A Christmas for the planet

Leann Dsouza

December 3, 2021

A mount left for Christmas and shops have begun selling Christmas decorations, preparations and plans for Christmas celebrations have begun and online stores have come out with a range of new Christmas themed clothing and accessories

Christmas is celebrated across the globe. Everyone, be it Christian or not, wants a slice of this festival. Christmas has a different meaning to each person. For some it may be the excitement of receiving and opening gifts while for some it may be getting back home and spending time with family and for some it would be focusing on a spiritual renewal. Over the decades, the way Christmas is celebrated has changed, we are seeing an increased commercialization of this festival. Christmas consumption is taking a toll on the planet. In Australia alone it is estimated that 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper is used during Christmas & 125,000 tonnes of waste is generated in plastic packaging alone. Unfortunately, plastic takes up to 450 years to break down. We would be gone but our great grandchildren & great great grandchildren would have to deal with all the plastic we have left. In the US, 2.65 billion greeting cards are sold each year. These cards are made from paper which comes from cutting down trees. Moreover, once the festivities are over these cards make their way to the trash bin.

Food wastage is another problem during Christmas. In the UK alone, 230,000 tonnes of food get binned during the Christmas period. Supermarkets entice consumers with attractive offers nudging them to buy in bulk. However, most Christmas eatables are not even healthy and stocking excess of these foods may turn out to be a waste. Attractive deals may convince us to buy a pack of 4 candy bars instead of one but purchasing more than you need adds up to your carbon footprint. Food waste eventually gets dumped in the landfill releasing Methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Now that we know the damage of our Christmas consumption we need to do something about it. In the words of Zygmunt Bauman, “Consumption turns into consumerism when it ceases to be a means to satisfying man’s needs, becomes an end in itself, and dominates all human activity.” We cannot stop consumption but we can seek to transform our choices by reflecting on the difference between consumption and consumerism. The story of Christmas is about God coming to the world as an ordinary being and living a simple life. The crib symbolises austerity, it can seem contradictory that the king of the Universe chooses to be born in a manger where cattle and sheep live. The theme of Christmas is of love, sharing and giving and not of accumulating and over spending. If we are in search of true joy this Christmas we won’t find it in large trees, decorations and expensive gifts. Consumerism tells us that we cannot live without that new product launched and owning it will bring us happiness. We need to be conscious of such advertisements that entice us and not get carried away by the false images created by marketeers. Not buying gifts or not going shopping at all may not be completely feasible. If you have children or if you would be visiting family after a long time, you would naturally want to buy a special gift. However, while purchasing gifts we can be more mindful of the carbon footprint and materials used in their making. Statistics suggest that 90% of toys are made out of plastic. Many plastics contain chemicals that can be injurious to our health and the paint used in these toys can contain toxic chemicals such as lead. While giving gifts can be associated with generosity, you may be doing more harm than good for your loved one and the planet by giving gifts that contain harmful chemicals.

Celebrating Christmas frugally may not be suited for everyone but we can do little things that will reduce the impact that we create from this festival. We can make small efforts like wrapping gifts using recycled paper and buying useful gifts that are certified to be eco-friendly. We can choose products made locally from natural materials like wood. We can try to make our own DIY decorations using recycled and sustainable materials and use LED lighting to decorate our house. Instead of buying new decorations year after year we can reuse the same decoration by storing it well. We can plan our grocery list and avoid buying food that we won’t consume. Let us try to be more eco-conscious this Christmas and make a difference for our planet!