How green is your Christmas?

23.12.15

It’s that time of year where we all let loose a little – work Christmas parties, indulgent family meals and sitting alone eating an entire block of stilton. From the beginning of December, right through until New Year’s Day, there’s excess booze, surplus food and trousers bursting at the seams. With biscuits, mule logs, sherry, mince pies all being bought in bulk, it’s no wonder that our carbon footprint is high at Christmas. Extra food means additional food waste, more time at home means higher heating bills, and Christmas light competitions means higher electricity usage – so how green really is Christmas? We’ve compiled a list below that may inspire you to have a Christmas that is a little more sustainable …

  1. In 2014, the Money Advice service issued a survey that asked participants about wasted food and unwanted gifts at Christmas – they found that on average, an adult will overspend on food by about £28. It doesn’t sound like too much – but together with wasted gifts, that’s a wasted excess of £2.4 billion, which is not only more than the total UK housing budget (£2bn) announced in Autumn 2015, [1] but would also buy a hell a lot of chocolate cake.
  2. Statistics from UK waste company, EnviroWaste, last year estimated that[2] 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper will be thrown out or burnt. This is enough to wrap the entire island of Jersey. What’s more, 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown out, rather than recycled. Oh dear.
  3. You make think that an artificial Christmas tree is more sustainable than a real tree at Christmas, but Vanessa Pine, head of the Carbon Trust’s footprinting team[3] points out that you would have to ‘reuse it for ten Christmases’ for that to be true. Put the tree on a landfill site though, where they normally end up, and they produce 40 kg of emissions, compared to 3.5kg for a real tree if it’s incinerated or chipped. We suggest dressing up one of the kids as a Christmas tree – that way you don’t have either.Z
  4. In 2007, researchers at The University of Manchester worked out that the average Christmas dinner is 20kg per person[4]. For a typical family meal of 4, that’s 80 kg – equivalent to an economy return flight from Manchester to London (0.08 tonnes). The University went on to say that for the population in the UK who would generally eat a traditional Christmas meal, that would mean 51,000 tonnes of Carbon Emissions nationwide – the equivalent of 300 return car journeys to the moon.
  5. Meanwhile, whilst the researchers at the University of Manchester were busy looking into Christmas dinner emissions, scientists at the University of Leeds spent their time looking into the carbon emissions produced by Santa[5]. Turns out, Santa is an incredibly naughty boy. In 2013, it was estimated that Santa’s trip to the UK alone would emit 139 million tons of CO2. More surprisingly, the methane produced by the reindeer’s bodily ‘emissions’ is over 20 times worse for climate than emissions of carbon dioxide from a Jet engine. That’s a lot of carrots.

Z-1

[1] http://www.eauk.org/culture/statistics/christmas-facts-and-quotes.cfm
[2] http://www.envirowaste.co.uk/feeds/news/christmas-waste-statistics–making-christmas-green.aspx
[3] http://www.ehow.co.uk/feature_12250885_real-environmental-impact-christmas.html
[4] http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/article/?id=3316
[5] http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/communications/jennifer-elks/scientists-think-santas-carbon-footprint-should-earn-him

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