Wishing you a considerate holiday season

The holidays have become the most wasteful and self-centered time of the year.

The Christmas lights went up earlier than usual at my house this year. We normally wait until the beginning of December, but the colours and warm lights felt like a hug amidst an exhausting November. While I’m a sucker for Halloween, I have to admit the holidays have a different kind of magic, a comforting one. Still, the activist in me is bothered by the extreme culture of consumerism and (ironically) individualism that the holidays inspire. 

Shades of green, red, blue and gold start replacing the purple and orange in the seasonal section of retail stores in mid-October. As people run from shop to shop for gifts and plastic decorations, I can’t help but wonder what makes the urge to participate in the commercial-Christmas culture so much stronger than the desire to be considerate of our environmental impact. 

Back in 2020, I interviewed a family friend who had been working for a few years on switching to a zero-waste lifestyle. Mélanie Major is a mother of four and is raising her children to be compassionate, kind, and aware of their impact. 

“When you decide to make the switch to zero waste, you notice the waste even more,” Major said. “You tell yourself, there just has to be a solution to all this.” 

Major shared some sustainability tips for the holidays, starting with reducing food waste. She eliminates as much meat as possible from her Christmas menu to reduce her environmental footprint. She also makes smaller quantities and turns her leftovers into new recipes to prevent waste. 

With Christmas inevitably comes panic shopping—or, as Major puts it, “buying a gift just for the sake of buying a gift.” She opts instead for more thoughtful gifts such as activity gift cards and passes, books by local authors, secondhand items, meals, and other handmade presents. 

Major didn’t switch out her old decorations for new sustainable ones—that would be counter-intuitive and wasteful. Instead, she decorates her tree with ornaments her mother attaches to their gifts every year and ornaments handmade by her kids. She also reuses old gift-wrapping materials and even wraps presents in towels, scarves and other textiles that can become part of the gift.

We should make decisions according to our values, rather than exhaust ourselves in trying to keep up with the commercial calendar. “When I first got pregnant, it just clicked,” Major said about her decision to go zero waste. “It’s nice to have a child, but what world do we want them to grow up in?” 

We share this world with nearly eight billion people and an estimated 20 quintillion (yes, it’s a word) animals. We are surrounded by beautiful and abundant life, which we pull a profit from with unjustified entitlement.

If the holidays are a time for kindness, they should also be a time to consider what we blissfully ignore and to reflect on the broader impact of our actions. 

You indirectly cast a vote with every decision you make to buy something—what do you encourage with every swipe of your credit card?

While the holiday season is a comfort to some, it can be a nightmare to others. I encourage you to be considerate not only of the environment, but also of your fellow human beings who are in need of love, kindness and support. I would even go further and urge you to not only do this for the holiday season, but to keep this mindset all year round in your breast pocket, right next to your heart.

McDonald’s Monopoly game is a win for the company

McDonald’s Monopoly game has quickly become a tradition for fast food enthusiasts

In 1987, fast food giant McDonald’s came up with a marketing tactic so clever and ahead of its time that it quickly ushered in a recurring yearly event for the chain. Their idea was to combine one of, if not the most, popular board games in the world, Monopoly, with their brand. The result: a worldwide tradition that generates hundreds of millions of dollars.

The idea behind the game is quite simple: Monopoly game pieces are printed on the packaging of various food and beverage items on the McDonald’s menu. You simply have to peel off the sticker and look at what it says. Three things can happen: you can win instant prizes, such as numerous food items, gift cards, or cash; you can win more specific rewards that can be redeemed online, like a Roku Streambar, a video game, a coffee maker or even a drill set; or the third and most common result, you get a special Monopoly-themed sticker that when combined with others can win you big prizes, such as $50,000 in cash, a new car or even a family vacation for four at the Universal Orlando Resort.

However, to win these prizes, you have to be in possession of all the pieces in a group, usually two to four, just like you would have to possess all properties of the same color group to build houses and hotels in the real Monopoly game. The catch McDonald’s uses compared to the real Monopoly, is that some pieces are going to be rarer to find than others. For every sticker peeled, all the pieces are going to be pretty common to find, except those that are next to impossible to track down. What often happens is that people will start collecting the pieces and might be one piece away from winning one of the bigger prizes. For a second, they think they have an actual chance of winning, but in reality, with a total of approximately 115,340,703 total game pieces, the odds of pulling one of the rarer stickers are so incredibly low that it is mostly a mirage.

