4 for Now
Originally observed in January, the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth (actual date unknown) was moved to December 25th. The theory (which, considering Christians’ known penchant for appropriating holidays, is probably accurate) is that it coincided with a major pagan festival known as Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birth of the Invincible Sun).
It’s a religious celebration. Yet, in a country that still pretends it separates church from state, it has become an uncontrollable perversion. Starting ever earlier in the year (in 2021, I saw commercials starting November 1st), it has mutated into a consumerism-driven free-for-all.
To each their own. If someone wants to waste their hard-earned money on disposable (and often unwanted) souvenirs of capitalism instead of developing healthy relationships with the people they care about, that’s their right. (Judging them for taking part in the oppression of the working class and in the destruction of the planet is my right.)
How Christmas is Killing the Planet
Christmas is celebrated all over the world. Across the board, consumerism increases during this season. (There are other religious holidays during this time that may contribute, but Christmas is uniquely consumption-driven.) This results in many horrifying statistics. (Most of these are UK-centered because I couldn’t find many Christmas-related environmental stats for the US.)
- Research from the UK suggests that during the Christmas season, each person produces an additional 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2). (That’s, like, three extra weeks of driving.)
- Also in the UK, an estimated 4.2 million plates of turkeys and trimmings get thrown out each year. (Considering the US is the world leader in food waste, I don’t expect our numbers are smaller.)
- Driving from Boston to Manhattan (about 212 miles) uses about 16 gallons of gas, on average. That’s about 287 pounds of CO2. One way. (This data translated from UK stats and calculated by CarbonFootprint.com.) Not everyone may travel this far, but long-distance drives are on the rise.
- In the US, we throw away 25% more trash during the winter holiday season than any other time of year.
It’s hard to think in terms of pounds of CO2 or percentage of consumption sometimes, so I’ll put it another way: continuing these habits leads to …
- More reindeer dying.
- Fewer, sparser Christmas trees.
- Higher prices for hot cocoa (and chocolate in general).
- Less maple syrup.
I’m not advocating to get rid of Christmas. (Calm down, reactionaries.) I’m just advocating giving a damn about our choices. (And keeping Christmas confined to the end of December. Alternatively, allowing Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Soyal, and other December holidays the same space for celebration.)
4 for Later (How to Stop It)
- If you get a real tree, dispose of it properly (replant, mulch, or burn). If you have an artificial tree, keep using it for at least a decade to match the carbon footprint of a properly disposed-of real tree.
- Reuse wrapping paper and gift bags, use recyclable/reusable wrapping (like newpaper or cloth), or don’t wrap your gifts at all. Here are more cool gift wrapping ideas from Greenpeace.
- Be more conscious of your food choices. Don’t over-buy food, use reusable plates and cloth napkins, and reduce how much meat is part of the meal.
- Focus on meaningful gifts or quality gifts that can be repaired if broken (as highlighted in this book excerpt). Avoid fast fashion and plastic toys. Try to avoid buying things that have unnecessary packaging (especially if it’s plastic).