“Excessive choice is sold to us as happiness.” In the Blindboy Podcast (episode 99), he brilliantly describes flicking through the pages of an Argos catalogue as a nine-year-old, and the hours of entertainment he got from examining different types of gazebos, power hoses and kitchen bins. “So the big expensive bin is the baddie, and that baddie bin is battling with the more humble bins. For supremacy.”
From a very young age, Blindboy argues, we are conditioned to believe that happiness comes from buying things. And this causes huge, unnecessary waste. “An environmentally friendly future… means truly addressing and critiquing the frivolities of consumerism.”
For a lot of us, Christmas is one giant spending spree. We’ve been giving and consuming this way, at this time of the year, for most of our lives so it can be hard to do things differently. But having a more environmentally-conscious Christmas can be enriching, and help put the emphasis back on what really matters.
If you’re doing some last-minute shopping over the next few days, try not to go into panic-buying mode. This usually ends up being the most wasteful kind of purchasing – from gifts to groceries. Instead of buying more stuff that you – or your friends and family – probably don’t need, consider alternatives such as a dinner out, a quiet pint, or just making the effort to spend time together.
Try to shop locally, support Irish brands and go smaller and more thoughtful with presents. Even better, go green in your giving – there are plenty of options (see our recent issue at irishtimes.com for 50 green Christmas ideas) – or give to a charity. You can make an online donation to Focus Ireland or Simon, or many of the other organisations who are helping homeless families in Ireland. Or you can donate to families in countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Trócaire, for example, will provide a solar lamp or seeds and tools for a family in the Democratic Republic of Congo for just €15.
It’s good to talk to children about the connection between what we buy and the environment. And to demonstrate alternatives that you’re bringing into the home, such as using less wrapping paper, getting smaller gifts – or none at all – for adults. We’re all struggling to get our heads around the big themes of climate change, so nourishing their interest in the natural world – and making sure they get time in it over the break – is a great way to keep it positive too.
If there’s one thing you can do for the environment this Christmas, it’s making the very simple effort of trying to buy less. Less. Less. Less.