Give Thought, Not Things

"All Sales Final" by SS Studios

Everybody loves the holidays! Except for me. I mean, of course I love being with family, to me that is what it’s all about. However, the planet takes a huge hit when the holiday season rolls around. I won’t get into detail about the animal ag industry in this article, but did you know that 46 MILLION turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving alone, and ten million more for Christmas?

The food and resources needed to create that much meat is staggering, while simultaneously millions of people around the world suffer from malnourishment and starvation. It seems like a backwards way to celebrate freedom and gratitude!  As an animal lover, the quantity and quality of animal lives lost is devastating, however that is not the purpose of this post.

I’m writing to shine a light on consumerism, share some facts about how much humans are wasting and suggest ways we can handle the holidays differently. 

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Firstly, no one needs more shit. I think we all have enough THINGS! Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on items they do not need! Corporate advertising creates additional pressure around the holidays for us to buy, buy, buy, with no regard to what our recipients may want or need, or what our financial situation is. It is socially demanded and expected to buy physical objects for friends and family members as signs of love.

My boyfriend has awakened me to the facade of Consumerism and some alternate ways of thinking and living. Society breeds us to be consumers, but at our core we are creators. Imagine instead of receiving clothing, toys, picture frames, or new headphones, you received a truly thoughtful gift? Maybe a piece of art, tickets to a concert or show, or a handmade vase bought from a local artisan. There are SO many options for gifts that have little to no environmental footprint, yet also have deeper thought and meaning! Double win.

The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothing and textiles per year.  Many of us don't realize the large environmental and social consequences that are associate with giving clothing as a gift. This includes scarfs and gloves, (sorry Grandma!).  Clothes can take up to 40 years to decompose, and while some materials take longer to decompose than others, all have harmful effects on the environment.

Along with releasing gases like methane, most fabrics are made with dyes and chemicals that can contaminate the soil and water in the ground. New clothing is out, used is in! We all have our own unique style and most gifted clothes end up in the landfill. Skip the trip to Macy’s, close the browser, and give some thought into your gifts! It may take more time, but it is our responsibility to our planet to try a bit harder.

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Some fun facts about Consumerism

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home.

  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America yet they own 40% of the toys consumed globally.

  • The average child accumulates 238 toys by 10 years old, yet on average only plays with 12.

  • Nearly half of American households don’t save any money, yet the average home has three televisions, often more TVs than the number of people living there.

  • Americans purchase twice as many material goods as they did 50 years ago.

  • America creates more electronic waste than any other nation on earth, throwing out 1 million tons more electronics than any other country. Little is recycled.

  • Despite being only 12 percent of the global population, the US and Western Europe account for 60% of private consumption spending.

The issues with consumerism are clear; We cannot keep expending so carelessly at this rate. The good news is that the change starts with us! The first step is awareness.

I’ve been practicing #NothingNewNovember and it has been eye-opening. There are a plethora of tempting holiday sales but since I’ve committed to buying nothing new, it has been interesting to see what I would have normally bought, and a relief to press delete instead! Thrift shops are a great way to release the shopping bug, and if you find yourself lost in a web surfing spiral, remember many sites have the option to buy the item used, which is typically cheaper too! 

Stay strong this Holiday season. Decide you want to have a positive impact on the environment and be creative and thoughtful when gifting your loved ones! If you need some ideas, stay tuned for my "Gifts The Planet Will Love" post coming soon, and as always if you have questions, please email me at alexaj@gypsyuniverse.com. Happy everything! 

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