Waste, Christmas Presents, and some Ideas

by Markus Anderljung

Opening my presents was the pinnacle of my childhood Christmases. It was a moment of great excitement, but also of a lot of disappointed; I'd be really excited about another set of Pokemon cards, but was given a set of Digimon cards (where did they even find those?!). Obviously I couldn’t use these cards and they never were. Rummaging through my closet now I find many examples of the same thing having happened: unwanted knitted jumpers, dolls and much more, just lying there after having been used tops once. What a waste... This is not just a waste of money, but more than that, it's a waste of resources. Before that present made it to the shelf, it had traversed the earth, causing great carbon emissions during production and packaging. And all this for what? For being used once and then forgotten in the depths of a little kid's wardrobe.

Photo courtesy of Tara McKelvey.

The problem here is that the gift-giver doesn't know what you really want, and so it's likely they'll buy you things you don't want. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be too much of a problem. Had you bought it yourself you could return it to the store, sell it to someone else or even give it to someone else. You can't do this with gifts. If you get a gift you don't want, you have no choice but to store it in a closet and take that horrid paper-mache sculpture your aunt gave you every time she comes to visit. A huge waste!

I don't mean to come off as too much of an unsentimental brute. Of course there is value in giving gifts; it's an act of love and kindness. But during Christmas, gifts are often given out of compulsion; you're supposed to give each other gifts on Christmas and so it is not as much an act of kindness and not as appreciated as if out of the blue. And so a great number of gifts turn out to be wasteful.

So what do we do? First of all we should change the expectations around gift- giving on Christmas. If you talk to your family and establish you will only buy one gift each (which we’ve decided to do in my family), or that you'll only buy gifts second hand, there will be no pressure to buy gifts they will end up not wanting or gifts that have a big environmental impast. In addition, make sure that you get the person something you’re sure they want. Really put some effort into it so that the gift does not end up being a waste of your money and the environment’s resources. Oh and if you really have no idea to get someone and you really must get them a gift, get them a gift card or the like; yes, it's boring, but then you are sure that the present will cash out in something they want. This Christmas, let's not be so wasteful and thoughtless with out gifts!

Transition Cambridge have got a great wiki of 'Christmas Gifts that don't cost the Earth' ideas HERE.

Cambridge Carbon Footprint are having 'A Low-Carbon Christmas' - Tuesday 04 December, 17:00-20:00, Ross Street Community Centre. More information HERE.