Christmas....Capitalism's best friend and a waste free beginner's nightmare!
Before I begin, I would like to clarify that I am not the Grinch. Despite not being Christian, I do enjoy the festivities that the holiday celebrations bring and if you are fortunate enough, the idea of families getting together over good food and laughs. What I can't stand however, is the grossly consumerist side of these festivities along with the waste contribution it brings.
I hate shopping. The whole experience angers and stresses me out anytime of the year; so maybe I am a little bias within this conversation. However, come Christmas time and the whole experience is on steroids. Whilst on a recent (regretful) trip to the shopping centre, I witnessed how grotesque people can become during this season. How privilege can get mixed with greed and over indulgence, and how the whole meaning of Christmas gets so easily lost amongst it all.
Shopping trolleys full of crap. Excuse my crudeness, but that's what it is.......unnecessary crap. Gifts that will only fill that empty void with happiness for a short while. Trolleys filled with plastic toys and gifts that a majority of the time people don't even need. Material objects that will all most likely be be thrown into landfill never to be broken down; contributing to the ever growing issue of over consumption and the progression of our world's greenhouse gasses.
Do we really need to give gifts? Are these gifts necessary? What are we creating for our society and it's values?
Sure, giving gifts, especially during this time of year, is a joyous occasion. Watching someone unwrap a present and seeing their expression can often be priceless; I am not denying that. However, at the volume of our current consumption, are we doing things right?
My problem here, is not just to do with sustainability, it is also to do with privilege and how during these festivities, we can often get caught up with materialistic things. I won't delve further into this specific discussion, but I will say that when I have children of my own, I know me and my partner have discussed how important it is to teach our children about the importance of non-materialistic things. How often children can become greedy and expectant during times of celebrations. Greedy expectations can often result in the loss of important values such as gratitude and appreciation within our society. Over-indulgence mixed with privilege can lead to a lot of issues and dis-harmony; and to change that, we must teach our children these values first.
Along with gifts, comes the issues of wrapping paper and cards. In the United States alone, 4 million tons of landfill per year is contributed as a result of gift wrapping and gift bags. Such numbers equate to half of the paper American's consume annually; being that of gift wrapping and decorations. The dye within wrapping paper often results in such paper being ineligible for recycling, thus being discarded into landfill. Within the United Kingdom alone, during this festive season, 125,000 tons of plastic packaging will be thrown out instead of being recycled. Along with this, 300,000 tons of card packaging is also contributed each year; equating to over 1 billion cards ending up in landfill rather than being recycled within the United Kingdom.
So what are some ways we can address this hideously privileged and sustainable issue?
Buy experiences or restaurant vouchers for people- a recent study from San Francisco State University concluded that people who spent money on experiences rather than materialistic items were happier. The thrill of a quick physical purchase diminishes quickly in comparison to the joy and memories that are linked to an experience.
Organise a Secret Santa/ Kris Kringle within your family- in doing so, this limits one gift per person.
Gift food- whilst this is not my first recommendation, as food waste is another major concern within Australia which contributes to adverse environmental ramifications; I have never seen homemade Christmas treats and baked goods go to waste.
Limit your children's presents to a certain number so you don't get carried away.
If you still desire to wrap your presents, wrap with what you already own- use old news papers, magazine pages or even used paper bags as alternative wrapping, as all of these can be recycled.
I understand that some of my recommendations are not as enticing as many of our current annual Christmas rituals. Believe me, I live with two middle aged parents who continuously try to disagree with me when I challenge them on their choices during these times of celebrations. An excuse I hear too often is 'oh well, it's done now... I'm just too busy for anything else'. All I have to say in response to this is- being busy is not an excuse. Convenience is not an excuse anymore. We only have one planet earth, what's the good in convenience and being too busy if we don't have a planet to enjoy for much longer?
We all have to start playing our part.