Christmas is ruining our planet: Why we need to stop buying things 

My brother recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year. “Do you still need an air fryer?”, he wanted to know.  

I gave it some thought. A device that can turn virtually anything into crispy, golden deliciousness sounded tempting.

But as I was thinking this, I knew I did not need one. So I told him, no.  

“Having is better than wanting,” he joked. And it made me think: is it really? 

The fact is that many of us have more things than we could ever need or make use of. We consume as though we live on a planet of limitless resources but somehow we are still left wanting more.  

This year, Earth Overshoot Day came on August 2. It is calculated as the day by which “a year’s supply of nature” is used up and for the rest of the year we are effectively stealing resources from future generations. But we have not stopped consuming, have we? With Christmas still a couple of weeks away, we are just getting started. 

A line of people queuing in front of Harrods department store during the Christmas period.
Shoppers queuing outside Harrods, London, on Boxing Day Sale, 2022. Credit: Alex Lentati/LNP/Shutterstock

We are in the middle of what the retail sector calls “the golden quarter”. The time leading up to Christmas when many retailers make the bulk of their yearly profits.  

This is no surprise, considering all the things we need to buy for a jolly Christmas: gifts for friends and family, a Christmas hat for the cat, gingerbread-themed onesies, sparkly wrapping paper, colour-changing fairy lights, more Christmas decorations, at least one ugly Christmas jumper, and, of course, a Christmas tree. 

And then there are all the things we did not know we needed before we saw that Black Friday offer that was just too good to ignore (probably an air fryer).  

It is tempting to give each other nice things or treat ourselves at this (or any) time of the year. I get it. I love gifts. We all do. 

But sadly the giving season has become, above all, a wasteful season. 

A woman with long blonde hair in front of a shop window. She has her back to us and is looking at the shop behind her. Inside are mannequins and grey letters on the window read: “Black Friday, 30% off everything”
Many retailers rely on the “golden quarter” for the bulk of their yearly profits. Credit: Alex Lentati / LNP / Shutterstock

Many gifts and other goods purchased in the run-up to Christmas end up in landfills soon after. According to an Oxfam survey, almost half of us receive between one and five unwanted gifts over the Christmas period. While some of them are handed back or given to charity, many are put away and forgotten or even chucked away. 

And it is not just unwanted gifts that end up in landfills. It is also an abysmal amount of food waste (the equivalent of 42 million Christmas dishes in the UK) as well as unimaginable amounts of packaging, 125,000 tons of which is plastic waste alone. 

It almost sounds like we are living beyond our means, doesn’t it? 

That is because we are. Already in 1998, WWF reported that the earth had lost more than 30% of its natural wealth. 

According to The World Counts, we are currently consuming as though we have 1.5 planet Earths and, at this rate of consumption, we would need two planets to keep up with our demand by 2030. 

But, The World Counts reminds us: we only have one planet Earth. 

A photo of piles of rubbish and cardboard boxes outside homes after Christmas.
Christmas rubbish on the streets of Essex, 2022. Credit: Andrew Parsons / Shutterstock

It is a hard pill to swallow but we live on a planet of limited resources and it is time we start acting like it. 

The climate crisis is a systemic problem that needs systemic solutions at a government level but it is equally important we start to reduce our individual footprints, too.  

There is simply no good reason to keep doing Christmas (and life) the way we are right now.  

Changing our behaviour might be scary and uncomfortable, but it will not be as scary and uncomfortable as dying of heatstroke or hunger, in wildfires, floods or war caused by global warming.  

The good thing is we are all part of the system and have the opportunity to make a positive change, however small. We all have it within us to start stopping now.  

Christmas will come and go this year and despite my love for fried food, I know I will not be any less happy without that air fryer.

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Reporter for the Kingston Courier

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