Winter Waste

Holiday spending pleads for conscious consumption

The Editorial Board

The holiday season is a time of gifts and gift giving, but as people begin their holiday shopping, it should also be a time to consider the materialistic consequences behind the holidays.

In modern society, materialism—a value system that emphasizes the pursuit and acquisition of material goods and luxuries—has grown to become a part of our daily lives, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Materialism is spread through social media, advertisements, and television we see on a daily basis. Whether it be advertisements on Instagram, or a cute shirt found at a store, materialism is everywhere.

“To be materialistic means to have values that put a relatively high priority on making a lot of money and having many possessions, as well as on image and popularity, which are almost always expressed via money and possessions,” the APA reported.

The holiday season is one of the great case studies in modern materialism. In an unscientific survey of 319 students conducted by The Oracle, 12 percent of students said that their favorite part of the holidays is receiving and giving gifts. The holidays exemplify the materialistic culture we live in today, as people focus on the gifts they may receive.

The Oracle Editorial Board urges the student body and staff to not focus solely on the materialistic appeals of the holidays, but to instead appreciate the community and celebrations that make the holiday season special.

Senior Oracle columnist Mia Rojas is vegan, someone who chooses not to eat any food or use products derived from animals. She claimed that producing less waste is an easy fix for anyone; during the holiday season, Rojas acknowledged there are many ways to become more environmentally responsible when holiday shopping.

“With clothing, there’s a stigma with thrift stores being dirty, but I think that if you develop your own personal style with thrifting, that is the best thing you can do,” Rojas said. “Clothes are a very popular [holiday gift] and if you feel uncomfortable about getting someone something second hand as a gift, I would definitely recommend shopping from small businesses. [If] you dig enough, there is definitely a price point that would be comfortable for everybody.”

The Oracle Editorial Board encourages students and staff to give environmentally sustainable gifts such as thrifted or handmade items. Rojas said that even making small differences will end up helping the environment, and that sometimes the best gifts and recipes are trying new things every year.

“There’s so much research [about how] living a plant-based diet is not only completely sustainable, but also good for your health,” Rojas said. “I find myself eating a lot of new [ethnic] foods that I never would have tried before if I hadn’t become vegan.”

When the holidays roll around, companies capitalize on commercialism more frequently. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, many companies pressure consumers into buying overpriced products that they probably do not need. Students are attracted to stores like Lululemon, Barnes & Noble, and American Eagle, due to the large markdowns in prices shown in advertisements, especially during Black Friday, junior Carolyn Shean said.

“[During] Black Friday, [the deals] are shoved in your face,” Shean said.

Though not an official holiday, many Americans treat Black Friday as such, eagerly taking advantage of the biggest sales of the year. The average Black Friday shopper may spend up to $313.29 on sale items, and 69 percent of that money typically goes toward gifts for the holidays, a study conducted by the National Retail Federation reported. This year, places like Westfield Old Orchard mall were crowded as shoppers such as junior Alexandra Kumiega arrived early in the morning to begin Black Friday shopping.

“There were signs everywhere where [items were up to] 50 percent off or buy one get one 50 percent off,” Kumiega said. “There were a bunch of workers coming up to me all at once, it was chaotic.”

The increase in online shopping platforms brings an added increase in purchases, especially during the holidays, with about 57 percent of U.S. consumers preferring to shop online, according to a study by Statistica. Rather than having to go to the store, shoppers can purchase a multitude of things from the comfort of their home. According to the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Americans consider themselves online shoppers, and with 15 percent of Americans making weekly online purchases, the toll of online shopping has a significant impact on the environment.

As online shoppers anxiously await their package’s arrival, they often overlook the environmental burden of their purchase. The average American currently generates over 80 pounds of textile waste each year and the world’s consumption, specifically of clothing items, has increased by 400 percent over the past 20 years, according to the 2015 documentary The True Cost. The striking increase in clothing consumption reflects a greater trend of over consumption in numerous categories of material goods.

The Oracle Editorial Board implores the student body, as well as the staff, to be conscious of their purchases and the environmental implications that comes with their shopping.

As the holidays approach, it is important to be mindful of the consequences that branch from gift giving traditions. Take a step back and appreciate the holidays for what they are.