Why is Christmas unsustainable?
Christmas is the season of celebration where families connect and mass amounts of food are devoured until we feel unwell. However, due to the immense consumption of food, gifts and bright lights, Christmas is often a secret villain making the season of celebration, a season of destruction on the environment. However, there is a greener way to spend Christmas. A way that provides the joy and convenience of traditional Christmases while looking after the health of planet earth.
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 for a later date 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 struggling to put food on the table can receive much needed supplies.
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 time can become a true blessing for the fortunate and less fortunate population in addition to the planet.
According to the EIA (Energy Information Administration), American households alone use around 3.5 billion kilowatt hours during the Christmas period, ultimately producing two million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually with the statistics likely to escalate with more housing construction. 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, we could lower the energy intake by more than 75%, bringing down costs and emissions.
Additionally, solar-powered lighting is another more environmentally conscious way of slashing emissions even further, while eliminating all costs.
By using solely LED bulbs and solar power in the future, we can ensure our houses are still incredibly decorative and bright at Christmas time while also providing the planet with a gift of a different form.
Paper is an important resource that we must recycle continuously, otherwise we’ll witness the end of trees and considerable amounts of oxygen.
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 with the vast majority being recyclable.
A billion cards are thrown into landfills rather than disposed of correctly.
Recycling is an incredibly simple process for a large percentage of society, with the ability to throw the content into a bin and leave the rest of the work up to others.
The simple solution is to recycle your paper! If your paper is too shiny or glittery, then find stylish recyclable alternatives that are guaranteed to be in local stores.
If we want to see the end of deforestation, overfilled landfills and colossal amounts of Christmas waste, then we must lower the amount of paper we need to create in the first place…it all starts with recycling what we already have.
The aviation industry contributes to 2.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions annually, with a large percentage created from flying items across the globe. Today, the vast majority of products are manufactured in China, although there are still manufacturing plants in other countries to support production for local businesses.
To help minimise a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions that arise from aviation,
try looking for locally manufactured gifts for friends and family.
This might be a harder task for children with almost all cheap, plastic toys produced in China, yet for older family and friends, there may be local potteries or mills that sell locally produced cutlery, furniture pieces, etc.
According to ‘The Worldwatch Insititute’, purchasing local household products, food, etc can reduce emissions by between 5% to 17%.
Supporting local businesses provides a boost for the economy, substantially lowers greenhouse gas emissions and supplies family and friends with thoughtful, high-quality gifts for Christmas.
Real or artificial?
Many wonder if a real tree or a fake tree is the more sustainable option, answer…real. Real trees are the more sustainable option you can make when purchasing before Christmas. While you are required to cut the tree down in the first place, the positives far outway the negatives in this argument.
With a fake Christmas tree, almost all of the structure is made from unrecyclable plastic meaning that it eventually has to be thrown into landfills to sit for hundreds of years. 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 carbon dioxide (CO2)!
Furthermore, the National Christmas Tree Association said that real Christmas tree impacts are minor with the average farmer planting one to three seeds for every one tree removed ensuring the growth outways the loss of their miniature forests.
Real Christmas trees are also harder to transport meaning more are locally sourced, cutting down on emissions even more. In addition, 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 following year.
With far lower environmental damage, greater appeal, locally sourced and a terrific smell, it’s hard to go wrong with a real Christmas tree.
Now unless you are vegetarian or vegan, you might be looking at this thinking no way will we be eating plant-based meat during Christmas. However, if you are serious about trying to lower your impact during the Christmas season and in everyday life, this is one of the best possible things you can do.
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 seven kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) meaning a family gathering of ten people would produce around seventy kilograms of carbon dioxide!
That’s placing aside the stuffing and gravy.
Every year, meat contributes to around 57% of all greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector with more and more of the public becoming increasingly conscious around what they choose to eat.
Today, there are plant-based alternatives to almost all types of meat which can most likely be found in your local supermarkets or other food stores. Even if you are completely against plant-based meat, then please consider purchasing meat that is from sustainable farming practices.
Here in Australia meat that is from sustainable sources will be recognised with the RSPCA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) logo on the packaging to ensure consumers that these farming methods are cruelty-free.
Christmas is the greatest time of the year with presents, family and so much more. Yet, it’s often a burden on the environment with incredible quantities of trash and colossal amounts of emissions. By taking these ideas into consideration, your family can ensure that your celebrations don’t wreak havoc on the planet.
Our species was fortunate enough to be gifted with this magnificent but incredibly delicate blue and green marble, so why not provide our splendid environment with a greater level of appreciation and care during Christmas? Merry Christmas to all!