This game is a great publicity stunt that generates big profits for the fast food chain. People will be more inclined to go to one of their restaurants because they have a chance to earn rewards by eating there. Since the event lasts one month, people are inclined to return more often in a shorter span, because the more they accumulate game pieces, the more they have a chance of winning. The game pieces don’t come with every item on the menu (such as smaller items like a small fry, snacks or a junior chicken), but customers are rewarded with additional game pieces if they purchase larger portions. For example, by upgrading your medium fry by a large fry, you would be rewarded with extra pieces. All of these tactics help the customer grow interest towards the game, which means they have a higher chance of coming more often to McDonald’s and most likely eating more intended.

Overall, the McDonald’s Monopoly game is a massive win for the multi-billion dollar franchise, because it creates a game that gives the illusion to customers that they actually have a chance to win the big ticket prizes. At least for the clients, some of the smaller prizes are winnable. Either way, the game succeeds at attracting more people to come eat at their franchises for a month straight, resulting in the chain restaurant reaping more than what they sow in a true Monopoly win.


Feature graphic by Madeline Schmidt


Why we have all fallen victim to greenwashing

Have you ever noticed that your favourite shampoo is now mysteriously in a green bottle, with shaded trees and reminding you that plastic can be recycled?

Or maybe you feel like the paper towel you usually buy to wipe your dirty counter is helping you change the world because it has a leaf on it? Did that kombucha bottle come up from the roots of the earth, or is that just the new design?

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, you might be a victim of a marketing tool called greenwashing. This term was coined by an environmentalist named Jay Westerveld in the 1980s, “to describe companies which grossly overstate the environmental or ethical benefits of their products and services.”

That’s right, 1980. We have been manipulated by falsely sustainable products for almost 40 years and the trend is only growing. This marketing tool could not be more valuable in our modern economy, as everyday we collectively panic about the climate crisis.

Many of us are doing what we think is right by buying what we think are sustainable products. Capitalism has a funny way of turning a disastrous crisis into an economic opportunity, with big companies exploiting and manipulating the market for their personal gain.

One of the main issues with greenwashing is that defining sustainability is not as straightforward as it is marketed to be. We tend to respond well to simplified categories and digestible explanations, but sustainability is a very complex issue. It is often defined as maintaining ecological balance or being environmentally conscious, but these terms are vague, and companies are using this to their advantage.

Let’s take a look at a textbook greenwashing example: Fiji water bottles. Fiji as a company has done a very effective job at perpetuating a message that they will help you connect with nature. One of their slogans was “a gift from nature to us.” Not to mention, they got a cute little girl to say it, which creeped me out, but seemed to work for others. The creepy little girl also says, “bottled at the source, untouched by man.” I mean, it’s beyond me how they created mass amounts of bottled water without touching anything. Also, where is that girl’s mother? Anyway, the irony here is obvious. Fiji promotes connection to nature, while feeding into the destruction of it.

According Our Changing Planet, 47 per cent of Fijians do not have access to clean, safe water. This company is sending a message that they are saving forests and creating sustainable change, but it’s propaganda. The unnerving thing is, even though, New York Times Magazine came out with an article criticizing Fiji’s integrity in 2008, the company is still a massive capitalist giant. Although we can rationalize the clear intent of the company, they are professional manipulators. We have to push back against our instincts to get lost in a little girl’s cute voice and a pretty forest background.

My consumer conscience relaxes when I clean my toilet bowl with a green bottle. I fall for buzzwords like “all natural,” “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” all the time. A lot of people do — that’s why companies continue to do it. This being said, we have more control than we think. There are good companies out there — but greenwashing is loud and invasive, and often drown them out.

Try your best to buy local products and try to avoid chains when possible. I know that sometimes this can be more expensive, but often choosing the more environmental choice just takes a bit more time and research. When you are buying products keep in mind where they are coming from, how much packaging they use and what ingredients they consist of, although this is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Like Our Changing Planet states, “One of the greenest things you can do is to buy fewer things. No matter how great the product is, it’s probably still kind of deceptive to market it as green.”

So remember, mass consumption of sustainable goods is a harmful paradox, and for goodness sake, get a reusable water bottle. 



Photo by Britanny Clarke




The cost of having a wonderful holiday

One student’s experience with coming to Canada, Christmas, and consumerism

Whenever my siblings and I asked for a family vacation, my Nigerian mother would say: “How can you go on a vacation when you are already at a vacation destination?” For most Nigerians back home, travelling to a country like Canada would be seen as travel destination but also a place to dwell. However, what happens after we settle here? We consume ourselves with school, work and bills, then travel back home once in a while during the holidays. This has become a repetitive cycle, and sadly it is one that my family found itself in for many years until recently.

