Christmas has been called the “world’s greatest annual environmental disaster”. The period from November until January typically sees a series of spikes in consumer spending, from Black Friday (originally a US phenomenon, now increasingly observed in EU countries) to the January sales. The biggest spike is usually around Christmas, when Europeans stock up on consumer goods and food for the holiday. Consumerism has always driven our holiday traditions, and many businesses rely on Christmas sales.
Environmental groups have long warned against overconsumption during the holiday season. Many Europeans fly home to be with family, before putting up Christmas trees (which they throw out in January), consuming Christmas poultry and livestock en masse, and throwing out mountains of food waste. How can we reduce the environmental footprint of Christmas? What’s the best way to balance the social need to enjoy ourselves with friends and family, the economic needs of businesses to make profits, and the environmental limits of the planet? What would a sustainable Christmas look like?
In the video at the top of this post, we put some of your comments on this topic to Jen Gale, author of The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide, and Valérie Swaen, Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at UCLouvain.
First, they respond to a comment from M. points out that most European countries “celebrate Christmas with lights on in the streets, Christmas trees, etc.”. In some ways, Christmas is a celebration of light and plenty during winter, a time of darkness and scarcity. Can we make the celebration more sustainable while still keeping the essence of the festive season?
Food is an important part of Christmas, and our experts also react to a comment Smartness, who argues we can make the holidays more sustainable by “doing more things locally”, from the sprouts on our Christmas dinner tables to the turkeys.
Finally, Christmas is also a time when, traditionally, many people travel home to be with their families. Jack told us he has missed Christmas in the past, and he looked forward to being with his family. How can we make our travel as sustainable as possible?
Want to learn more about Christmas and sustainability? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
Do you want to get involved? Sign up to the European Climate Pact and pledge to take practical steps to help reduce carbon pollution on our planet.
How can you have a sustainable Christmas? Can we make the holidays more sustainable by “doing more things locally”, from the sprouts on our Christmas dinner tables to the turkeys? How can we make our travel as sustainable as possible? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
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