Is a different Christmas story emerging? Perhaps one that may also have lasting positive impacts?
We all know the story of Christmas this year will be very different – no big family gatherings, no office parties and no popping into the neighbours for mulled wine and a mince pie! Yes, we’ll all be missing out on kissing under the mistletoe and we are even being discouraged from giving grandma a hug! But a different Christmas story is also emerging.
As stories of sadness and uncertainty keep pouring in through newspapers and the television, another good-news story has been unfolding which very rarely hits the headlines: There is a growing awareness that excessive material consumption, which has found its way to the very heart of Christmas, is destroying the natural environment, plays an enormous part in climate change, and isn’t very good for our mental health either!
Once I started looking to see if my latest ‘good news’ story is really worth telling, evidence came rolling in …
1) Ethical consumption has increased alongside ethical investment and an increasing number of people are wanting to know how the goods they buy are produced. Rob Harrison, co-founder of Ethical Consumer, in an interview with the president of the Japan Ethical Initiative, says that there has been a big growth in ethical consumption since the pandemic started.
‘We’ve seen a huge increase in interest in ethical consumption over the last few years and even this year we’ve seen more demand than ever before which wasn’t expected in the current climate!’
The Ethical Consumer magazine is well worth subscribing to because it rates a wide range of businesses on their ethics: How they treat workers, environmental impact, testing on animals and lots more …
2) Black Friday saw groups of people taking to the streets to protest against excessive material consumption. Fast fashion is increasingly being recognised as a major environmental pollutant and contributes almost 10% of carbon emissions. Pretty Little Things selling shoes for as little as 25p and dresses for 8p brought outrage and protests against low priced fast fashion.
3) Boycott Amazon was a major feature of Black Friday, with Southend XR protesting in Southend High Street as well as at the airport and at the Amazon warehouse in Basildon. Although most of us love ordering goods online, the environmental cost of home deliveries is high and the message is clear: Shopping locally is better for the environment
4) Alongside Boycott Amazon is the movement away from globalisation towards localisation which has seen a growth in the number of people supporting local shops and businesses. Local Futures is an organisation which has been working for more than four decades to promote a shift in direction – away from dependence on global monopolies, and towards decentralized local and regional economies.
5) As long ago as 1992 a group of people in Canada felt so very strongly that we must resist the allure of excessive shopping that they set up the annual Buy Nothing Day, a worldwide movement against consumerism which urges the world to change their purchasing habits, to consume and produce less. Lots of creative ideas are aimed to encourage us to re-think our relationship with material stuff – a public cutting up of credit cards, sit-ins in public spaces with banners exalting people to ‘buy nothing’.
6) Giving a loved one an ‘experience’ such as a beauty pamper, a massage or a fitness/exercise session could be another way of giving in a less environmentally damaging way. You could find just what you are looking for in the Healthy Life Essex directories
An increasing number of people, seeing through the delusion that a gift at Christmas has to be wrapped, are taking up one of the many offers to: ‘ Sponsor a bookshelf’ at the Gladstone Library in North Wales; ‘Adopt a Polar Bear’ through the World Wildlife Fund; or make a gift of a cow, pig or chickens to a family in an undeveloped country. There are lots of options available at national and local levels.
If none of those appeals to you but you’d still like to give a loved-one an ‘unwrap able’ present, there are a number of local charities which would welcome a donation. Growing in popularity is the charity fund-raiser Just Giving. With charities facing an estimated £10bn funding gap due to Covid, there’s never been a more important time to give back. Many people are choosing not to buy Christmas presents this year and make a donation to a local charity instead, either direct or via one of these platforms.
Today (1st December) is Giving Tuesday. The website gives loads of ideas on how individuals can get involved in supporting charities and, of course, you don’t need to limit your giving to this one particular day.
Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a very similar article for Healthy Life Essex: A Happier, Greener Christmas. Let’s hope that this year there really is a different Christmas story with lasting, positive impacts.
For a discussion of how my study of sociology – a lifetime ago! – helped me to see that we grow up believing and hardly questioning that a life of excessive material consumption (often referred to as the ‘American Dream’) is THE way to live a successful life, you may like to read The Chains Inside Our Head (September 2018.)