2000s, we volunteered with Comic Relief twice, as a telephone pledge taker. It was a rewarding and worthwhile experience.

Since 1988, over £1 billion has been raised to support those in need and no-one can argue with that incredible achievement.

But, after three decades we were dismayed to see the recently launched range of merchandise available to buy this year. It’s a huge turn-off.

It would perhaps be naive to think that people will always donate without receiving something in return. If only, eh?

Whilst fundraising to support good causes in the immediacy, we hope that sooner rather than later Comic Relief can also address another looming crisis, climate change and the need to reduce consumption and waste.

Two years ago, the World Bank forecast that Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will generate 143 million more climate migrants by 2050. In 2017, close to 70 million people globally were forcibly displaced.

We certainly aren’t opposed to charities boosting their income by selling gifts and experiences. In the past six years, we’ve supported causes including the RSPB, Marine Conservation Society, National Trust, Woodland Trust, National Forest, the RSPCA and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in this way.

But, we believe strongly that anything sold should be purposeful, sustainably made and ideally long lasting.

Unfortunately that doesn’t apply to the majority of Comic Relief’s merchandise in 2021. 

Credit where it’s due (ish). Having sold an estimated 100 million plastic red noses, Comic Relief’s new noses are made from bagasse, a by-product of sugar cane. Better, but not brilliant. That’s still five million-ish noses (in a good year), that are worn for just minutes before being discarded. Wasteful, no?

Then we move on to the novelty wristbands, head boppers, lanyards, pin badges, soft toys and so on. Sustainably made, easy to recycle (and likely to be)? Generally no.

We appreciate that it’s a difficult subject so please don’t think badly if you have a different viewpoint. Ours is just that things are going to get much worse for all of us, including those that Comic Relief is desperately trying to help, if we don’t change our ways. And soon.

As Sir David Attenborough said during a BBC Breakfast interview in September 2020: “Don’t waste anything.”

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