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Was the Grinch Right?


The beloved 2000 movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas, based on Dr. Seuss’s earlier 1957 children’s book of the same name, features a cold-hearted, cynical individual called the Grinch and a nearby town called Whoville, populated by Whos who value Christmas. Although the movie portrays the Grinch as an individual who is unjust and enjoys doling out unhappiness to others, the Grinch was right in some regards. Dr. Seuss books are known to teach lessons to young children. With this blog, we will delve into alternate lessons we can derive from the infamous Grinch story.


 

Landfill Waste


The Grinch lives at the top of Mt. Crumpit on what is essentially the Whos’ landfill. Their trash from various locations goes through pipelines branded “DumpIt to Crumpit” to land in the landfill the Grinch calls his home. Within the first ten minutes of this movie, we can see the Grinch picking through thrown-out vegetables and eating a non-rotten onion. The Grinch is also seen repurposing furniture that has been thrown out and overall finding a lot of waste that can still be used.


In real life, we can also often observe this phenomenon of throwing out perfectly good products to replace with new ones, just because of unjustified reasons, such as if the product “looks weird.” The highly consumerist society we live in makes it possible to easily obtain replacements, so why even use the weird-looking ones? It is estimated that over 20% of produce is trashed annually without even making it to the storefronts because of odd shapes, blemishes on the outside peel, weird colors often from GMOs, or other reasons. This 20% equates to 1 in 5 perfectly good, nutritious fruits and vegetables that are tossed in landfills.


Most food products also contain misleading expiration dates. Most consumers will discard a food item past its expiration date in fear of food safety or food poisoning past this date. However, the National Resources Defense Council has stated that “The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat.” With these misleading expiration dates, even in the face of food that looks perfectly fine, 9 in 10 Americans will discard edible food.


These misleading expiration dates also directly cause the issue of food waste in the supermarket. As any consumer knows, buying food products with a longer time until the expiration date is a better option because you will have more time to consume the product before you “have to” throw it out. Since consumers mostly go for food products with farther expiration dates, foods with closer expiration dates often sit on shelves until their expiration date approaches, at which time the supermarket will discard the product before the expiration date is even reached. Because of these expiration dates, supermarkets will even refuse food products with close expiration dates, which will cause the farms or other producers of the goods to also trash the product. All this food waste amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars. Much of this could be avoided with a less confusing expiration dating system. However, food waste is also caused by the consumerist want of “pretty” foods without blemishes and weird colors or shapes.



With the issue of furniture and other goods, much unnecessary waste goes to landfills as well. In the observation of the most common reasons, we can see that consumers often discard furniture because it is either broken or shows minor wear and tear so it is no longer “pretty.” In the second case, many want to upgrade to newer furniture, despite the old furniture working perfectly well. In most cases, nobody expects the average consumer to not throw away furniture when it becomes broken beyond the repair capabilities of the average consumer. Nobody expects people to undergo the hassle of bringing along furniture that is difficult to transport when they are moving. However, if the furniture is experiencing minor wear and tear and doesn’t look as “pretty” and “fresh” as it did on the day it was bought, it is disheartening to see consumers simply discard furniture to a landfill to make room for new furniture.


Similarly to the produce, although the product is perfectly fine, appearances take precedence, leading to unnecessary waste. For the most wasteful of all the reasons, many consumers throw out old furniture that is perfectly good to make way for new furniture when they have a change in personal taste. Rather than changing their existing furniture to adhere to personal taste, consumers will often wholly discard furniture that shows no wear for new furniture that better fits their aesthetic.


In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we can see that the Whos throw away perfectly good food, furniture, and products because of the massive amount of goods the Grinch was able to repurpose rather than leaving as trash. The Grinch’s entire house is made of repurposed materials from the landfill. From this movie, we can learn the lesson of repurposing materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.


Christmas Consumerism


In Whoville, during their beloved Christmastime, many gifts are purchased by each person to give to their children. We watch the hustle and bustle of parents furiously running and driving around in a panic to obtain multiple presents from stressed cashiers. There is so much fuss over buying presents that even Cindy Lou Who questions why people are so concerned with gift-giving and festivities rather than the Christmas spirit.


In real life, we can see this same situation of Christmas being about presents rather than love, happiness, and family. The Christmas spirit is often lost in people, as they are more concerned about what they will give and what they will receive. This craze over consumerism during the holidays leads to much more waste than normal.


Over the holidays, particularly because of Christmas, over 2.8 billion more pounds of trash are generated each week than in an average week, in just the United States. This equates to 6.25 pounds of trash per person per day or 43.75 pounds per person per week. 25% more trash is created during Christmastime than at any other time of year. This Christmastime also doesn’t just last 1 week, but throughout the entire month of December and beyond. The average consumer often sees most Christmas products emerge following Thanksgiving and even some emerging right after Halloween in early November. The holidays generate a ton of waste which is extremely harmful to the environment. This excessive consumerism is a lesson that we can observe in both the Grinch and in real life.


 

Recap

Dr. Seuss often tries to teach valuable lessons to children with impressionable minds with his books. Although these books employ humorous images at times, many of his lessons apply to real life as well. The Grinch is admittedly not the best person for taking joy in others’ sadness, and for attempting to destroy Christmas spirit. However, the Grinch also teaches a lesson to avoid excessive consumerism and be mindful of the greed that ordinary citizens like the Whos experience daily and perhaps do not realize. Food and furniture waste should be repurposed or recycled, as the Grinch teaches us. Christmas should not be all about gifts and excessive consumerism that generates tons of trash, but should instead employ the Christmas spirit of love, family, and joy. Although the Grinch turned out to be wrong about all Whos being greedy and not worthy of love, he may very well be right about hating excessive consumerism and materialistic greed.


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Author: Karen Wong

Editor: Charlotte Wang


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