What is the carbon footprint of Christmas? In his book ‘How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything’, Mike Berners-Lee calculated that ‘Christmas Excess’ could account for 4kg CO2e per adult in a low-carbon scenario, or up to 1500kg CO2e per adult in a high carbon scenario! These figures just account for unwanted presents, wasted food, avoidable travel, fairy lights and cards – ‘excess’ which could be avoided, so the real carbon footprint of Christmas is much higher. One of our Operational Volunteers, McKenna Smith, put together her suggestions of how you can make sure your festive season is at the low end of this spectrum, while having just as much fun!
12 Days of Sustainability
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree
If you’re thinking of what Christmas tree to buy your loved ones this holiday season, think about some alternatives! If you are a stickler for that real tree smell, investigate the opportunity to get a certified sustainable one. Take it one step further, ditch the Tesco tree and see if your local flower shop is selling trees this year! Or, think of getting a reused artificial one from sites like Freegle, Freecycle, Ebay, or Gumtree. And make sure at the end of your tree’s life you find the correct recycling option.
Christmas tree not your cup of tea? Decorate any plant with lights to have an alternative holiday feel – our 2050 Policy Chair Ula might decorate her avocado plant!
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… two turtle doves
It’s not two turtle doves, but try turning your thermostat down two degrees next time you have a party. Your friends (and their ridiculous jumpers) will warm the flat up quickly! And talking of energy, go easy on the Christmas lights, and make sure they are LED. Less is more – classy and sustainable!
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me… three French hens
Leave the hens alone this holiday season and host a vegan/veggie Christmas meal! Not only will you be including everyone, but also saving carbon emissions from removing meat from the menu. There are loads of great recipes out there – check out collections such as those from Olive Magazine, BBC Good Food, Jamie Oliver, and Waitrose for inspiration (the days of dry nut roasts being the only option are over).
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… four calling birds
Think about the birds and the bees this season by gifting your family and friends sustainable options for bird feeders and bee-homes! I’ve purchased the cute bee pot from Green & Blue, a B Corp company who make beautiful additions to anyone’s garden. The Eden Project also have a great gift shop with reasonable prices.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… five golden rings
It’s not a golden ring, but a new jacket can be just as expensive! Instead of going to the high street this year, think about giving a more sustainable option. Finisterre and Patagonia are both B Corp companies who produce long-lasting sustainable options. Patagonia even offer the option to buy reused clothing that they have fixed. Or alternatively, there is no shame in Christmas shopping in charity shops – often you can find barely used products of a higher quality than your normal budget can afford!
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… six geese a laying
There isn’t a clever way to turn this one, but hey – think about supporting your local social enterprise with gifts for the whole family. My favourite right now are these socks that feature different Sustainable Development Goals.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… seven swans a swimming
Hey speaking swimming, think about gifting ‘experiences’ this year such as gym memberships, cinema passes, cooking classes, or painting classes (there are even some with BYOB). This allows your loved ones to do something memorable with you instead of wearing that third new jumper that they didn’t need.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… eight maids a-milking
Eight maids milking seems like overkill, and so does purchasing new gifts for everyone. Get creative this holiday season with hand crafted gifts such as jams, scrapbooks, or something a bit more technical like wooden spoons (some woodworking skills required…)! This is a great option for students or young professionals to get relatives, as everyone knows you will be on a budget. Our team have been making marrow and ginger jam, plum jam, Scottish tablet, homemade lipscrubs, bramble and elderberry gin, limoncello, and even gifts out of sea glass found on the beach!
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… nine ladies dancing
You know who else will be dancing? You once you carpool home for the holidays with friends! See if there is someone you can carpool with, not only will you save carbon emissions but have way more fun. Have someone make a holiday playlist and get your boogie on.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… ten lords a-leaping
Leaping, bounding, and running around. During the holidays kids can have a lot of energy – have them cut out paper snowflakes or string garland for inexpensive Christmas decorations! You’ll be able to feel Christmas-y without the massive hole in your wallet. You can also let kids decorate plain brown paper to wrap your gifts in! This makes the wrapping a lot more personal, and is an excellent creative release for the kiddos.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 11 pipers piping
Pipers piping… time to pipe up and remind your loved ones to use their reusable bags! Most of us already use reusable bags for our shopping, yet I see loads of people walking around with Primark and Marks & Spencer bags full of Christmas presents. Next time you head to the high street, throw your reusable bags in your car!
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 12 drummers drumming
Drumroll please….the last sustainable action (and maybe the easiest) you could do this Christmas is not buy so much stuff! The picture below demonstrates an easy way to make a lasting difference this season, focused on experiences and homemade gifts! Keeping this idea in mind will allow you and your loved ones to have a more sustainable holiday season to remember!
And if you’re still going, here is the full section on the carbon impact of Christmas Excess from Mike Berners-Lee’s book ‘How Bad Are Banana’s? The Carbon Footprint of Everything‘ (this may also make a great Christmas present…):