Christmas time is accompanied by seasonal increases in our level of consumption. But what is the environmental impact of Christmas?
From eating and drinking to giving and receiving, it is the time of the year when we do things to excess. Unfortunately, it also means we are likely to have a greater impact on the environment.
A number of studies have attempted to calculate the carbon footprint of Christmas.
So, let’s start with the Christmas tree. When it comes to the use of an artificial versus a natural Christmas tree, one study found that when compared on an annual basis, the artificial tree (6 yrs life span) has three times more impact on climate change and resource depletion than the natural tree. The natural tree contributes significantly less carbon dioxide emission (39%) than the artificial tree.
As for Christmas dinner, it has been estimated that a British style Christmas dinner is equivalent to 20kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission – 60 per cent related to life cycle of turkey. Total equivalent emissions for UK Christmas dinners is 51,000 tonnes – or 148 million miles travelled in a car. Cranberry sauce is the worst offender for transport-related carbon emissions.
Even Santa Claus is not excluded from scrutiny. With another study suggesting that Santa’s 133 million mile trip around the world is responsible for emitting about 70 million tons of CO2!
However, if we look at the total consumption and spending on food, travel, lighting and gifts over three days of festivities (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Then this could result in as much as 650 kg of CO2 emissions per person – equivalent to the weight of 1,000 Christmas puddings!
Such studies will vary in their assumptions, data sets and methodologies and may not necessarily be comparable. However, we don’t need any study to tell us what we already know – that our consumption peaks at this time of the year.
But we can still have a good Christmas and be kind to the planet?
With a bit of thought we can limit the impact we have on the environment this Christmas and still have a great time. There are a number of actions we can all take which can reduce our CO2 emissions.
• Support your local economy and try buying from local organic suppliers.
• Compost your vegetable peelings after you’ve finished cooking to make sure that this extra organic waste doesn’t head straight to landfill.
• Plan your meal carefully to reduce the amount of uneaten food thrown away – check who likes Brussels sprouts!
• Plan your Christmas travel to reduce the distance travelled and try and use environmentally friendly modes of transport or car share.
• Less is more when it come Christmas lighting! Opt for a small tasteful lighting display and turn the fairy lights off before bed and save both money and carbon.
• When it comes to Christmas presents buy quality not quantity. Well-made goods last longer and will not have to be replaced in the New Year.
• A good Christmas gift doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.
Think about giving alternative gifts such as a charity or environmentally friendly gift, an experience or giving your time.
• Give your unwanted gifts to charity or to local hospitals or hospices.
In this time of seasonal goodwill, we should all spare a thought for the planet!
A Merry Christmas to you all, everyone!