‘Tis the season to be merry… or is it?

Admittedly, it is said that joyfulness doesn’t come naturally to many Berliners, however, the ever tightening spiral of consumerism (perceived or otherwise) seems to have gripped everyone, in Berlin and elsewhere, not least thanks to Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend/week/month… adding to the cacophony of “buy here, buy there, it’s nearly Christmas, buy, buy, buy!”

Mannequins in a shop window with discount stickers overlaid on the image.

How can anyone not be stressed out by all this demand for attention? Few and far between are the smaller businesses that fight back by carrying on as normal without special deals, close for the day or disable the shop on their website to take a stance. In Paris, people were trying to block access to shopping centres, objecting to the frenzy that ensues in their streets thanks to an American tradition. In the UK it is the Boxing Day sales on 26 December bringing everyone to their feet to queue from 5am to spend either money or vouchers received as gifts over the festive period. Now the elbows come out a month early, to wrestle for what is the perceived best deal on a desirable object. But, what for?

Does everyone really need all those electrical goods, clothes, toys etc advertised right at this moment? Or is it marketing at its best, conjuring up ideas of a better world, if only a particular item could be obtained at a discount?

“The folly of endless consumerism sends us on a wild goose-chase for happiness through materialism.” – Bryant H. McGill

We live in complicated times, not least because the demand on our time has become greater from all sides. So the simple pleasure of purchasing a desired item can make us happy. It is the immediate gratification that we know so well from our childhood.

Father Christmas holding a list talking to a young boy in a beanie hat.

However, as everyone will have realised by now, it never lasts long, because:

“Consumers are characterized by a constant dissatisfaction with material goods. This dissatisfaction is what produces the restless pursuit of satisfaction in the form of something new.” – William T. Cavanaugh

Isn’t it time in the era of Fridays for Future, in the face of a Climate Crisis, to do things differently? If so much of what is being consumed and disposed of quickly and without care causes a crisis in the world that threatens our mere existence on this planet, isn’t it high time everyone took stock and chose a different route?

“Lots of little people in lots of little places, who take many small steps, can change the face of the world.” – African Proverb

As Peter Fox from the German band Seeed suggested at Fridays for Future on 29 November 2019 in Berlin “Let’s start at home and check our lifestyle. Change has to come from the top as well as the base.” So this year, would it be so bad to reduce the amount of presents we give, choosing carefully and maybe dare to give something preloved, wrapped in materials such as old fabric, drawings/paintings from children (or adults!), out of date road or walking maps with a ribbon that is pretty, but has been and can be used many more times?

A shop window decorated with lots of lights and a Christmas tree.

Support local shops if it has to be something new, (how else is that toy shop or book shop still going to be there next year?) and feel how satisfying it is to bring home the item. Make time for a conversation at the till or if you meet someone you know, rather than rushing around in a frenzy. Re-visit EnviroSustain’s “10 Steps to a Sustainable Christmas” for more inspiration (but beware of the Bamboo Cup, sadly it has been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals).

If it isn’t possible to find what you are looking for in your local area, check out websites offering a platform for small businesses and makers such as Etsy, who also offset carbon emissions from every delivery. While you’re looking up gifts, change your search engine to Ecosia and help plant trees while online.

A plate of festive biscuits dusted with sugar and a pot of jam on the plate.

If you are feeling creative yourself, why not make something? Bake, craft and enjoy the process, the inspiration online is endless. Surely the supply of empty jars destined for recycling can be put to good use and filled with homemade biscuits, chocolates, condiments… Put on your pinny, listen to your favourite music and enjoy the process. After all, isn’t it time to do the things that we miss most? This year, let’s make time for each other, a good meal, a book, a chat, not just on 24th or 25th of December, but before.

Two smiling women leaning back-to-back while reading books on a rock in the snow.

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” – Vivienne Westwood

…and above all, respect each other and each other’s time, and enjoy it with friends, family and/or colleagues. Consider giving to a charity instead of sending Christmas cards or as a gift – a toilet twinned with another one in Africa, a goat (both Oxfam) or a tree in the name of a loved one (Stadtbaum campaign, Treedom, Woodland Trust), the opportunities whether at home or away are endless and can also provide a great topic for conversation on the day.

Look outwards, look inwards, if you can change one thing this Christmas, do it now!

Wishing everyone a restful, loving and kind Christmas time and a joyful New Year! With love, from everyone at EnviroSustain!

Further Reading

“10 Steps to a Sustainable Christmas” – by Marc O’Malley, EnviroSustain


Quotes: https://ecowarriorprincess.net/2019/11/materialism-consumerism-quotes-black-friday-cyber-monday/

Bamboo Cup: https://www.test.de/Bambusbecher-im-Test-Die-meisten-setzen-hohe-Mengen-an-Schadstoffen-frei-5496265-0/