The meaning of holiday has changed drastically for my family over the years. In Nigeria, we made the most out of every holiday. This included going back and forth visiting family members from my mother’s side to my father’s side and them paying us a visit. There was always an exchange of cooked meals between neighbours and decorating the house for Christmas.

Living in Canada has completely changed these practices because we are no longer surrounded by the families we used to visit and spend time with. Consequently, the holiday spirit died down in my family. The cold weather that I am still not used to prevents me from partaking in fun activities in Montreal such as celebrating Christmas at Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent.

There are also other factors that killed our holiday spirit. The first being that working parents, especially those not in the professional field, have fewer vacation days than most. This makes it hard to travel as a family—especially if raised by a single parent. My mother works at a factory and is only allowed two weeks of paid vacation every year, which is nothing when you consider travelling expenses.

Another factor to consider is the millennial culture of balancing work and school which makes us drained by the time the holidays approach. Therefore, holidays are merely seen as work days with only a few days off, since most employers will want you to work during the holidays. I view it as resting days from school, work and even a break from the social life that I swear I will catch up on once I get the time. These factors put a strain on getting the family together and being festive during the holidays.

That being said, various strategies have helped to bring my family together despite the struggles and the lack of holiday spirit. A tradition that we have maintained is sticking to the true meaning of Christmas, and that is spending Christmas day at church. Thankfully, various churches in Montreal offer different activities on that day for those who attend, such as carol nights, potlucks and plays. I believe one of the advantages of sticking to the traditional meaning behind Christmas is that it takes the stress of buying gifts away, which has only amplified consumer culture. But of course, when you do get a gift, it is appreciated and unexpected.

Another strategy that we started is a tradition of binge-watching a Netflix show during the holidays in new pyjamas. During this, phones are not allowed, and a penalty is usually set for whoever breaks this rule; this keeps everyone at bay. Ultimately, every member of the family is allowed their personal space to do whatever they want after the New Year. Despite the age gap among my siblings and I, we truly enjoy the holidays now due to the effort that we have invested into it as a family. After all, the holidays are what you make of them and what better way to celebrate them than as a family?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Student Life

Do more with less

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works”

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is a film following two men, who have titled themselves “The Minimalists,” on a 10-month tour across America promoting their book Everything that Remains.

Released in 2016, this documentary directed by Matt D’Avella captures the lives of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Friends for over 20 years, they considered themselves, and were considered by others to be successful. Despite having both endured rough childhoods scattered with drug abuse, physical abuse and alcoholism, the two found themselves with good jobs, great salaries, food on the table and a full closet. Despite all this, they questioned why they were unhappy with how their lives turned out.

After hearing about minimalism, Millburn and Nicodemus dropped everything and adopted the principles of minimalism.

“Imagine a life with less. Less stuff, less clutter, less stress, and debt, and discontent. A life with fewer distractions,” said Millburn. “Now, imagine a life with more. More time, more meaningful relationships, more growth and contribution and contentment.”

The concept of minimalism is simple: every possession serves a purpose. As human beings in a society obsessed with consumerism, our options for nearly everything in life are limited. Yet, these nearly infinite options force us to make more decisions, thus causing more stress. Minimalism is about minimizing one’s life so that everything in it has value.

“Every choice that I make, every relationship, every item, every dollar I spend,” said Nicodemus. “I’m not perfect, but I do constantly ask the question: is this adding value?”

A key dimension of minimalism, while not actively discussed in the documentary, is purchasing power, and ultimately accessibility. Those who can hardly afford a bus pass or the next meal for their families likely won’t be concerned with hybrid vehicles or buying organic food because it isn’t within their purchasing power to do so. Minimalism and to what degree people are able to minimize their consumption, if at all, will invariably differ from family to family based on what means they do, or don’t, have access to.

The pair noticed how minimalism drastically improved their way of life and allowed them to be more genuine. Having previously worked in the sales industry, they thought every interaction should get something out of someone. After quitting their jobs, they were able to have genuine conversations with people and no longer see them as a means to make money.

Stories of individuals across the country who have adopted a minimalist lifestyle, and preach a better quality of life because of it, are portrayed in the documentary. One woman spoke about Project 333, a goal to live three months with only 33 articles of clothing and accessories to her name. Others live in minimalist homes about the size of a typical bedroom. All these interviews occur while clips of America’s mass-consumption lifestyle are juxtaposed in the background. Videos of Black Friday frenzies and physical violence for retail goods open the audience’s eyes to our society’s obsession with material things.

