As so Called green activists keep calling out Indian festivals for polluting air, water and earth, shaming us at every turn and guilt tripping us for celebrating most of our festivals even though we Indians are predominantly minimalistic and sustainable in our choices, they have conveniently overlooked the humongous amounts of waste that is generated across the world for just one festival that is Christmas! Christmas is cleverly marketed as a holiday that should be celebrated by everyone and not just people who believe in Christ. It can in fact be called a Gluttonous holiday that is steadily adding millions of tons of unsustainable waste that can be easily replaced by green options. To be honest Christmas has been cleverly marketed so much so that billions who aren’t Christians along with Christians have fallen for this strategy. Imagine convincing the whole world that Diwali has nothing to do with Bhagwan Rama and that it should be celebrated by the whole world by buying mindless, mostly unnecessary gifts wrapped with even more unnecessary packaging!
As an urban Indian, at least in my city, the anti-Diwali brainwashing has worked and the number of crackers that people burst has really reduced to the chagrin of many old timers who loved to see children enjoying the festival of lights with crackers. The campaigns in schools have almost worked, children feel guilty to light crackers but have no problem buying each other gifts wrapped in shiny plastic paper that ends up in landfills!
Let’s examine why Christmas and New Year are the most gluttonous and unsustainable festivals.
Discarded Christmas trees along with wrapping papers, gifts, cards, electronics items bought as gifts by millions of people across Europe and the US end up in criminally overflowing landfills every year. With the number of people that partake in this absolutely well marketed festival, we can safely call this the most unsustainable period every year! The carbon emissions generated in just this one week is staggering to say the least.
Did you know that one tree is cut to make 3000 cards that have no recycle value? 120 million Christmas trees along with 33 million trees are cut just to make Christmas and New-Year cards which has a carbon footprint of 2-3 billion kilograms.
Every small town and city in America have massive displays of fireworks during thanksgiving! Firework displays during New years are getting bigger every year around the world! Is anyone questioning them? Americans throw away 25 per cent more waste during Christmas and New-years every year that amounts to 25 million tons of purely unsustainable garbage
As per reports, one billion cards are sold in the UK every year. As per Hallmark and the Greeting Card Association, approximately 1.3 billion cards are sent by Americans.
Every year during Christmas, 22,800 miles of wrapping paper is being thrown away. In 2018, it was reported that the UK alone threw away 108 million rolls of gift wrapping paper. In the US, there is a staggering 5 million tons of waste of which four million tons are just wrapping paper and shopping bags. The UK apparently spends 26 million pounds to dispose of the waste generated during Christmas and New Year. Two million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies go into the trash while still being edible!! This causes a mind blowing 2,70,000 tons of food waste. Five million tons of food waste is generated in Australia during this time of the year, while the UK generates 30 per cent more waste during Christmas. Americans throw away 25 per cent more waste during thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years every year that amounts to 25 million tons of purely unsustainable garbage. Every small town and city in America have massive displays of fireworks during thanksgiving! Who is checking their pollution? Firework displays during New Years are getting bigger every year around the world! Is anyone questioning them? The bigger the display, the more tourists they get.
Why are Indian festivals always targeted when there is so much waste being generated all over the West? In fact, most Indians consider wasting and throwing perfectly edible food an insult to Goddess Lakshmi, it wouldn’t be true to deny that waste is generated at all but we do have a perfectly unorganised system that ensures most food is not wasted, we don’t exchange cards or buy mindless gifts during festivals, our festivals revolve around pooja, food, new clothes and sustainable decorations like mango leaves and flowers which are perfectly compostable. In fact, the previous generation bought new clothes only during festivals. We are a unique country that has many non-profit organisations that collect leftover food and distribute it to the needy whereas disposing is a cheaper option in the West.
Waste is something we have always looked down upon until the western-style consumerism has slowly creeped in some urban parts. We should certainly be wary of their style of compensating quality family time with cards and gifts that will only end up in landfills.
Most US and UK TV shows and movies portray people going through misery during family gatherings during Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are shown to be super stressed about buying gifts and cooking enormous amounts of food. Surely this is a reflection of a distended and waste-full society. When consumerism is the basis of a festival and children only look forward to Santa whose only job is to dispense gifts, it becomes nothing less than a stress inducing consumerist ordeal in comparison to our festivals where everyone gets together for good home cooked meals and fun-filled activities and waste is still considered a bad thing.
This is not about our festival versus theirs but a sincere attempt on real waste generating festivals while we are constantly guilt tripped for our traditions that are mostly sustainable. We can only hope to remain true to our culture and skip the consumerist band wagon.