Celebrating A Sustainable Lunar New Year

Izzy Manuel 

Izzy Manuel is a sustainable and ethical fashion and lifestyle content creator who believes in imperfect sustainability and celebrating the small changes. Today, Izzy is sharing her personal experience of celebrating the Lunar New Year and how big corporations have been benefiting off the back of cultural appropriation.

In Chinese culture, the Lunar New Year is all about welcoming the good vibes, out with the old and I suppose out with the things that no longer serve us and in with all things good and bring us joy. It is a symbol of a fresh start, similar to how we celebrate the calendar New Year.  It is a time of year where we spend time with loved ones. For my family, it isn’t about lavish gifts and it never has been. It is simply a time to spend with the people we love, which in reality is just a big meal where we all sit at the table, share food and have a good laugh. My mum this year had New Year’s day all planned, a big breakfast which included all the different New Year cakes (they are very different to cakes in the UK), followed by a lunch out and then a big dinner at home; it’s a whole day of celebrations and truly one of my favourite times of the year. 

Over the years we have seen more and more brands dropping Lunar New Year collections, from Burberry, Our Place and Lush; the big boys are out to play. It is so nice to see brands appreciating different cultures and traditions; and on a personal note, seeing my culture or at least half of it (the other half being Indian) being celebrated brings me great joy. However, there is a different side to this sudden appreciation, which can feel like cultural appropriation. Are these brands jumping on the Lunar New Year bandwagon just to make some extra buck, or are they truly celebrating different cultures, traditions and people? 

Izzy and her grandmother; for their family, the Lunar New Year isn't about lavish gifts

According to research by Vogue Business, people are set to spend £276 on Lunar New Year gifts for friends and families. To me this is mad, as a family we never gave physical gifts, we only gave “Lai See” which is Cantonese for the red envelopes that contain money. It was never the amount of money that was given but rather what it meant. Giving Lai See is a symbol of wishing others luck and good health, and it is not only given as a New Year gift but is also given at birthdays and celebrations like weddings. The whole idea of giving physical gifts is pretty new and I think leans very much into that overconsumption mindset.

Lunar New Year Marketing Campaign From Lush

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love gifts, it is after all one of my love languages, but giving for the sake of giving often just leads to overconsumption. According to research by WRAP, £140m worth of clothes end up in landfills each year, and you can imagine the number of people who would give clothes or Lunar New Year-related presents that just end up in the bin. Let’s not forget that 65% of all new clothes are also made from polyester, made from fossil fuels; so if these items end up in landfills they can end up there for thousands of years. 

Want to know Izzy’s top tips for celebrating the Lunar New Year in a more sustainable and conscious way, then keep reading…

1)  Consider whether you need to give a physical gift? The tradition of giving red envelopes is not only a lovely symbol, but it also allows people to use the money in a way that suits them which leads to less waste…Plus the red envelopes can just be reused year after year if you get the Laisee envelopes.

2) There is no harm in asking what gift someone wants. To help prevent waste, one of the best things you can do is simply ask, then you know that you aren’t giving someone something they won’t even use.

3)  Look to sustainable and ethical brands to support: It has been a tough few years for sustainable and ethical businesses, and many have sadly been lost as they can’t keep up with rising costs, so now is the perfect time to support small and sustainable businesses if you are giving gifts. 

The Lunar New Year is all about celebrating with the ones you love, being with your friends and family and wishing each other bountiful amounts of luck and good health for the upcoming year. On that note, Kung Hei Fat Choi to both those who do and don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year! 

Share This Story


Related Posts