The Minimalists conclude their story by leaving viewers with one message of hope: “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”

Featured film still from Minimalism directed by Matt D’vella


How to survive in this cutthroat capitalist world

One student’s satirical approach to excelling in a competitive environment

One of the biggest fears of many students is graduation. How does one find a job and survive in this cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world? The “real world” is even scarier if you’ve spent most of your degree studying social sciences or humanities. You’ve been learning about the failings of global capitalism, and then you’re expected to live in this enigmatic economic system after graduation. Without further ado, here are a few general tips on how to win in this capitalist society. Since, you know, winning is all that matters.

The first rule is to constantly assess people by what they can give you. This can’t be stressed enough: people are vessels through which you can find success. Disregard anyone you perceive to be of a lower social standing. Shake the right hands (Tip: when shaking hands, pull the person toward you and ensure your hand is slightly on top of theirs. It’s a fun little way to assert power and dominance). This rule requires a mastery of the social hierarchy upon which every human is immovably placed.

The second rule is to live in utter fear and anxiety all the time. This includes fear of failure, fear of having your ideas stolen, fear of being cheated, fear of not being good enough, fear of falling behind and fear of starvation and/or homelessness. We live in an economic system based on good old competition, and everyone is secretly hoping you fail so their chances of success increase. Remember that people are out to get you, so at your deepest level, you need to truly trust and love no one.

The third rule is to lose any sense of morality or empathy you’ve ever had. You need to get out there and take what you want—and you are going to have to do some morally questionable things to get it. This may include intentionally slandering, sabotaging or even worse. At the end of the day, only one person can get that promotion you’ve been hoping for, so you’d better decide where your priorities lie. You will often see people who have less than you—quite possibly not even enough to survive—and your gut instinct will be to feel sympathy for them. But before you act too rashly, you need to remind yourself that they didn’t work as hard as you. Everyone gets exactly what they deserve, and there are no existing systems that benefit some people more than others.

Following these three simple rules will make you the winner of capitalism in no time. You will develop an unquenchable thirst for consumption in your pursuit for success, but surely happiness lies somewhere at the end of that, right? If you develop an anxiety so deep and fundamental that you can no longer function, you may consider rewiring your brain to be less concerned with monetary success and rigid hierarchical frameworks, but it’s really up to you. I’m sure you’ll find your own way to cope with the realization that all the plucky promises capitalism tells its youth, like “you get what you deserve” and “there’s value in hard work,” are ultimately propaganda to preserve the machine. Either way, happy job hunting!

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


A stepping stone to systemic change

Examining how boycotting companies can affect our society

In a consumer culture, branding is invaluable. On many occasions, activists and general consumers have attempted to use this fact to influence the actions of companies both small and large. Though most of the time the strategy of boycotting is ineffective—maybe because not enough people get on board, or they lose interest too quickly––sometimes these forms of protest have a real economic and social impact. But is it one that lasts? Is it one that can inflict real social and cultural change?

To begin to answer that question, I’ll look at what happens when boycotts occur at a local level. In a community, there is a close connection between individual members, such as business owners and their customers, and reputation means everything. An example of this in Montreal is the case of TRH bar (Trash Bar).

Earlier this year, a fundraising party was held for a former bouncer who was convicted on three counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 18 months in prison. People were outraged by this; the bar lost a lot of its customer base and received over 1000 one-star ratings, according to Eater Montreal. All of this resulted in the bar issuing an apology, doubling the fundraising money, and donating it all to an organization that helps victims of sexual assault, rather than giving it to Steve Bouchard, the perpetrator of the assault.

An example of a boycott on a corporate level is Nestle. For years, people have been trying to bring this company down for reasons ranging from child labour and depriving communities of drinking water (which is conveniently bottled and sold back to them), to copious environmental pollution, price fixing, mislabeling, and much more (a comprehensive list can be found at There have been countless documentaries and boycotting campaigns against Nestle, but the company has survived all of it without facing significant consequences. But the problem here is more about the workings of capitalism than Nestle. After all, Nestle may stand out as a bad company, but they are by no means an anomaly. I believe this is a problem that needs to be solved by a systemic change that takes power away from major corporations.

On the other hand, even if boycotting campaigns against Nestle aren’t effective in bringing the company down, they can still alert people to the way our society operates, and perhaps lead them to question their moral values and become politically active. In other words, even if Nestle doesn’t fall or change their behaviour because of individual boycotting strategies, those strategies may nonetheless influence more people and more powerful players to take up the cause.

