It seems as though Christmas ads have dominated the screens of uk televisions since they first popped up in our front rooms in the 1940s. But this year one Christmas advert sparked debate amongst eco warriors and regular shoppers alike. This year’s Iceland advert followed the story of a little girl with an orangutan in her bedroom. As the story unfolds the monkey explains to the girl that his own home has been destroyed by humans during deforestation. In short, it is about the destruction of the important ecosystems of rainforests in the wake of Palm Oil.
Although it has come to light that the advert was not banned for it’s message but it’s association with Greenpeace, it seems to have resonated with people, garnering over 65M views on social media. The reaction it provoked surely means that the public feel some passion for this issue; it draws attention to the topic of sustainability and suggests that people seem to have a genuine concern about environmental problems. However, the majority of the population don’t necessarily know which products to avoid, and which to give the green light. Unfortunately many people are surprised to find that most products at Christmas and ALL year round contain unsustainably sourced palm oil.
This is particularly poignant at Christmas because of the over consumption. One of the many things we think of as quintessentially ‘Christmas’ is chocolate, but unfortunately most of the chocolate available is made using unsustainable palm oil. How many Quality Streets are consumed during December in front of a Christmas special? Mini Cheddars? Mince pies? We are unintentionally adding to the problem that we have felt so compassionate about weeks before. A key reason for this epidemic of unsustainable products still being purchased appears to be a lack of awareness. How many people know what palm oil is? Let alone whether or not their food contains it.
Christmas is the season of major consumerism. Gift are given, wrapped and older versions are thrown out, so much food is wasted that over 4 million festive dinners are chucked straight in the bin! Regular rules on food consumption and the daily routine are also thrown in with them because “Hey, it’s Christmas!” One would think that traditions we have been repeating for years wouldn’t come into it, but this is a major problem, many of our most loved Christmas traditions produce a huge amount of waste. Despite my mum complaining annually “Nobody seems to send cards anymore!” I certainly don’t send as many as I used to when a simple text will suffice. Nearly 100 million Christmas cards were sold in 2017, and most aren’t even recycled, this shows the sheer amount of waste created from a seemingly ‘small’ tradition, the same applies with wrapping paper, every year enough wrapping paper is produced to go around the equator 9 times! Christmas trees, seen as staple for every home celebrating at Christmas, are imported from overseas and, when they have done their job, put straight into landfill, potted trees are an option that can be planted in the garden, and disposing of your Christmas tree properly is possible at many rubbish tips.
The amount of E- waste (discarded electronic appliances such as mobile phones, computers, and televisions) peaks between December and February. Older models are disposed of when new ones are gifted, and broken, cheap gifts are thrown away. If the British public cannot afford to buy durable gifts, is it better to abstain all together?
To me, it seems as though the majority people want to help and become more sustainable but don’t know how. It’s difficult to change when these practices are universally accepted and the whole family do the same, but remember, change starts with you, and what you can do in your own home!
For anyone interested in finding out more, here are some useful sites on simple ways to reduce Christmas waste:
By Maya Farmer & Maia Penny