When thinking about how to wrap another year of innovation at CPI I found myself pondering what Christmas might be like in the future if we embrace the solutions we are coming up with now. That led to this experiment – a letter from a sustainable, festive future. After all, if we can imagine a better future, we can build one.
'A letter from a Christmas in the Future'
At this time of year, between Christmas and the New Year, I usually take time to look forwards, to anticipate what’s coming and make resolutions. Today, however, I thought I would look back at how Christmas has changed over the years — mainly for the better, I might add.
2023 seems like a long time ago, but it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. Back then I might have used a large language model (LLM) AI tool to help me write this letter. Now that AI technologies are so integrated into our lives, I prefer to take pleasure in typing letters myself, the same way some people preferred handwriting them a long time ago.
This year, my family has decided to have Christmas together in person. It’s a throwback to a time before video chatting gave way to virtual, augmented and then extended-reality experiences. This means we can now celebrate Christmas with family from wherever we might be in the world through a completely customised, digital setting. But Christmas is still a time laced with nostalgia, so let’s look at how far we’ve come.
A sustainably bright winter night
The first thing I saw when I arrived at my parents’ house this week were all the lights. The display was so pretty and intricate. Windows shimmered with animated and movie-like festive scenes. Lights twisted and twirled around the now defunct chimney, dangling from the roof and the gutters. This bright, colourful display wouldn’t have been possible without the advances we’ve seen in flexible OLED lighting.
I know what you’re thinking: “that much real-world lighting requires a lot of power”. Now that they are used all around us, it’s easy to forget how much more energy-efficient OLEDs are. They have replaced other lighting sources in many applications, from your TV and car lights to the lighting in your home or commercial and hospitality spaces. Almost all our power is provided by renewable energy now. That supply is efficiently managed by digitally-enabled technologies and distributed via decentralised microgrids, making sure supply matches demand with little-to-no energy wasted.
Eco-friendly outfits are now the only trend
As we all hugged and laughed with joy at seeing each other in person for the first time in who knows how long, I took the time to notice everyone’s clothes. Yes, there were colourful Christmas jumpers as well as fabulous frocks, but each item was made using reclaimed and reused or recycled textiles and fabrics. Changing attitudes mean fast-fashion was rapidly rejected a long time ago. It is the brands that can reimagine your old items and give them new life to be worn again that are most successful now.
You know, we are still quite style-obsessed in 2050, and have trends to keep up with. That’s why sustainable dyes made using microbial fermentation processes are used to create new patterns and looks. Bacteria-based pigments and colours have helped cut waste and toxic pollution in the clothing industry, so my cousin can wear their bright red Santa hat without remorse, and of course, reuse it the following year.
A festive feast founded in science
As we all sat down for our Christmas dinner, we marvelled at a meal both traditional and modern. What was once novel food is now commonplace, part of a table spread with dishes that use ingredients grown harmoniously with nature or created using the most up-to-date technology. It is a testament to the advances in the AgriFoodTech industry that has made it possible for us to eat more sustainably, whilst also helping to eradicate world hunger.
Our festive centrepiece was the ever-traditional Christmas feast, a golden glazed turkey, made of lab-grown meat, a spectacle of science cultivated using ethical processes that mirrors the taste and texture of the bird we all associate with Christmas, without the environmental and animal welfare toll of traditional poultry farming.
The accompaniments were no less revolutionary, though in a more of a ‘back-to-nature’ sense. Our vegetables are nurtured in soils enriched with natural fertilisers and protected by biopesticides. By replacing synthetic chemicals with additives based on nature’s own innovations we have been able to feed the world at the same time as restoring the Earth’s biodiversity.
Unwrapping guilt-free gifts
After dinner, we sat around the tree to finally open our presents. The joy of unwrapping presents is timeless, but I certainly don’t miss the waste it once entailed. In fact, gift-giving has taken on a new meaning. With so much available digitally, it is a real treat to receive something given with care and thought for both the receiver and the planet.
Today’s presents have sustainability embedded in them. Where plastic is still used, the little of it present is from truly biodegradable plastics. The e‑waste problem has been significantly reduced by widespread repair and reuse programmes, boosted by forward-thinking legislation, as well as by innovative technology for extracting and recycling the valuable metals and other components found in our gifted gadgets.
Even the packaging has undergone a sea change. Eco-friendly wrapping derived from sustainably farmed seaweed and other natural sources are no longer radical but are the norm. They decompose seamlessly, returning to the earth to replenish its resources when composted.
With commitment to reusing what we have and with innovative solutions, we’ve been able to ensure that the life of the products we use, and food we consume, is extended almost indefinitely through circularity. It feels like yesterday when I decided to film this short video explaining Circular Economy as a novel concept, but here we are. Now almost everything operates in a resourceful circular manner, leaving minimal waste behind.
At the end of Christmas day in our time, I have been able to reflect on just how much we’ve done to restore the health of people and the planet. And much of it is down to the decisions you made in 2023 and the years that followed.
Wishing you all a sustainable Christmas, now and in future years!
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