The Zero Waste Christmas Market came to Brick Lane on Saturday, proving Christmas doesn’t have to be wasteful but can still be wonderful.
The market, founded by entrepreneur and environmentalist, Melanie Fisher, intends to meet the pressing demand for a greener Christmas period.
Now in its second year, the Christmas market is proving you can shop differently for the good of our planet. Fisher told Eastlondonlines: “Your individual actions matter, but not in isolation. I think if you’re here, if you tell your friends and bring your mum, that’s what is going to make the change. It has to start with individuals.”
Each year, the Christmas season creates 30% more waste due to the sheer volume of materials produced and disposed of. Fisher says: “We are facing this big corporate machine, this pressure to continue to consume.”
The average child in the UK receives 16 presents each year. On top of this there is all the bubblewrap, ribbons, wrapping paper, name tags and bows. One billion Christmas cards are sold whilst over four million Christmas dinners are thrown away each year.
“My family don’t do cards anymore. Why post trees to each other to read for a minute then throw away?” Fisher says.
With two million Turkeys and six million Christmas trees annually wasted, markets such as this are putting the responsibility to reduce unnecessary waste into the hands of consumers and businesses.
The festive, ecological hub hosted hundreds of sustainable gifts, locally sourced products, and over 80 eco-audited brands celebrating our natural planet; all curated by Fisher.
Fisher said that she became disillusioned with big corporations: “I assess brands on their use of plastic, on their materials, and what their product is actually made from. Is it necessary for the world? Is it beautiful? Is it going to last a long time? I look at their carbon footprint; I look at their supply chain.”
Fisher’s brand of grassroots action however is not accessible for all. The problem with the sustainability promoted at the Zero Waste Market aligns with the recent controversy surrounding Extinction Rebellion (XR).
Just as XR’s activism is often perceived as alienating, the consumerist sustainability of the Christmas market is aimed at more affluent and the white middle-class; ethically sourced, artisan products do not retail cheaply.
Sustainability isn’t universally accessible through race and class lines. The Zero Waste market took place in Tower Hamlets, the borough with the highest child poverty and increasing food bank usage. Families struggling to put food on the table are unlikely to engage with Fisher’s activism.
Fisher is aware of the market’s exclusionary potential. She said: “Without white middle-class people buying other products and making noise about it, change might not happen. This is a global problem that isn’t just isolated to climate. This is a race, gender, affluency and education question… We’ll all be on the breadline if we don’t sort the problem out.”
Fisher believes those who are able to engage with the climate emergency need to do so with urgency. “The climate crisis is giving us a deadline… the more people that think this isn’t right and that we need to change this, the more pressure the government will have to cut their subsidies to oil, divert resources into green energy and ensure people have food moving forward.”
For those attempting a more ecofriendly Christmas this year, Fisher has several recommendations, including brown roll or newspaper alternatives to wrapping paper, eating vegan and limit gifting to one present each.
“One good gift, wrap it well, spend more time. Buy experiences! Just enjoy each other’s company and go for a walk outside.”