If your mom’s anything like mine, she’s already asked you to assemble a detailed Christmas list to avoid the awkwardness of opening up a carefully-wrapped present on Christmas morning that you don’t want.
However, this year, as I prepared to send my Mom links to some red yoga pants and Hailey Bieber’s skincare line, I felt conflicted. I couldn’t stop thinking about the environment and the mass amounts of consumption that occur during the holiday season. As much as I wanted dewy skin and some new clothes, I started to feel bad about the impact that these purchases would have on the planet.
I grew up associating Christmas with gift-giving and was taught that it was a time to ask for things that I wanted but didn’t need. I love getting gifts as much as the next girl, but I think I’m ready to shift the way I view the holidays. While I still plan on participating in consumer culture this holiday season, I plan to do so with the environment in mind. I invite you to do the same.
We are never going to reach a point of zero consumption. We’re also never going to reach a point where this consumption doesn’t drastically increase during the holidays because of the consumer culture in America. But there are many ways you can be an eco-conscious consumer. This holiday season is the perfect time to start.
When compiling your Christmas list (and checking it twice), try to limit the number of things you’re asking for. While everyone deserves a little something special, there’s no need for a list as long as a CVS receipt.
It’s extremely important to consider where you’re buying things from. Shopping secondhand and from sustainable brands is easier than ever, so there’s really no excuse to support fast fashion and companies that use unethical practices. Clothing brands like Patagonia and Reformation are committed to mitigating the effects of climate change and using sustainable materials.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Gail Carlson said, “I know a lot of you are interested in sustainable fashion and textiles, so you can certainly be thinking about things like that. There’s a life cycle and a production chain for things like clothing where you can look and see if it was sustainably made if it’s a woman-owned business, a business where workers are treated fairly, a business where they’re using more sustainable materials.”
Another way to be an eco-conscious consumer is to limit the amount of online shopping you do. While it’s extremely convenient, the transportation and energy required to ship products are insane. If you plan on doing most of your holiday shopping online, consider starting early. This alleviates the need for expedited shipping, which uses more energy and increases the likelihood that items can be packaged together if they’re coming from the same store.
According to Carlson, plastic is one of the materials that is especially overconsumed during the holidays. If you have kids, you buy them extraordinary amounts of plastic. We don’t tend to think that’s bad. Do they really need that new Lego set? Everything’s plastic. Fleece? That’s plastic. Spandex? That’s plastic.”
“I feel like if a family was like ‘You know what? This Christmas, let’s focus on plastic. Let’s try to minimize our plastic’ that would go a long way and it would be a good start,” Carlson said.
Another material that is a major source of waste during the holidays is wrapping paper. According to The New York Times, it’s estimated that there is a 25 percent increase in waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Easy (and less expensive) alternatives to wrapping paper are reusable gift bags and newspapers.
It can be overwhelming to think about all of the things that you need to consider to reduce the effects of your consumption. No one wants to have to research a company to determine whether or not they should purchase something from them. And you shouldn’t have to do this. But it’s so important that you do.
I don’t know anyone that dislikes receiving gifts — it’s a love language. The holidays are such a magical time of year and gift-giving is a large part of that. I’m not trying to cancel Christmas or give you an excuse not to get your significant other a present. But please be mindful of what and how much you consume this holiday season. If it could, the planet would plead with you too.
~ Claire Campbell `26