One of my colleagues this morning received a rather exciting parcel in the post. It contained a small plastic Christmas tree with lights that can be rather ingenuously powered through a USB socket and it had been sent by a PR company that obviously felt the best way to promote a story about Christmas decorations disrupting WiFi signals was to send us some cheap festive tat.
Now despite this Christmas tree looking like what one of my other colleagues rather mean-spiritedly referred to as "plastic landfill crap" and despite almost everyone in this most environmentally aware of offices noting the complete waste of electricity it took to power the lights it actually looks rather seasonal and has been merrily flashing away for most of the day.
It would, in the words of Oscar Wilde, take a heart of stone not to laugh, and it would take a particularly puritanical killjoy to demand it be turned off in the interests of the environment.
I mention this because, according to a major new survey of over 500 UK consumers, a similar scenario is being played out in homes up and down the country as environmental concerns that hold sway for much of the rest of the year are temporarily put on hold in favour of some well-earned seasonal cheer.
The survey, carried out by market research firm Leapfrog Research and Planning, revealed that many UK consumers now have fairly well established green intentions with nine out of ten recycling and turning off unused lights, three quarters buying energy saving lightbulbs, and almost half trying to buy products with less packaging.
As Leapfrog director Chrissie Wells observed: “Even though some people may over-claim the extent to which they behave responsibly, this study clearly shows that people feel an obligation to help the environment and know what they should be doing."
However, the study also revealed that many of these good intentions will take a back seat during the festive season with only 15 percent claiming they would buy ethical or eco-friendly gifts, three quarters claiming they would buy more food and drink than was needed and two thirds saying that having decorative lights on was important.
Of course it would take a real misanthrope, or alternatively a Liberal Democrat MP, to begrudge people Christmas lights and a few left over sausage rolls in the name of environmental sustainability.
But the report also highlights that there are some practical steps both firms and government should take to make it easier for consumers to limit the environmental damage they cause as a result of their Christmas cheer.
The survey found that over half of respondents thought recycling collection points are not large enough to cope with Christmas waste and 40 percent claim councils do not make it easy enough to dispose of Christmas trees, which given they must know Christmas is coming strikes of pretty awful planning.
Similarly, the survey also hinted that there is a large potential market for ethical goods and services at Christmas with over half of respondents claiming it is hard to find gifts that are not over packaged and more than a third arguing that eco-friendly gifts are too difficult to find.
Maybe it is this pent up demand that will help provide us with a more environmentally sustainable Christmas in the future.
Most people, like us at VNU Towers, will simply take the path of least resistance at Christmas and plug in their USB powered plastic Christmas tree - and who can blame them. But if some innovative firm wants to pioneer a biodegradable novelty Christmas tree for our desks next year they might just find a market for it.
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