One of the worst parts about going abroad last spring was missing out on some of my favorite seasonal food items that weren’t available in Europe — specifically the shamrock shake from McDonald’s.
Now, I could write my whole column about how much I love shamrock shakes and how yummy they are and how nice it’s been to be back in a country where they are served during March, but I doubt you want to read 500 words about how much I like ice cream.
What makes a shamrock shake so special anyway? It’s just a mint flavored milkshake with green food coloring, something I could probably get elsewhere year round. But by advertising the shamrock shake as something that is only available once a year, McDonald’s really appeals to the part of me that wants to buy unique things with limited accessibility. This marketing ploy is something that has been around forever, especially with holiday-related items, but I feel recently we’ve reached a point where — A) Everything, not just holidays, have become commercialized, and B) This commercialization is creating an influx of cheap products that are contributing to a larger waste issue.
I went into this a little bit in my Valentine’s Day column, “For the love of love” (see the Feb. 17 issue of The Bison). To paraphrase myself, an ever-increasing issue of the holidays is how they are being sold in many different forms, which is a struggle for a gift-giver like myself not to give into. Just walk into Walmart right now; they have a special section for Easter, with several aisles full of novelty candy, cheap (but so cute!) decorations and plastic eggs that will be thrown away come April 10.
An article from activesustainability.com said, “The world keeps generating more and more rubbish … We live in a throw-away society and we’re paying the price; we don’t know what to do with all our waste.” So that delicious shamrock shake I get that comes in a plastic cup, the vinyl “Trolls”-themed Valentines that I bought for my friends, the wrapping on the Peeps packages I’ve already started treating myself to, all is just holiday-themed landfill waste.
I suppose my main point is this; we are so conditioned to buy things, especially things we feel are special or in little demand, that often get almost immediately thrown away after their season of time has passed (I am preaching to myself here, too; I love buying things as much as the next person). Many “old-fashioned” holiday traditions and decorations came before our consumer culture and are better for the environment; things like handmade cards on Valentine’s Day, food-dyed real eggs for Easter or costumes for Halloween that are made, not bought. Maybe it’s time I set aside my shamrock shakes and impulse holiday shopping for more sustainable, and meaningful, alternatives.