The real cost of Christmas

What does christmas really cost us? I ask my family not to buy me Christmas gifts. In the beginning it was to make a stance against Christmas saying “I’m not Christian, so it’s not my holiday and these traditions are silly.” But as I grow older and care less and less about putting effort into making rebellious statements against my family, my request for no gifts has not changed. Except now it’s becoming more and more an environmental/social issue. I don’t like supporting consumerism and our dog-eat-dog economy. I like hurting the environment even less, so you can imagine my dismay after coming across this pdf report on the real cost of Christmas in Australia.

Let me sum it up:
Cost of Christmas Spending:..(numbers from 2004)

Household Appliances

  • $1 500 million on household electrical goods
  • Before ever being plugged in, 780 000 tonnes of pollution
  • 1 155 000 megatonnes of material used to produce them
  • 10 000 megaliters of water used
  • Taking up a grand total of 52 000 hectares of land


  • Every dollar that an australian spends on clothes is on average 0.4 kilograms of material, 1/2 a kilo of greenhouse pollution, 20 liters of water and 3.4 square metres of land disturbed
  • $1 565 million spent on clothes
  • 600 000 tonnes of material flow
  • 720 000 tones of greenhouse pollutions
  • 38 000 megalitres of water
  • Coming to a total of 500 000 hectares of disturbed land…


  • $900 million spent on alcohol
  • 600 000 tonnes of material flow
  • 290 000 tonnes of greehouse pollution
  • 42 000 magalitres of water, or 42 gigalitres, enought to fill 42 000 Olympic pools
  • With a land impact of 88 000 hectares


  • Every dollar spent on junk food is apx 0.5 kg of pollution, 30 litres of water, 1.0 square metre of land distruption and 0.7kg of material
  • $123 million spent on confectionaries
  • 90 000 tonnes of material flow
  • 65 000 tonnes of greehouse pollutions
  • 4 000 megalitres of water
  • 10 000 hectars of disturbed land
  • Spending $30 on confectionary is consuming 20 kg of materials, 940 litres of water, 26 squared metres of land and creates 16kg of greenhouse gasses!

Books and Magazines

  • $612 spent on books and mags
  • 430 000 tonnes of greenhouse pollutions – equivalent of a year’s pollution from 85 000 cars
  • 416 000 tonnes of materials
  • 40 000 hectares of land is disturbed for this conusumtion
  • 6 000 megalitres of water

What counts as those environmental impacts? Water usage is based on the water extracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers – mostly for irrigation purposes. Land disturbance is the degree and amount that is altered from its natural state. Greenhouse pollutions measure the C02 and other GHGs that are emitted into the atmosphere and material flow is the measures of all masses extracted from the earth including timber and livestock.

Reading this makes me feel even less guilty about not getting anyone anything for christmas. I was planning on going shopping today and buying a shirt for myself from H&M because I’m pretty much addicted, but I’ll be rethinking that game. Clothes and alcohol are my two weaknesses on this list – but I can certainly stop with the alcohol… Clothes will be a bit tougher, but I’m sure I can manage.

I’ll continue to urge people to try not to give into the consumerist based patterns of the season. …If celebrating christmas is a must for you and your family – do it wisely. Kids don’t need iPods when they’re 10. They don’t need them when they’re 19 either (guilty as charged, I have one)… what they need is some family time and love. I also urge everyone to check out all the posts that the other girls have made on organic shopping and the links at the side. Also, Grist Magazine has a really great eco-shoppers guide.