Merry XRmas

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Roadblocks were planned by climate activists Extinction Rebellion to disrupt frantic shoppers this weekend as they partake in the environmentally polluting practice of seasonal consumerism. Andrea Loftus reflects on the unsustainability of the festive season.

Christmas is a capitalist dream and a retail nightmare. Yet the mad rush to buy seven dressing gowns made from synthetic fibres is no longer an endearing bid to show your aunts how much you love them. Instead, the mindless shopping that plagues December is an indicator that fast fashion brands still have you believing your wish-list has no consequences.

Extinction Rebellion has quickly become a household name, and consequently the symbol of united resistance to try and combat the man-made climate crisis and salvage any hope we have to cap global warming.

However, the Leeds based branch of the XR tree intends to stage an anti-consumerism protest this Sunday the 15th of December to remind shoppers that it’s not just the plastic bags they have to be mindful of, but the things in them.

Road blocks are set to last for around 10 minutes at a time, similar to the blockades at Victoria Bridge in Leeds earlier this year. The obstruction will be long enough to cause noticeable disruption and maybe even send some scrooges back home where they can address those niggling thoughts the activists have ignited. Where did this product come from? Who made it? Where will it end up?

Image Credit: Harrogate News

Many material goods are nostalgically aligned with the festive season, from tacky trails of tinsel that can’t be recycled to paper plates you’ll cover in oily nibbles and chuck in the bin – “why wash up? It’s christmas!” A 13 year old boy even inspired a petition to ban the sale of christmas crackers due to the succinct joy of the BANG bing overshadowed by the disheartening “pile of plastic” left on your daintily decorated table.

The objective of the activists is to spark mindfulness about whether every item on your list is a meaningless bid at occupying your sibling for five minutes on christmas morning, or something that can be repurposed, reused, and reintegrated into your life when christmas is done and dusted for another year. To ensure you’re not left with a bare tree, XR are doing an alternative 12 days of XRmas, including a winter swap-shop of everything from books to toys to clothes this saturday at Wharf Chambers from 3-6pm. 

The amount of energy used to create your new pair of jeans is a LOT more than it took for you to tear the plastic coated sellotaped wrapping off of them, with the carbon footprint of Levi 501s 33.4kg of CO2 eq. So if you’re going to buy your dad another pair of plaid pyjamas and you spot the banner clad blockade, consider whether he’s even worn the ones you got him last year. Even worse, whether a new pair would just encourage him to throw out the old ones to join the 11 million items of clothing that head to the landfill every week.


Image Credit: Leeds Live

If those twinkly lights and the sound of Michael Buble makes your purse itch, then try to shop second hand in charity shops, on sites like etsy or in independent ethical local shops around the city like Short Press or ecotopia. Alternatively,  you can help the activist’s efforts by donating to or help someone who doesn’t have the luxury of hunting through Trinity for disposable material goods and make their christmas just that little bit better here.

So if you see the Extinction Rebels in the city centre this weekend give them some support, or at least don’t unleash your inner grinch. I can guarantee the sequin dress you’ve just bought for a one-night-only debut on NYE will spend a lot longer breaking down in a landfill than you will waiting in your car.

Main Image Credited to Andrea Loftus