Over-consumption during Christmas - a justification and a suggestion

by Dung Nguyen (Julie) from Energise Cambridge

For me the problem of overconsumption during Christmas is not impossible to justify. True, people will be buying lots of things they do not really need, and children will be having yet another set of gifts, ranging from Xbox about 2 years ago to probably a junior iPad now. However Christmas is also a critical point for business growth across many industries, and without the increase in consumption, most of us students will not be able to have a part time job as part of our CVs. Material excess is also a behavioural issue: research shows that current levels of consumption do not make people much happier than they were in the 1950s, but people are caught in cultural and economic systems that make it important to consume.


However, there have been improvements. A slowdown in the economy has made families more aware of their budget and encouraged them to cut off unnecessary spending. An article on said that 1/3 of Britons planned to spend less during Christmas 2011. They were also aware what they bought would impact the economy; therefore there was increasing spending in local products. Also with a more limited budget, more thoughts and effort have been put to choosing the right gifts. 81% of people believe it is the thought that counts and 76% of people put a lot of thought what the recipient would like. So while financial pressures may mean spending less it also fundamentally enhances emotional wellbeing through increased consideration and perception of effort. This represents new commercial opportunities around developing more fulfilling experiences as gifts that promote social cohesion, rather than over-consumption of product.

Therefore, in my opinion, it is a responsibility and a challenge for firms to promote a Christmas without over consumption. It is not necessarily the consumers' fault for helping businesses grow. So comes the matter of carbon cost: consumers will purchase more, but it should be the firms, who provide recyclable bags, promote online deliveries and gifting services to reduce the number of shopping trips. If local shops are able to attract more residents, miles of car trips (and therefore lots of petrol or fuel) would be saved by not having to go to Tesco Extra. To sum up, Christmas can be both traditional and sustainable if retail companies aim to produce and sell meaningful products in a low carbon cost way.