Talking about consumption: Xmas of course is the ultimate consumer orgy. For years now I’ve been trying to convince people in ‘my’ family to stop giving gifts or at least find more sensible ways of doing it. How much success did I have? NONE. Sure, that might be a result of me lacking persuasive power, but I think it actually has more to do with people’s habitual behaviours, shaped by tradition and the consumer culture we live in.
Yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald had an article looking at the season of consumption, but with the planet in mind. Here are some thoughts inspired by it, starting with highlighting Xmas as the season of waste:
- last year Australians received an estimated $985 million worth of unwanted Christmas presents; just think of all the material that went into their production and the energy needed to transport them
- decorating trees and filling up front yards with Xmas kitsch uses up enormous amounts of resources, from powering hungry lights to producing and distributing all those fanciful objects
- plastic wraps for presents fill up landfills in a huge seasonal boom
- lots of trees were used for producing cards and wrapping paper
- Xmas lunches means a spike in demand for disposable plates, cups and plastic cutlery (apart of course from all those poor creatures destined to become objects of festive gluttony)
- and talking about food: people also drink more (creating another spike in bottles of all kinds) and waste more because food consumption is too excessive
- according to Planet Ark there are other waste problems too: more garden waste is sent to landfills, and people have less time time to sort their their rubbish, so contamination of recycling is much higher
Given that there is little chance to change the present-giving and festive food obsessions, what could be done to make the Season more green? The overarching principle is: THINK! — Have forethought during all Xmas activities!
- when lighting up your Xmas dreamscape, use LED lights rather than incandescent globes: they are more energy efficient and use only 10% of the power consumed by standard ones; turn them off when you’re not at home or going to bed
- when buying presents that need batteries, buy some re-chargeable ones plus a charger; it takes 50 times more energy to manufacture a battery than you get actually out of it
- avoid items made from plastic, especially when it comes to toys; that can be a huge challenge but it saves the earth
- use Christmas lists, vouchers and schemes where each person buys a present for only one other person – that reduces greatly the number of unwanted gifts
- wrap gifts in reused or at least in recycled paper
- buy presents at places that sell bulk items or get them at markets or at wholesale clearances: items here will most likely come unpackaged
- give home-made presents or those that cost time rather than money (eg promise a one hour massage you will give to a friend or loved one)
- reduce your Xmas footprint by being a conscientious recycler; don’t mix up recyclable materials and, when you’re on the road, make sure you understand the recycling rules other councils have – they might be quite different from yours; take some of your rubbish home if you can’t recycle it where you are but know you can do it where you live
- the Christmas tree: a very silly relic in a land that never harboured northern hemisphere style pine trees nor had the need to add the heat or light of candles to hot, bright summer days/evenings; for those who can’t resist, the jury still is out on what’s better for a green Xmas – a plastic tree or the real thing; there are options of reusable plastic trees, reusable potted natural ones and, coming up, Christmas trees for hire; but since most of those options start of with ecological disadvantages, the best thing is to stay away from them altogether …
… which also is my motto for the whole so-called festive season. That though still is a pipe dream given family connections – sigh …
Yippee — NO Christmas!!!!