Why is Christmas unsustainable?
Christmas is the season of celebration where families connect and the endless supply of food just keeps on coming. However, due to immense food consumption, gifts and bright lights, Christmas is often an invisible villain making the season of celebration, a season of destruction to the environment. Nevertheless, there is a greener way to spend Christmas; a way that provides the joy and convenience of traditional Christmases whilst looking after our health and the planet.
In the United Kingdom alone, seven million tonnes of food is wasted during Christmas with 74 million mince pies, 2 million turkeys and 5 million puddings thrown away. All completely edible.
When food is disposed of in landfills, they decompose and produce a greenhouse gas called methane (CH4) which is substantially worse than carbon dioxide (CO2). Food wastage contributes to 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions annually with a considerable portion coming from the seemingly-jolly season.
Some of the best ways to help minimise the amount of food wasted during the Christmas season is to either freeze any leftover meals or send your uneaten content to food charities in your local area. This way your family can eat as much as they please, your food wastage is slim to none, and a family or individual is gifted with food they otherwise never would have received.
The Christmas season is a time to celebrate which unfortunately leaves many blindsided to the impacts they may be having on the environment. Although with some simple planning and generosity, Christmas can become a true blessing for the fortunate and less fortunate people, whilst minimising our environmental footprint.
According to the EIA (Energy Information Administration), American households alone use around 3.5 billion kilowatt hours during the Christmas period; producing 2 million tons of CO2 annually. On average, this costs Americans a total of $904 million AUD ($645 million USD). To reduce the large energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the Christmas season, the Department of Energy suggests looking for lighting and decorations with LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights to reduce consumption. If all Christmas decorations were powered with LED bulbs, energy intake would decline by more than 75%; reducing costs and emissions.
Solar-powered lighting is another more environmentally conscious way of slashing emissions even further whilst virtually eliminating costs.
By using solely LED bulbs and solar power in the future, we can ensure our houses are still decorative and bright at Christmas time; simultaneously providing the planet with a gift of a different form.
Paper is an important resource that we must keep recycling. Period.
Yet huge amounts of paper are used and not recycled every Christmas season. In the United Kingdom alone, 365,231 kilometres (227,000 miles) of wrapping paper is thrown away during Christmas; most of which is recyclable. Moreover, a billion cards are thrown into landfills rather than disposed of correctly.
Recycling is a simple exercise for a large percentage of society: simply throw the recyclables into the recycling bin as opposed to the general waste, and leave the rest of the work up to the collectors.
If the paper is too shiny or glittery, then find stylish recyclable alternatives that are guaranteed to be in local stores. Deforestation, overfilled landfills and colossal amounts of Christmas waste – all of which are driven (or being caused) by multiple factors, one being incorrect paper disposal. It all starts with recycling what we already have.
The aviation industry contributes to 2.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions annually; a large percentage of which comes from international product distribution. Today, the vast majority of products are manufactured in China, however, there are still manufacturing plants in other countries to support production for local businesses.
To help minimise the large amount of greenhouse gas emissions that arise from aviation, try seeking out locally manufactured gifts.
According to The Worldwatch Insititute, purchasing local household products, food, etc can reduce emissions by between 5% to 17%. Supporting local boosts the economy, substantially lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and gifts families and friends with thoughtful, quality gifts for Christmas.
Real or artificial?
Many question if a real tree or a fake tree is the more sustainable option. Real trees are the more sustainable option to make when purchasing before Christmas. This does obviously require cutting a tree down in the first place, nevertheless, the positives far outway the negatives.
With a fake Christmas tree, almost all of the structure is made from unrecyclable plastic meaning that it is bound for the landfill. Additionally, many of the plastic trees are produced in China, increasing travel distance and therefore emissions.
According to the Carbon Trust, a 6.5 foot artificial Christmas tree produces around
40 kilograms of CO2.
The National Christmas Tree Association says that real Christmas tree impacts are minor with the average farmer planting 1 – 3 seeds for every single tree removed – meaning the carbon sequestration in the long-term outways the immediate loss.
Real Christmas trees are also harder to transport meaning more are locally sourced, cutting down on emissions even further. Real Christmas trees can also be returned to the farm to be shredded once Christmas is over, generating fresh mulch for new trees to grow the subsequent year.
Now unless you are vegetarian or vegan, you likely don’t even want to consider this. However, if you are genuinely serious about trying to minimise your impact during the Christmas season and in everyday life, it pays to listen.
Those that haven’t tried plant-based meat will very quickly deny it tastes like the conventional product, but rest assured, many companies do a brilliant job in replicating the exact taste, texture, smell and appearance.
Studies have found that the average serving of meat in a roast on Christmas day produces around 7 kilograms of CO2 meaning a family gathering of ten people would produce around 70 kilograms of carbon dioxide (not taking into account stuffing or gravy).
Annually, meat contributes to around 73% of all greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector; placing aside the incomprehensible amount of land, water and energy used to raise these animals.
Today, there are plant-based alternatives to virtually all types of meat which can most likely be found in local supermarkets or other food stores. If you are completely against plant-based meat, you (along with many other people) ought to consider why it is you have this stance. If the food you consume on Christmas day is so fundamentally important, then your priorities are so disorientated.
Christmas is the greatest time of the year with presents, family and much more. Yet, it’s often a burden on the environment with incredible quantities of trash and emissions. By taking these ideas into consideration, your family can ensure that your celebrations don’t wreak havoc on the planet.
We were gifted a perfect planet, so why not thank it with a greater level of appreciation and care this Christmas? Merry Christmas to all.
3 thoughts on “How to have a sustainable Christmas in 2021 and years to come.”
A great and informative blog post once again. I look forward to reading more of these even when I’ve moved to Edenbrook SC down the road.
Merry Xmas and a happy new year Mr Lyons
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Love this blog post Kyan!! Some great tips!
Here’s a few things that I do….
Every year I carefully open pressies, fold all my wrapping paper and ribbon up and tie it in a bundle to save for reuse the following year. Wrapping paper isn’t recyclable so I never buy Christmas paper. At times I might use recycled brown paper. Otherwise, I reuse everything! I reuse gift bags, wrap in material, newspaper or scarves purchased from the op shop.
My favourite thing to do at Christmas is to think carefully about what I can make for people OR what I can buy second hand. I try to minimise new purchases and when they are necessary, purchase well made, locally produced items. I LOVE op shopping so that’s always a fun activity to hunt and find special items that are unique and preloved.
Options to make….everyone loves food! In the past I’ve mixed my own tea blends, made bath salts in a layered jar, given handmade bread mixes that can be baked by the recipient, baked treats and jars of granola.
The best step to take or make Christmas or any event more sustainable is imperfect action. Often perfectionism and not-good-enough-ness holds people back from any action. The simple, first step is the best one to make this year! I’m looking forward to your next tips blog post Kyan, I love these ones because I can share back some of my own actions and ideas with you!!
Can’t wait to see what you do next Xx
Ms Cole 🙂
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Hope we can start doing more reusing and recycling so that Christmas will become sustainable
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