How The Grinch Saved The Planet
Lauren Haughey analyses our consumerist mindsets over the holiday period, and its effects on the planet
As the leaves have slowly fallen from the trees, it’s finally gotten to that time of the year when most of us are in limbo, unable to decide whether it’s too early, or not early enough to be singing Mariah Carey and decorating our houses with obscenely tacky Christmas lights. Ready or not, Christmas is almost upon us, and inevitably we’ll begin scampering the streets for Black Friday bargains, Secret Santa gifts and classic Christmas banquet delights to devour with our friends and family.
With so much to do in such little time, it’s no wonder that a Deloitte survey showed the UK’s consumers spent 42% more than 9 other European countries last Christmas season. To top it off, 53% of this standard Christmas budget is spent on presents alone: cosmetics, chocolates, video games, books, toys – a seemingly excessive amount of stuff. As a result, irony has become the Grinch in the room as Christmas comes to pass each year. While we’re traditionally supposed to be thankful for (if we’re Christian) the birth of Jesus Christ and, secularly, the things we already have, we’re instead prancing around, glugging the Bucks Fizz and thinking about all the things we desperately want. The Shane X Jeffree Conspiracy Palette? Game of Thrones series 1-7? A scratch map? Let’s face it, our world is plastered with advertisements at every turn, and we’re drooling at the thought of the next big thing – I know I am.
Over 6% of us even chuck unwanted presents in the trash, emphasising our mindless behaviour when dazzled by the excitement of the winter season
Although I could continue party-pooping on our beloved, Capitalist, corrupted Christmas, behind the curtain of our spending we face darker consequences of our festive purchases. In this time of giving and receiving, Leah Borromeo estimates that 4,500 tonnes of tin foil, 13,350 tonnes of glass and enough paper to wrap round the equator nine times all goes to waste. According to Finder, over 6% of us even chuck unwanted presents in the trash, emphasising our mindless behaviour when dazzled by the excitement of the winter season.
At this moment in time we stand at a crossroad, questioning which path we’ll take in the pursuit of climate justice. With Greenpeace also reporting that Christmas sends plastic pollution into overdrive each year, by 2050 it is estimated by the Center for International Environmental Law that plastic carbon-dioxide emissions alone will be responsible for approximately 13% of the world’s carbon budget. In the face of statistics like this, it’s harder to be blinded by the blitz of baubles; we have a major sustainability issue on our hands.
With all that being said, what can we do about it? In Sarah Barratt’s 2016 Christmas blog, she advises her readers to think smartly about their purchases each year by making a shopping list and sticking to it. Sounds simple, but not only does it prevent unnecessary spending, it’s definitely going to save you some money too. With what to buy on our minds, why not consider something locally-made? Exeter has a multitude of hidden gems hiding out in the likes of Gandy Street, as well as upcoming Christmas Markets. You might find something more meaningful than a bog-standard can of Lynx Africa too!
Once a bundle of goodies is ready to go, keep a lookout for recyclable paper that can wrap them up. Joe Papineschi from Eunomia told The Independent in 2016 that recyclable paper is nowhere near as polluting as normal wrapping paper, using 50% fewer chemicals and having fibres that can be used up to 7 times. With this in mind, 100% of Paperchase’s wrap has been made from recycled materials in their impressive brand direction towards a sustainable future. For the cherry on top of that Christmas present, it’s likely you’ll want to send a card. But, given that the Imperial College tells us 1.5 billion Christmas cards are also thrown away each year, it might be worth checking out electronic letters, as Friends of the Earth suggest, instead of building up that Christmas card mountain. And finally, if you do receive a flashy, new iPhone this holiday, please don’t leave your old one to rot. There are plenty of high-street stores that will pay you for it, given that it’s still a trove of metals, Apple even being one of them, so you may as well take advantage of this useful scheme for an extra bit of cash.
There are plenty more quirky ideas of how to make your Christmas more sustainable online. Snowflake or no snowflake, it’s undeniable that our planet is in trouble, so now is no better time to start revamping our Christmas values into something we can all be proud of.