Did you know an average UK family spends 800 £ extra during Christmas and buys an average 17 gifts from Amazon? The wonderful Guardian article Dreaming of a green Christmas? Here’s how to make it come true from Rebecca Smithers highlights the vast environmental impact of the season, advising to switch from plastic goods and glittery decorations to organic or homemade alternatives and other ethical presents. Amongst other common sense suggestions she also gives hints how to keep an eye out for non-plastic packaging, recycle and avoid food waste.
The picture is not much different elsewhere in Europe, although the overall expenditure is less – in Central Europe maybe half of what Britons spend and in Eastern Europe even one fourth. But whatever the budget, what really matters is what it is spent for and how. Amazon gift may only be a click away, but sending millions of packages across the world will have huge impact on this season. Goods put together from cheap materials in China may be eye catching, but almost always contain plastic and breakable parts, and most Christmas decorations look hazardous (and probably are).
I think one of the issues with having sustainable Christmas is many people think eco friendly also means ‘dull’. The wooden toys do not bling or sound like electronic ones, the books are not as exciting as video games, the artisan gift may not have the novelty of new gadget. But in time the value of ‘boring’ gifts will definitely grow. The plastic toy will break in few months, but the wooden one may last a lifetime, video game gets outdated, but a good book will be on a shelf for years, mobile device is good for couple of years, whereas craftwork will stay valuable forever.
It does feel that even if you can avoid plastic by choosing eco friendly gifts the excess food packaging is inevitable and there is no way around it. However with some planning you can at least reduce the impact to the environment by baking your own bread and pastries, avoiding ready meals and cooking root vegetables instead and even making your own sweets. Most vegetables and fruit can be bought without packaging and oranges and apples look great on Christmas table. Nuts and berries are very seasonal too and some shops sell them without packaging (bring your own container).
Spoilt in our expectations for the season it takes time to revert back to appreciating simple consumer choices again, but if we are not cutting back from Christmas extravaganza, we are going to face many problems ahead. Having more each year is definitely worse for the planet and it’s doubtful, if it even brings us more joy. Can you remember when you last got something you really valued and cherished? Only those knowing you best can make gifts that matter. Why don’t we then only give gifts to closest around us and do something seasonal with others instead?
My independent illustrator budget for Christmas this year is small and definitely not going to feed the giant Amazon machine. Instead I am getting few gifts from Christmas fairs and supporting local makers, having a go making my own decorations and browsing some of my favourite book shops… Even if the Christmas is on budget, the gifts will last.
Have a very good, down to earth Christmas everyone!