Each year together with joy and happiness, the Winter holidays bring peaks of consumption and mountains of waste. Being the busiest month of the year, December traditionally is about to set a new record of sales and consumption.
Holiday shopping has become an extension of the overconsumption economy. According to Politico, every year an average European household spends around 445 euros on Christmas food, drinks and gifts. In many ways, holiday marketing spurred on by Black Friday, Cyber Monday intensifies the idea of consumerism. Sadly, many of the Christmas presents that we exchange have a short life. Of all the materials flowing through the market, a very low share remains in use six months after purchase.
Apart from huge consumption rates, the way we wrap our gifts is quite problematic as well. In most cases, wrapping paper is not recyclable, which means that all the wrapping paper used ends up as waste. As stated by Economist Impact, consumers in the UK alone use more than 360 thousand kilometers of wrapping paper each year. Most of those materials are used during the winter holidays. For comparison, this length would be enough to ‘wrap’ the Earth around its equator at least nine times.
Another concerning aspect of the Winter holidays is tightly connected to the main symbol of Christmas - the Christmas tree. According to Commercialwaste, around 8 million real Christmas trees and 5 million artificial ones are bought every year. The latter ones are usually made of non-recyclable plastic and are destined to end up as waste. What is more, artificial trees have a carbon footprint equivalent to around 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions. On the brighter note, even though it takes 7-10 years to grow an average-sized real Christmas tree, they are biodegradable and if discarded in a correct way, they can be used as soil.
Getting together for a Christmas dinner is a wonderful tradition but we should make sure that the food that we buy and cook does not end up in the bin. Statistics show that during the holiday season around 230 thousand tonnes of food end up in a trash bin. That’s the equivalent of more than 320 million euros worth of food.
For many, Christmas offers a good time to recharge, show gratitude and also reflect on what is really important in life. Perhaps a good time to rethink our consumption-based norms and the way we value nature? So how can we celebrate Christmas and even other holidays with a less negative impact on our environment?
Start with rethinking consumerism ideal connected to giving presents. Materialism does not necessarily bring happiness, but memories and experiences do. Gift tickets to cultural events, museums, trips. This way you will not only contribute to the environment but also help the sector of arts and culture that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Gift homemade presents. It not only shows your thoughtfulness and care for the recipient of the gift but also is an opportunity to let your creativity shine in an environmentally friendly way.
Using second-hand fabric or recyclable materials is a great way to wrap your gifts. In this way, you both don’t contribute to the overwhelming statistics of wrapping paper waste and also gift presents apparel, that the recipient could use again.
Prioritize a real Christmas tree instead of the artificial one and take one step further - rent a Christmas tree or buy the one, which is still in a pot. After holidays you can plant it in your garden and grow it until the next holiday season to use it again.
Plan your Christmas dinner beforehand, evaluate the amount of food you want to serve. Also, think through your Christmas shopping for food, prioritize locally grown goods instead of imported ones. Also, think about swapping protein and bring in more vegetarian and vegan alternatives to the table.
Want to hear more sustainability-related tips and tricks from ReGeneration 2030 and share your own thoughts on how to reduce the Christmas carbon footprint? Join us in our online get-together on December 19th! Click here to learn more!
Photo credit: Annie Spratt