Join the millions who have marched in climate strikes around the world by boycotting gifts this Christmas and holiday season.

  • Tell your family and friends you will:

    1. Buy no gifts for Christmas or other year-end holiday celebrations.

    2. Accept no purchased gifts.

  • Create new holiday traditions. This is not about loss, this is about creating joy and community with people-centered traditions, not ones manufactured through marketing and advertising.


  • This is an ancillary action to the weekly climate strikes.

  • Telling friends and family about your participation, and that you want them to buy you no gifts, starts a conversation about climate change and activism. Personal conversations have a big impact.

  • Economic boycotts and the resulting loss of revenue get attention from policy makers and big business alike.

  • Christmas and other year-end holiday traditions are mostly marketing ploys, manufactured to get you to spend more money.

  • Gift giving is inefficient and wasteful, with a majority of gifts being unappreciated, returned, or thrown away.

  • An extra 2 billion pounds (900 million kgs) of waste is generated in the US during the holiday season.

  • Let’s create new, less wasteful traditions based on spending quality time instead of money.

economic boycotts

Greta Thunberg is leading the charge of speaking truth to power to politicians. She scolded world leaders at the UN for ignoring climate change and embracing “fairy tales of eternal economic growth”. Christmas itself is one of these fairy tales, in which advertisers make up their own ‘traditions’ to promote overindulgence to get you to buy more.

We must raise our voices and make them heard to those in charge. But those in charge don’t often listen. Politicians don’t always listen to their citizens and constituents over the interests of big business. Economic strikes and boycotts get attention and help promote social change in tandem with other actions.

Worldwide boycotts of South Africa helped to end apartheid in the 1990s. From 1985 to 1990, over 200 U.S. companies cut all ties with South Africa, resulting in a loss of $1 billion dollars in direct American investment as businesses, investors, and money left the country. Musical artists such as Run DMC, U2, Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, and many others helped bring world-wide attention to the cause. They organized a performance boycott of Sun City, a resort in South Africa catering to wealthy white tourists, vowing “I ain’t gonna play Sun City”

In the US, the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts of the 1960s helped end racial segregation in the US. Arizona lost an estimated $45 million dollars in convention business due to a boycott called after passage of SB 1070 in 2010, a tough law targeting illegal immigration. Most recently boycotts of the state of North Carolina over their anti-transgendered ‘bathroom bill’ (HB 2) cost the state and it’s businesses an estimated $3.76 billion dollars in losses, and helped to get the bill rescinded.

Politicians don’t always listen to the will of the people. When you can become President with a minority of votes, why care what the majority thinks? But when money is involved, they notice. Boycotting Christmas gifts, and the related financial losses, will garner attention for the climate strike cause of getting world leaders to act.

holidays and advertising

Depiction of Santa Claus circa 1908

“What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”

– Don Draper, Mad Men

Did you know that Coca-Cola popularized the modern-day image of Santa Claus? That Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer was a department store marketing gimmick? That Hanukkah, traditionally a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, was promoted in the 1950s as a gift-giving holiday to complete with Christmas?

American Christmas celebrations are based less on ancient traditions passed down over millennia, and more on marketing and advertising executives who have created modern-day stories to get you to spend lavishly on gifts and decorations. Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. Coca-Cola did not invent Santa, but through their advertising they popularized the jolly, chubby, red-suited Santa we know today.Christmas card traditions were begun by a German printer who wanted to create a market for his newly invented color printing technology. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was created by an in-house ad man for Montgomery Ward department stores in 1939, as a free comic to hand out to children to help attract customers. In 1964 GE financed the claymation special as an indirect form of product placement – his glowing nose reminds you to buy light bulbs!

Christmas was so well-marketed that many non-Christians were celebrating it as well. For example in the 1950s about 40% of Jewish households in Chicago had a Christmas tree. In response to the popularity of Christmas, Jewish religious leaders and activists worked to promote Hanukkah instead. They framed it as a meaningful alternative with it’s own new traditions, including gift-giving.

Christmas marketing continues to this day with new campaigns such ‘Elf on the Shelf’ for Christmas and ‘Mensch on a Bench’ for Hanukkah. Many years from now (if society hasn’t collapsed from Climate Change by then) are we going to look back on these traditions as dating back to time immemorial? Or will we remember that it was just a ploy from advertisers who know how to move merchandise?

It’s all about selling you more stuff you don’t need, whether you want it or not.


Estimated holiday retail sales in the US for 2022 will be over $900 billion dollars. We spend an extra 3 million hours shopping November and December. And what do we get in return?

We spend money we don’t have for stuff we don’t like, and throw away billions of pounds of waste and rubbish in the process.

Giving gifts is economically inefficient. You know best what you like, and much of what you get is not something you would personally spend money on. The ‘dead-weight loss’ of Christmas gift giving, meaning money spent vs value received, is billions of dollars of loss. If that $50 sweater you got is something for which you would have paid less, or not purchased at all, that is a negative return on the gift investment. The gang from ‘Friends’ knows this.

Much of what is received as holiday gifts we return, donate, re-gift, or just throw away. The 2017 holiday season saw 28 percent of the gifts people purchased returned, at a value of $90 billion. In 2013 a Daily Mail survey reported that 17 percent of recipients planned to donate an unwanted present, 13 percent planned to re-gift one and 10 percent would simply throw the bad gift away. When you return a gift to the store, chances are good that it will end up in the trash. 5 billion pounds of returned Christmas gifts end up in landfills each year.

What about gift cards? That’s wasteful as well. Americans are currently sitting on $15 billion in unused gift cards and credits. On average $3 billion in gift cards go unused each year. For comparison, the 2018 revenue for was $19 million (not billion) dollars. On top of this the average American goes into $1,000 in credit card debt to pay for the holidays.

Then there is the physical waste of the holidays in terms of its carbon footprint. The volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, resulting in an extra 2 billion pounds (900 million kg) of garbage.

We spend money we don’t have for stuff we don’t like, and throw away billions of pounds of waste and rubbish in the process. All because companies have sold us on the idea that we have to, that it’s tradition. Let’s create new, less wasteful ones.


Don’t think of a lack of mass-marketed gifts as a loss. Embrace your creativity and sense of community and come up with new traditions for your family and friends that don’t involve purchasing and wrapping gifts. Spend time, not money. See our NEW TRADITIONS for more ideas, including:

  • White elephant gift giving (give something you already own but don’t need)

  • Potlucks

  • Give your time as a gift (i.e. offer to babysit, garden, paint, etc.)

  • Make a donation to a non-profit fighting climate change

  • Decorate a potted plant, or even a ladder, in lieu of a Christmas tree

This is not a war on Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday traditions. Please, by all means still celebrate it, just do it without the gifts and waste! Join us in demonstrating the power of the people.

Give the future, not presents.