The environmental cost of Christmas
Christmas is a day we all look forward to celebrating every year. It was first celebrated in 336 by Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. Year after year, we look forward to it, regardless if we are religious or not. Spending time with family, eating traditional food, giving gifts and receiving them, etc.
But did you know that Christmas is the most polluting day of the year? What makes it so?
Food waste, during Christmas we consume and eat more food, but that also means we waste more. Only in the UK food waste increases 30% during the holidays. Each household consumes more than double their regular amount. Also, the choice of meat can have a great impact on the footprint of the meals.
We all love having a Christmas tree, but how eco-friendly is having a tree? Is a fake one better? According to Carbon Trust, a real Christmas tree has a lower carbon footprint than an artificial tree. The organization calculated that a natural 2-meter-tall Christmas tree that is disposed of into a landfill has a footprint of around 16 kilograms of CO2, thanks to methane emissions as it rots. A tree that is disposed of by burning, replanting or chipping it has a footprint of around 3.5kg of CO2. However, a new tree isn’t really the answer.
If you already have an artificial tree laying around, it would be more beneficial to reuse it on a yearly basis. It can last decades.
Gifting and receiving gifts is something that we all love. However, 34% of gifts are returned every year. During this season we buy more than any other time of the year, starting Black Friday, finishing with post Christmas sales. Most of these products aren’t environmentally friendly and also come with a great deal of packaging.
Over the holidays, many people travel home to visit family. Over 250 million Europeans, according to research by MasterCard. The average European will travel 516 kilometers, around the distance from Paris to Amsterdam, with nearly a quarter taking to the sky. Those kilometers will further add to Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and congestion.
There are many things that can be done to enjoy a more sustainable Christmas, but the main one is to be conscious and understand the real issue, consumerism. As long as we use Christmas as an excuse to buy and consume, we won’t be able to turn it around.