You have a green electricity tariff, you try to buy as little new as possible, recycle all that you can, avoid items with excess plastic and never waste any food. But that all goes up the chimney on Christmas, in a festive blur of wrapping paper, new gadgets, buffets and long drives to see family.
A study from the University of York estimates that, between the gifts, food, fairy lights and travel, we’re each responsible for 650kg of carbon dioxide emissions at Christmas. That’s 5.5% of our annual carbon footprints and in just three days of merriment.
However, you can get through the holiday season without blowing your personal carbon budget or contributing to the plastic clogging our waterways. Here are our tips for having a green Christmas, baubles and all.
We chop down eight million pine and fir trees each year to decorate our homes, sometimes driving them many miles strapped to the roofs of our cars. Real trees are more environmentally-friendly than artificial alternatives: a two-metre plastic tree has a carbon footprint of 40kg, more than 10 times greater than a properly disposed of real tree. But you shouldn’t just pick any old fir.
Transforming your home into a Santa’s grotto with strings of lights is energy-intensive. But you can decorate sensibly, keeping the cheer while minimising your impact on the environment.
We know we have to consume less, but somehow we forget that when scurrying around for stocking stuffers and gifts for our brother’s girlfriend’s sister. In 2007, the University of York estimated that our Christmas magnanimity is responsible for 310kg of CO2 per person. And that’s not accounting for the plastic packaging all those gifts, especially electronics and toys, are swaddled in: an estimated 125,000 tonnes, much of it destined for our oceans.
For every single kilogram of Christmas wrapping that’s produced, 3.5kg of CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere. Multiply that by the 227,000 tonnes of Christmas wrapping we use each year and you have a mind-boggling carbon toll – and that’s before we consider all that wrapping landing in landfills and dumps. Here’s how to avoid the bin bags brimming with tinselly wrapping paper:
The energy used to cook just the 10 million turkeys destined for our tables – an estimated 90GW – could power nearly 36,000 electric vehicles for a year, according to Chargepoint. And that’s not counting all the puddings and the £1 billion of food we throw away. All told, our Christmas eating habits leave us responsible for 26kg of CO2 each. How do you slim down your carbon footprint without feeling like Scrooge?
During the holiday season, we travel six billion miles around the UK, mostly by car, pumping billions of particles of pollutants and carbon into the atmosphere. And that’s not counting the millions of miles logged by those flying overseas, to see family or just escape the Christmas bustle on the beach.