What that may look like is exemplified in the global boycott of South Africa, during the apartheid regime. Many countries and corporations refused to do business with South Africa until they ended their system of radical racial segregation in 1994. While many experts have pointed out that this success of a large-scale boycott was an exception, not the rule, it is still an example of what a boycott looks like when powerful players take part.

Boycotters often have specific, singular goals. Sometimes they achieve those goals, and sometimes they don’t—which is usually dependent on the size of their target and the level of power held by the groups that take part in the campaign.

Something that is present in every boycott case is a questioning of moral values—people deciding where they stand on particular issues, what they will and won’t put up with—which contributes to changing cultural values as a whole. I believe the immediate demands of boycotts are not an end in themselves, but rather a stepping stone to a systemic shift toward a society made up of participants who act morally because they want to, not to maintain profits.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Student Life

What’s love got to do with it?

We’ve all heard it before, Valentine’s Day is a ploy on the part of Hallmark and the candy companies to get us to spend vast amounts of money on their products under the guise that we’re doing it because we’re in love.
Yet we shake our heads and say that we know better, or say that Valentine’s Day is a transparent consumerist holiday and we won’t be suckered in. However, for some reason, the majority of us find ourselves bent over smelling roses, trying to pick the ones we think our partner will like, or desperately wracking our brains for something romantic to do. What is this power Feb. 14 holds over us? Why do we as a society continue to observe a holiday named for a saint of dubious origins and significance?
Doctoral candidate and Montreal therapist Stine Linden-Andersen, believes that Valentine’s Day can play an important role in the relationship of a couple. “It can be important for courting, to show a partner how romantically inclined they are, to solidify the relationship. As a relationship matures, it gets used a bit differently, some couples will choose to do small things and some will choose not to do anything at all because it has become too commercialized and doesn’t set them apart as a couple.”
But does that make it an obligation? One Concordia student, who wished to remain anonymous, says that he only participates in Valentine’s Day because it’s what his girlfriend wants and expects of him. However, Dylan Stansfield, a creative writing and psychology student at Concordia, said that he relishes the opportunity to do something special for the person he cares about. “It’s something that’s fun if you’re in a relationship. It’s fun to celebrate that you’re with someone,” he said.
It would seem that the onus is on the men to plan something or come up with a present that’s significant. Creative writing student Lexie Comeau celebrates Valentine’s Day for the love of celebrating in general. “I think any reason to celebrate is a good one,” she explained, and feels that the onus is on the person who wants the celebration to occur to plan an event or buy a gift. “I think it should be whoever wants to take the initiative.”
According to a survey of 2,003 adults by American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, men are willing to spend more than women on Valentine’s Day. Men are willing to spend up to $151, whereas women are only willing to spend up to $114. Close to 48 per cent of women said they were not going to buy anything for their significant other at all.
Why is this? Aren’t we supposed to be in an age of equality between men and women? Are men spending as a result of societal obligation or does it stem from a personal desire?
Linden-Andersen said that often times in young relationships, men feel obligated to demonstrate just how much they care for their partner and Valentine’s Day is a crucial opportunity for doing so. In the LGBT community, Michael Filion, a political science student in Concordia, feels that things are mostly equal, unless previously discussed. “Especially in the gay world, it’s very common to feel almost like this equality has to be maintained. If not, there’s a male-female balance to it. If these gender roles have been established within the relationship, the one who has taken the male dominated role must be the one who pays. Otherwise, the majority of what I’ve noticed is there’s always an equality that’s trying to be matched,” he said.
In any relationship, whether it is brand new or several years old, Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to open the lines of communication and establish the expectations each person has about this day. Linden-Andersen suggests talking about it lightly and with humour in order to get a better idea of how to celebrate in a way that is convenient for both partners.
She suggests asking leading questions such as “Have you ever been surprised?” and “What have you done before that you liked?” Most importantly though, she says to remember “the way couples celebrate Valentine’s Day is not an indicator of their relationship.” Which means that just because you don’t make a big deal about Feb. 14 does not mean that your relationship is without romance. “You don’t really tell someone you love them only once a year, but it’s an occasion to publicly acknowledge it in a way,” said Donald Boisvert, a professor of religion at Concordia. “It’s like Christmas, there’s always a bit of an obligation. There’s a commercial element that we don’t really want to acknowledge we’re buying into. It doesn’t mean that because it’s commercially focused, people’s feelings aren’t genuine.”
Whether you choose to celebrate Feb. 14  as a special day, or whether you choose to dismiss it as capitalist hogwash, if there’s someone special in your life, we can all agree that you shouldn’t be expressing how you feel about them only once a year.

Exit mobile version