Sustainability is an elastic concept, ranging from rainforests to supermarkets. Similarly, sustainable Christmas refuses to get wrapped in one neat box. There have been season-related pro second hand (#secondhandfirst), as well as anti Black Friday (#bynothingday) and general anti foodwaste (#nowaste) campaigns on Twitter. In addition, various bloggers have covered up-cycled, re-cycled, and handmade presents on their sites. Newspapers and magazines approach the subject in columns and Christmas preparation articles.
I came across Larisa Brown’s four-year-old article about the destiny of unwanted Christmas gifts in the Daily Mail. It stated that, on average, everyone in the UK gets two unwanted gifts every Christmas. If we consider the whole adult population here, this means about 80 million unwanted presents! We are talking about a massive amount of money wasted, and a lot of stuff that needs to be recycled through various methods.
Why are there so many unwanted gifts? My analysis goes beyond people “getting it wrong”, as was stated in the article. Perhaps the gifts are not satisfying to the recipient because they were bought under duress? When we have so many people to remember at Christmas, you may be limited by both your budget and lack of time. We end up buying lower or medium priced gadgets and clothes in a hurry, hoping that the recipients like them. Unfortunately, many times they do not — nor do we when we open up what others have bought us.
But we would not even dream of thinking about an alternative, would we?
It has been stated that our love affair with shopping and constantly getting the latest edition and trendiest gadget is over. We have finally started to learn that those things do not bring us happiness. On the contrary, we feel “stuffocated” as James Wallman so well put it his recent book. Why is that?
When we talk about our children, as Zoe Williams so eloquently put it in her article, it seems “they have lost their mojo” as well.
There are an ever growing number of families in the UK whose offspring do not HAVE TO wait until birthday or Christmas comes along to receive an iPad or the latest Android phone. These children have it all when it comes to clothes, toys, gadgets, trips, entertainment and gearing up for hobbies. We as parents are in a crisis. We do not know how to impress or surprise these little ”furbies of ours” anymore. We have secretly started to think that maybe baking gingerbread cookies at midnight and having an old-fashioned pillow fight might be an experience worth exploring…… Then we wake up and remember how easy it is to click and collect our goodies – and the feel-good factor that comes with it.
The massive pressure of constant consumption is creating a growing gap between those who do well and those who struggle. As it is stated, every fifth family in the UK lives below the official poverty line. This group of 13 million people includes millions of children who do not have those latest gadgets or clothes, who do not eat out or travel to Disneyland Paris, children who grow up feeling inferior in our society that worships material possessions.
Do we who — for the time being, at least — do not belong to this group, want to encourage this inequality? Maybe there’s another way. Why not teach our children other values and put these values into practice?
With all this in mind, I have created a to-do list for myself for this Christmas. It contains the changes and choices I will be making. For many, Christmas is just another day when it comes to making a difference. But it is a good day to start a whole new kind of year, the year 2017.
My 2017 Christmas Resolutions:
1) Buying and gifting every family member second hand gifts with a well thought idea and story behind them, and focusing on “experience gifts” that allow us we can spend time together as a family (outdoor trips, one-on-one hanging-out days, restaurant dinners in interesting restaurants, home cooking and home spa days, etc.)
2) Buying more handmade, locally, ethically produced foods in the name of social and environmental sustainability.
3) Agreeing with friends to circulate children´s clothes and toys as Christmas presents in order to cut unnecessary spending and reduce the number of toys in the house. And the same goes for us adults……let´s start making swap lists!
4) Reducing the time spent driving around unnecessarily, and time spent on shopping or other rituals that do not bring you joy, or that you feel forced to do.
I wish you a truly, truly merry and joyful Christmas time!