So Christmas is officially just around the corner – the Coca-Cola ad is back, lights are twinkling from porches and I can just about trace the outline of a Christmas tree through my neighbour’s living room window. Now, whilst I whole-heartedly welcome the opportunity to celebrate together after what’s been a total sh*t storm of a year, I have to admit there is something about this season that doesn’t fill me with joy.
You’ve probably heard it before, but here’s a little reminder that in July 2019 we used the global annual allowance of our planet’s natural resources over 5 months early – the earliest it’s ever been before. On top of this, our waste levels increase by up to 30% at Christmas time. And yet – year after year we increasingly indulge in mind-blowing levels of consumerism. What was originally a time for family, with a few gifts thrown in for the kids, has now become a commercialised circus – including obligatory Christmas bed linen and seasonal family pyjama sets, secret Santas left, right and centre, festive gifts for your pets… the list goes on. And unless you’ve had blinkers on for the past 20 years, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Festive consumerism – it’s getting me pissed!
Please, don’t get me wrong – believe me when I say I am no Grinch. I LOVE Christmas. And I love giving (okay and receiving) presents. But it’s the essence of these gifts that desperately needs addressing.
So where does booze fit into all this, I hear you say?
It would be nigh impossible to have avoided the sheer amount of alcohol-themed paraphernalia that’s seeped into the shops in recent years. Sober Girl Society Founder, Millie Gooch, often shares images of the endless products that have fallen victim to this crude marketing technique on her instagram page. Slogans such as ‘Prosecco made me do it’ and ‘Run? I thought you said rum’ are stamped across t-shirts, jumpers, make-up bags, gift cards, diaries and endless other items – firmly rooting booze into our Christmas gifts, even if not as a beverage. It’s really scary how desensitised we have become to it as a society, and despite the immediate issues these slogans pose – please turn to SGS for more – there is a huge environmental consequence of this too.
Branding a product in this way instantly transforms it into a novelty item, causing it to lose longevity. Please – take a moment to consider your own possessions. Now think of the items that have stood the test of time and you’ve honestly got lots of use out of. How many of those had a novelty slogan plastered across it? On the other hand, which t-shirts only got one or two wears before it ended up in the charity shop? And which mugs sit unused gathering dust in the back of the cupboard? It’s uncomfortable to realise it, especially when we’ve all been on both sides of gifts like these.
This throwaway culture becomes accelerated enormously during the festive season. The most angering part, is that the industry does it deliberately. GreenPeace charity talks about the implementation of a consumption model in the fashion industry that is very similar to that of single-use plastics:
‘The relentless insistence on novelty has created a constantly running conveyor belt producing items intended to be discarded after one or two uses, with the vast majority ending up in landfills or an incinerator. The [fast fashion] industry’s extraordinary wastefulness is at the centre of its problems.
In the last 15 years, production of clothing has doubled – and at the same time, between 2000 and 2015 the number of times a garment was worn before it was thrown out decreased by 36%. £140 million worth of clothing is sent to landfill every year in the UK, and more than half of clothing given to charity shops or textile recyclers ends up in landfills or is incinerated.’
Professional Organiser @DeclutterDollies recently shared her top 5 items that she clears from client houses, day after day. Unsurprisingly, novelty mugs and novelty glasses made the list.
For the Sober Girl Society followers – whether you’ve ditched the booze entirely or you’re sober-curious – no matter which bucket you fall in, I suspect during your Christmas shopping you’ve seen just how much stuff is besmeared with alcohol-related slogans in the shops. Whilst sobriety might motivate you to shop differently to avoid these products, how about together we go a step further? Not only can we refuse to buy products soaked in boozey marketing, but suppose we put a stop to buying ALL the crap novelty gifts that have throwaway connotations? Instead of giving more ‘stuff’ to people, let’s start thinking about the lifespan of these gifts and consider a sustainably sourced item, with a genuine intention for longevity.
Ok lecture over – but I hope it’s triggered a few thoughts, even if you do think I’m now the Grinch who stole Christmas.
[I’ll take it – he recycles at least].
Written by Shauna Jordan