Is it officially that time of the year when it is already allowed to start thinking about Christmas? Here is a little checklist you can go through to assess whether it is a yes or no for you!
1. Summer is over, you have started to layer up the cozy knitwear, and started switching up your iced coffee for a hot chocolate?
2. (In the Northern hemisphere) You are losing more and more minutes of daylight every day and have started thinking whether it is about time the town Christmas lights went up already?
3. Halloween planning is done and you’re dangerously close to making a fresh Pinterest board of this year’s Christmas craft projects? Soon, no surface in your apartment will be safe from glitter and crochet yarn.
4. You have been seeking for an excuse to start playing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ on loop?
Have you answered with a ‘Yes’ to at least three of these questions? Then yes, you are officially allowed to move into the Christmas-related mindset! Hear the sleigh bells jingle!
Besides the fact that many associates this darker time of the year with chunky knit sweaters, hot chocolate (or mulled wine J), and office Christmas parties… for many this is a time of stress linked to the need (social pressure?) and want to buy things. People are currently caught in economic and cultural systems that make shopping for new things an indispensable part of the Holiday season. You consume; hence you exist! We have literally constructed and set out our own consumption traps with very little personal control over them and are justifying it with the need to continually purchase to ensure the survival of our current economic system. Because what would our world look like if there would be no positive growth rates within our markets?! Well…maybe there would be less natural raw material extraction, less biodiversity loss, less pollution, even lower rates of climate change, and in so a happier society?
Yes, yes to all of the above! We think that reducing overconsumption would have a positive impact on all aspects of our livelihood. Let’s break things down a bit.
Just think, nothing just magically appears from thin air…Each purchase that you make from the store (retail or e-com) relies on the input of natural resources, which are extracted from the environment and often processed or manufactured to form the final products and services that we produce and consume. This includes everything, like farming that produces our food and drinks, clothes that we wear, and mining that provides us with materials, like minerals and metals, that are used to create jewelry and electronics. And these would be and could be all sustainable practices but…Unfortunately, the number of materials used in production and consumption continues to rise at the global level. The rate at which materials are being extracted globally is outpacing both - population and economic growth, meaning we are using more but much less efficiently, because we always want more, and we want it new! Such unsustainable consumption and production practices not only deplete natural resources but also cause negative environmental impacts as a result of processing, manufacturing, consumption, and waste disposal at every stage of a product lifecycle. Hence, by buying yet another gift, you indirectly impact every aspect of this product’s value chain.
Important to repeat that one of the most well-known environmental impacts of unsustainable production and consumption is climate change. And no, the impact does not only come from the necessary disposal and treatment of waste, but the primary impact comes from burning fossil fuels to create the energy that powers economic activity that creates the stuff. And…in addition to energy, climate change is also caused by the extraction and production of certain materials, which can release greenhouse gases as a result of, for example, material chemical processing, use of fertilizers, use of livestock, and/or clearing of forests that capture CO2 from the atmosphere.
One key way to combat overconsumption during holidays, and especially during Christmas, is to buy products with longevity in mind. Try to avoid trends and the newest “must-have” items but aim to shop with a purpose, potentially repurpose, and always aim to buy something that will last and be of use for many years to come, be it a new or a second-hand product. In doing so, you can noticeably reduce natural resource consumption, waste streams, and lower the rates of pollution from all of the bad-quality stuff that would otherwise end up in landfills…
From a more societal perspective now - research shows that current levels of consumption do not make people much happier than, for example, the people were in the 1950s! In fact, most articles state that current levels of consumption make people feel more stressed out and anxious in comparison to what was 70 years ago… When you think about it, don’t you agree that we live in our own world of assumptions about how much we need? For example, companies quite often say that they only produce and sell what the public demands. When talking to family and friends, don’t they often say that they buy only the stuff that the other needs? But do we all need what we or others think we need? Isn’t it all more based on somewhat deeper psychological aspects of our desire to belong? To elevate our feeling of self-esteem and external validation?
Changing our habits is definitely a daunting task…however, we suggest starting with a conversation! Be it at home, at the office, or at a friends’ gathering, we invite you to be just a little courageous and suggest discussing other ways of celebrating and showing your love and affection to people rather than just by giving purchased gifts. Because it only takes a bit of inspiration and leadership on one topic to make it go viral! #sustainableholidays
Soundtrack suggestion of the week: instead of humming Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is You’, you are humming ‘All I want for Christmas is a lower rate of consumption’!