The holidays are meant to be a time filled with joy and togetherness, but somewhere along the way, overconsumption has overshadowed what this time of year really means. From indulgent food to an abundance of things—decorations, gifts, and disposable wrapping—we’re drowning in all the excess. Here, we take a closer look into the issue of overconsumption around the holidays and how you can scale back without sacrificing a good time.
’Tis the season of far too much
For most people, holiday consumption comes in two primary forms: gift giving and food and drinks. While both can be enjoyable in the moment, they can also strain financial resources. Take gift giving for example; we often give and receive stuff. Some of it may get good use, but most of it ends up in drawers. And then there’s the gift wrap, most of which gets discarded. As for food and drinks, we tend to go overboard on things that are too rich; they’re sugary, salty, starchy, or all of the above.
And despite all this indulgence, we’re not any happier. In fact, 52% of Canadians report feeling stress, anxiety, depression, and isolation this time of year—and Canada tops the list for spending during the holidays. Holiday gifting has more than doubled in the last two decades, climbing from $416B in 2002 to $936B in 2022. And if we’re not any happier or healthier for it (nor is the planet) what can we do to rein it all in?
Limiting consumption for a happier, healthier holiday
You don’t have to go full Grinch mode to cut back on holiday consumption. Instead, make some simple swaps that will be healthier for you, your loved ones, and the planet. Consider the three principles of the circular economy to make better choices this season.
Principle 1: Eliminate Waste Before It Begins
One simple place to start is with gift giving. Frame your gifting based on the idea of stopping physical waste before it even begins. To do this, consider:
- Do you need to give a gift at all? Could you find an alternate way to show appreciation for your loved ones? Some families, friends, and other groups use Secret Santa so only one gift is given and received, which further helps to eliminate waste.
- If you do need to give a gift, does it have to be a physical object? Experience gifts such as going out for a meal together can be a practical alternative. Plus, you’ll be making new memories and sharing quality time together.
- If you truly want to give a physical gift, what would your recipient actually use? Here at Quantum, we used to give gift baskets. After receiving feedback from employees, we discovered that grocery gift cards would be a better option that would get the most use. And keep in mind, people tend to be most appreciative of what they’ll actually use.
- Do you have to give multiple gifts? For children, the want/need/wear/read framework is a popular and more sustainable approach to consider: give one item from each category for four gifts in total. This will help your wallet, too. As a rule of thumb, experts recommend spending no more than 1% of your gross annual earnings on presents—and only if that fits in with your overall budget.
- Finally, can you eliminate the gift wrap? If not, consider placing it in a container that can be reused, or at the very least, recycled.
Principle 2: Choose circular products and materials.
For the second principle of the circular economy, aim to choose circular products and materials when gifting by:
- Selecting items that are upcycled, made from recycled materials, or restored (such a refurbished phone from Quantum’s Qnovum website).
- Purchasing items secondhand.
- Buying products that are well-made, made from natural materials, and can be repaired if broken.
- Purchasing items that can be recycled at the end of their life.
Principle 3: Regenerate Nature
The final aspect of the circular economy encourages us to shift from degrading nature to building natural capital. How can we give back to nature during the holidays? Food is a great example:
- Consider buying food made from regenerative agriculture or permaculture, which are farming practices that allow nature to rebuild soil and increase biodiversity.
- Buy “Dirty Dozen” produce from organic sources to minimize exposure to (and support of) pesticides.
- When possible, purchase organic wines and local craft beers.
- Go meatless for an entire meal (meat and dairy make up almost 15% of global emissions).
- Choose restaurants that prioritize local, wholesome plants and ingredients.
- Buy and make less food; choose a handful of holiday dishes but don’t feel compelled to have a massive spread, since so much tends to go to waste.
- Compost the food waste you do have so it goes back to the earth.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, approach this holiday season mindfully. When we act with intention, we align our actions with our values and goals. We create impact, and experience joy fully. Share this approach with others, and you may be surprised to discover how many of your loved ones are eager to get on board with a low consumption holiday.
If you’re looking for refurbished tech this holiday season or beyond, be sure to check out the laptops, phones, and tablets available through Qnovum. And if you have end-of-life devices ready to be recycled, find out what we recycle here.