Christmas for many is a glorious time of the year to exchange gifts, relax, eat and have fun with those closest to you. We've had centuries to practice Christmas holidays, and with each year that goes by, we've become excellent at consuming more and more.
A study by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia revealed that Aussie's spend around 11 billion on Christmas gifts each year! This doesn't include the food preparation, trees, decorations and everything else that comes with Christmas spending.
It's clear that we're passionate about having a good time over Christmas. But at what cost? Here are some alarming statistics curated by National Storage:
These numbers do not include all of the animals consumed at this time of the year—but it paints a significant picture of the impact of our excessive consumption habits at Christmas.
Not all hope is gone though. It's never been easier to create a Christmas experience that limits the harm on animals and our environment. If you're reading this blog, it's likely that you've already bought into the idea of a cruelty-free and waste-free Christmas. But your challenge remains to get your loved ones involved. Let's look at some approaches you can implement to introduce a sustainable Christmas this year.
Before we jump ahead to the tangible tips and tricks for a sustainable Christmas, we need to start with perhaps the most critical step, resetting expectations with your loved ones.
Christmas is so special because it's an experience we share with those closest to us. And if you run off and implement a cruelty-free Christmas without bringing them along on your journey, you risk dampening their experience. People naturally resist change, especially if they don't see a reason to change. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
The goal of your conversations is not to force your values onto others. This is rarely an effective way to communicate. Instead, lead by example and bring something unique to your family Christmas.
The first step is to have the conversation as early as possible, preferably at least three months before Christmas. Keep in mind that many families plan Christmas holidays well in advance so getting to them soon, shows that you're considerate.
In your communication, tell your loved ones that you want to try something different this year. Waste is something humans universally align with, so perhaps lead with that element as opposed to the vegan side. Also, your family already knows your vegan, so there's no need to drive it too hard.
Show humility and ask for others advice and input. Ask questions like "do you have any ideas of how we could introduce less waste to Christmas this year?" Make it clear that you value their opinion.
If it's too much for others to process, that's fine. At least you've opened up the dialogue and have planted the seed. Below are some different approaches to bring a cruelty-free and waste-free Christmas to your family.
When people ask you what you want for Christmas, treat it as an opportunity to represent your values. Reiterate that you don't want to create waste this Christmas and that you'd prefer to have memorable experiences as opposed to material possessions.
Maybe you and your partner could use the money that you'd typically spend on gifts to each other, on a nice dinner out, or a weekend away together.
Or maybe you could pull all of the family Christmas money together and replace physical gifts with a big family holiday together.
If your family is still interested in physical gifts, you could ask them if they'd be open to an ethically made version of what they want. For example, instead of buying your mum a leather handbag, you could offer to buy her a high-quality cruelty-free handbag instead.
Always ensure you ask for permission before taking action. Otherwise, you may come across like you're forcing your values onto others, which will do more damage than good.
Again if they're not open this time around, don't take it personally. Be proud that you've introduced some new ethical brands that they didn't know existed before.
When introducing new concepts to your family, you need to take away as much friction as possible. If there are too many steps involved, it makes people uncomfortable, overwhelmed thus unmotivated to make a change. When it comes to wrapping presents, it's more convenient for us to buy packaging then trying to find sustainable options.
If that's the case, take the initiative to find all of the used newspapers, magazines, clothing, old wrapping paper across all of the family households, and create a centralised sustainable wrapping box for the family to access.
By creating this resource, you're effectively making recycled packaging accessible and easy for people to use. Taking such an initiative will also provide some inspiration to your family as it shows that you mean business, hopefully setting a precedent for future years.
If your system picks up momentum, you’ll start to see other family members want to be involved in finding old materials to use for wrapping. This is when you know you've created a little movement in your household.
Christmas is a time to indulge in your favourite foods. Unfortunately, this often involves the death of billions of animals to satisfy our tastes.
Continuing with the theme of inspiring versus preaching, take it upon yourself to create an incredible Christmas themed vegan menu.
Plan a main, dessert, drinks, and sides. Treat your menu as a product you're trying to market for your Christmas family event.
Share your menu in advance with your friends and family and ask for their input. This will help to create some excitement around your food. Better yet, see if you can recruit some helpers to cook the food on the menu, building collective ownership of the vegan menu in your house.
When you're shopping for ingredients, try to stick to farmers markets and bulk foods stores to not only increase the quality of produce but to also limit your waste.
Create a household hashtag #wastefreechristmas, and actively capture photos of the waste on the day. This will become a reference point for future holidays and another way to engage your family with your values, without being too pushy.
Make an effort to capture what went into your compost, how many soft-plastics you used, what packaging could be used again, and of course, what went directly into waste.
Hopefully, by doing this exercise, it will motivate you and your family to look at ways at making leftovers from your food, to take care when unpacking presents to preserve the wrapping materials, and to encourage more creativity when it comes to creating experiences as opposed to buying each other material possessions.
Introducing your cruelty-free and waste-free values to your family is hard work. To get the most cut through, it's more about doing and asking than it is about telling and preaching. It's through your action and positive energy that you'll get even the most stubborn relatives onboard with recognising the impact of their consumption habits at Christmas time.
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