Does Christmas excess challenge your values?

Claudine Blamey, chair of the ICRS and head of sustainability and stewardship at the Crown Estate, reflects on the importance of living our values at Christmas.

Does Christmas excess challenge your values?

Christmas can be stressful, there’s no news there, but flipping through a glossy magazine the other day, I was surprised to see that perhaps one very tangible cause of stress was nowhere to be seen in its ‘Christmas stress survival guide.’

This type of article is everywhere at the moment – providing sage advice on everything from how to cook the perfect roast potato, dress to impress at the office party and wrap every gift as if you had an advanced degree in origami. However, no one mentions all the waste that is produced.

Food for the bin

Research by Unilever revealed that the equivalent of 4.2 million Christmas dinners were thrown away last year. To put that in context, that’s 263,000 turkeys and 740,000 puddings ending up in the bin. The waste is eye watering enough, but the cost of the wasted food – £64m is just as alarming.  However, when we consider how many people are hungry in the world, it’s hard not to be humbled by our collective profligacy.       

But it’s not just food that we waste. Around six million trees will be bought yet only 1.2 million will be recycled. We’ll use enough wrapping paper to gift-wrap Jersey (a staggering 52 square miles worth) and 41% of the toys children find under the tree will be broken within three months and on their way to landfill.

Embracing the season

For any of us who spend our lives trying to tread as lightly as possible on the Earth, Christmas can be an intellectual and emotional battle in which we find ourselves caught between what we believe to be right and an incredibly powerful and pervasive cultural norm around the idea of the ‘perfect’ Christmas. 

The problem is of course that mentioning any of these facts in the wrong company can quickly attract the ire of those who embrace the season with joyful abandon and no regard for the social or environmental cost.  Nobody wants to be the Christmas killjoy after all, but nor do we want to live incongruously.

Living our values is incredibly important, which is why ‘championing ethical behaviour’ is a key part of the Institute’s competency framework.  What that ultimately looks like will depend on the individual, but I firmly believe that we can stand aside from the excesses of Christmas and still embrace the season as joyfully, perhaps even more joyfully, as the next person.

Whatever your plans and however you intend to live your values this year, I’d like to wish you a very happy Christmas from everyone at the ICSR.

Claudine Blamey is chair of the ICRS and head of sustainability and stewardship at the Crown Estate.

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