During the festive season, it’s easy to forget the damage being done to the environment or chock it up to the special time of year. Last month, I read How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee and for the first time, I thought critically a out the environmental impact of everything Christmas.
On average, an individual will emit 280 kilograms of carbon dioxide* this season, but anywhere between 4-1,500 kilograms is possible depending on the situation. To put that in perspective, filling a pint glass with petrol and setting it on fire would release about one kilogram of carbon dioxide. The average person in the U.K. is responsible for about 15 tonnes of emissions as it stands and Americans quite a bit more.
Unwanted gifts and excess food leading to waste, Christmas lights, postage and travel all contribute to the environmental impact of Christmas. Here are some figures from Christmas past in the U.K.:
- More than a billion Christmas cards delivered this year. That’s enough to stretch around the world five times.
- 52 square miles of wrapping paper will be ripped off by Boxing Day.
- 125,000 tons of plastic packaging will end up in the bin.
- Six million trees have been bought but only 1.2 million will be recycled.
- Up to 40 per cent of festive food is wasted.
- Many will get the latest mobile phone but only 10 to 15 per cent are recycled.
- One in four Christmas jumpers bought last year was thrown away or is unlikely to be worn again.
However, I am not a monster and don’t think that we shouldn’t celebrate, but maybe rejoice in a smarter way. It’s suggested to buy independent or make your gifts, give gifts that you don’t buy (donations, gift of time, etc.), eat vegan or vegetarian, include gift receipts on the gifts you give, recycle your trees and wrapping and if you travel, take a train or coach rather than driving or flying. Here are some additional posts both from news outlets and fellow bloggers on how to have an ethical, environmentally friendly Christmas:
- 36 Picks For Ethical Giving
- What To Get Those Who Love To Give Back
- 50 Ethical, Sustainable and Zero Waste Gift Ideas
- 9 Tips For An Eco Christmas
Fighting climate change isn’t about doing all the right things all the time, it’s about picking your battles and I think a lot of us can afford to downsize this year and celebrate more modestly. Happy holidays!
Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev
*Other greenhouse gases are recognized, but for simplicity sake, the book speaks mostly on carbon dioxide.