There is so much to enjoy about this time. Time with family. Charity. Giving and sharing. A generally contagious spread of joy and cheer.
And there is the opposite side. Relentless consumerism.
For most people, the dread of christmas shopping is its ability to chew through spare time and chew through the wallet or purse.
But, as christmas presents become more and more sophisticated, and a santa sack is not big enough to contain all of Santa’s presents, the unforseen expense is the chewing through of resources in the production and transport of all these gifts.
I’m not old enough to tell stories of what it was like in the good ol’ days, when presents from santa consisted of a wood train made by a local craftsman, or other such stories.
But even a cursory investigation into the ever-expanding globalised world of trade will show the problems faced. When it makes sense (in terms of gross domestic product) for a company to source its materials in a country which is willing to provide the least resistance to the methods of extraction despite environmental concerns, ship the material to another country willing to allow its citizens to work for low wages and with little protection (nor appropriate environmental protections) and to then ship the product to numerous countries willing to reduce tariffs on imported goods for sale, it’s not hard to see how the increased demand for goods at this time of the year comes at a greater global expense than just your hard-earned.
This short analysis of globalised economies does not do justice to the intricacies of the current system, nor to all the costs associated with it.
Whilst products produced in an environmentally friendly way and with protection of workers in mind should be the popular choice in the purchase of new products, substituting goods for their more environmentally friendly alternative will create only small changes.
A change to lifestyles, not just at christmas but all year round, which reuses already manufactured products, and limits the attaining, or the desire to attain, newly manufactured products, must be the only way forward to overcome the environmental and social effects of the system we currently maintain.
Initiatives, such as Buy Nothing New Month and, more appropriate for this time of year, the Conservancy’s Green Gift Monday, are aimed at creating awareness and inspiring thoughtful consumerism. Avoiding unneccessary buying, choosing second-hand goods where possible or green alternatives where purchasing second-hand is not possible, provides a method that all people can use to improve their environmental footprint.
And, if you read testimonials from the people who have partaken in such challenges, the spare time and spare money resultant from these initiatives are great side-effects.
I encourage everyone to think about the energy input of each item they consider purchasing this christmas. Consider more carefully the people you are buying gifts for and whether there is a second-hand, even a collectible, gift that you could get them as a present. And show your support for the cause by signing the Conservancy’s Pledge to Give Green this Holiday Season.
Even substituting a few current shopping habits such as not buying things that aren’t needed, or looking for second-hand products instead of submitting to the ease of going to the shopping centre where something is needed but not needed urgently, if adopted by many people, will begin to change the current world trade system that is so detrimental to anything that does not contribute to the financial statements of the companies that produce all these products.