Every year, Christmas merchandise seems to hit the shelves earlier and earlier. For some homes, Christmas decorating begins as soon as the kids go out trick-or-treating on Halloween. Although it may seem like a harmless festivity, buyers should be conscious of what this waste and desire for excess means for the planet.
An average person's holiday shopping list may include wrapping paper, gifts, decorations, lights, cards and food. Most of this cannot be reused at the end of the season and ultimately goes to waste. What makes this waste even larger is how merchandise appears in stores months before the holidays.
This phenomenon is referred to as "Christmas creep." Because of the pressure on suppliers to produce holiday products, retailers begin to market merchandise earlier to sell the most products possible. To companies, lengthening the Christmas season means more products sold and more money in their pockets.
The competition between corporations during the Christmas season is fierce. Companies often want to put their products on the market earlier to get a head start on their competitors. Consumers often buy Christmas merchandise at the beginning of the season and go back later for even more.
Holiday buying is largely promoted through consumers' emotional response to Christmas merchandise. Consumers are convinced that buying more Christmas decorations will create a more positive holiday season for family, friends and even themselves during the holiday season. They seek the newest, prettiest decorations yearly to make their homes a winter wonderland.
Even on social media, influencers will tell their audience about the Christmas "must have" products, further conditioning the excessive behavior in shopping. TikTok is probably the worst offender for this, as some of the app's most common videos show viewers what products they "need" to buy. One TikTok video about this year's Christmas trends has almost one million views. The post's author has no basis for these "trends," yet most people in the comments are eager to follow along.
Some of the most powerful influencers in Christmas excess are candy companies. Christmas is one of the biggest holidays for themed candy, so companies flood the markets with holiday-themed treats. According to BBC, when buyers see holiday candy on the shelves earlier in the season, they begin buying out of excitement and then buy more later in the season after their first round of candy has run out.
While it may not be evident, the environmental impact of Christmas creep is fatal. The earlier holiday products hit the shelves, the more waste is created throughout the season. It is estimated that 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper end up in landfills and the heaviest amount of food waste occurs during the holidays. The packaging from gifts, food leftovers, and ribbon are also large landfill dwellers post-holiday.
Ultimately, the Christmas creep can be chalked up to corporations seeking to profit off the beauty of the holiday. However, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the holidays with decorations, cards and festive food. To fight the economic impact of the holiday season, it is important to find ways to diminish the waste produced while celebrating.
For those wanting to send holiday cards, Paper Culture is a company that works to make cards out of recyclable materials and offset their carbon emissions. Many companies make eco-friendly wrapping paper just as cute as regular wrapping paper. Other sustainable Christmas decorations are just a search away, even though they may not be in local stores. Unwanted leftovers can sometimes be offered to communities that need the food, but otherwise, it is important not to make or buy more food than you will eat.
As someone who loves everything Christmas, cutting back on Christmas is not something I want to do. Nevertheless, the list of environmental impacts is harrowing. This year, play around with different ways to limit waste and see what eco-friendly activities will become a tradition in your home.
Kenzie Shuman is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Kenzie know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or messaging her on Instagram @zieshuman.