There’s a picture going around on the internet showing Santa Claus in full regalia, pushing his sleigh filled with presents into a landfill, and the workers looking on comment: “He’s cutting out the middle man.” A bit harsh? Christmas is without a doubt the most wasteful time of the year, in terms of time and money, but also actual physical waste. The pressure to buy is enormous, to the extent that it’s near impossible to avoid. Try suggesting to your family that instead of gifts you’d like to receive donations to a charity of your choice this year, and they will probably be somewhere between bewildered and offended.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We shape the customs we follow, and more and more people every year are opposing the mindless consumerism promoted by the media from the start of October. On the one hand, Black Friday’s shopping craze seems to affect the UK more and more each year, but on the other there are campaigns like Amazon Anonymous, asking people to not use Amazon until they pay their workers a fair wage, which already attracted so many sign ups that an estimate of the money NOT spent on Amazon this Christmas is currently £2,592,570.
There’s other ways than boycott: in Brixton, every year people are pledging to shop locally, supporting independent businesses and reducing their carbon footprint. According to research, money spent locally will circulate in the local economy up to three times longer than money spent in big chains. And if products are sourced and made locally, the environmental impact is significantly lessened. If that sounds a bit academic, there are many others reasons why Brixtonites have chosen to make their Christmases Brixton-focused. Shopping locally gives residents an opportunity to find food and gifts that are unique to their area – it’s opportunity to discover the wealth and quality of what we have on our doorstep, and what we may miss in busy everyday lives. People are consciously making the decision to think about where their money is going, and to support their local community – to take from it but also give something back. Shopping in smaller shops is also a more personal experience. Overall, it seems like a great way to do some good deeds, enrich our lives as well as those of others – in a time when that message is often obscured by corporate interests.
This post was written for and appeared in the December issue of the Brixton Bugle – get your copy if you’ve not got one yet!