Christmas is a time of year when we tend to consume a lot more than usual. Although it is often part of the magic of this season, I like to think that it is also possible to minimize our impact on the planet.
A big impact on the planet
In a few figures, just over the 3-4 days around Christmas, the carbon footprint per person at 650 kg of carbon emissions. That's almost half of what we should emit in 1 year to stay on course for 2050 (during the Paris COP21 agreements in 2015, an annual carbon footprint target of 2 tons per person has been set for 2050)… In addition, this figure of 650 kg per person was revealed in a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute in 2007. We can imagine that with the explosion of the consumer society in the last 10 years, we have certainly exceeded this number to reach rather 1 ton per person.
Very often you will spend Christmas with your owns, i your family and it is completely understandable and part of the spirit of these end-of-year celebrations. This is why the Christmas period has such a significant impact on our beautiful planet. Indeed, while some will take trains and other means of public transport to join their families, most households will take their personal vehicle to get around. This will ultimately represent a very significant pollution during the holiday seasons, all over the world. Some families even travel by plane to join their loved ones at the end of December. On the other hand, given the number of journeys made by car compared to the plane, it is the use of cars that pollutes the most at Christmas, contrary to what one might think.
The impact of the Christmas holidays on the planet in terms of food is essentially reflected in a disproportionate overabundance and considerable food waste. According to a 2019 study by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), throughout the year, we throw away and waste almost 17% of what we produce as food in the world. In some areas this rises to almost a third, even 50%. Food losses and waste have an estimated impact on the climate of 3.3 giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
Gifts and packaging waste
The impact of the Christmas holidays on the planet is also present at the level of our garbage cans, since, each year in France and in other European countries such as Germany, we observe a 20% increase in waste at the end-of-year holiday season. In addition to food waste, the culprits are gift wrap and all cardboard and plastic packaging for gifts. Very often, the papers used are used only once and are crumpled up and then thrown in the trash. Imagine all the paper (and therefore the resources used) that we would save if everyone wrapped their gifts with recycling or reusing paper from other years. The madness of gifts and the very strong belief that "you have to give a gift and a new one" remains rooted in our society. Unfortunately, consuming only new products forces production and therefore the consumption of resources. According to a Kantar study for Ebay, in 2020, 18% of French people planned to resell the Christmas gifts that had been offered to them. According to the same study, no less than 363 million euros are spent on unwanted or unpopular gifts each year. In short, it is 1 out of 3 gifts that will be bought new but will never be used. Another waste of resources.Pay attention to the quantities this year, or just eat the left overs for a long time if you’d like, but don’t waste ! There’s always the option of giving to your invités the left overs of the big Christmas dinner, if you are not able to finish everything yourself before it gets too old.
The solutions available to you
A sustainable meal, but not in quantity
If you pay attention to the food you buy, you can mostly choose local products and vegetables that are suited to the season. You can also give an extra care in buying from local providers, seasonal products and organic veggies and fruits, and even cook a vegetarian Christmas dinner!
Pay attention to the quantities this year, or just eat the left overs for a long time if you’d like, but don’t waste ! There’s always the option of giving to your invités the left overs of the big Christmas dinner, if you are not able to finish everything yourself before it gets too old.
Buying eco friendly presents
Try as much as you can to buy eco friendly gift.
- Second hand gifts: you don’t have to buy brand new things for your love ones, second hand is always an option and it’s more sustainable.
- Do it yourself: you can also choose to make (#DIY) your own gifts, and it could even be personalized.
- Support local businesses and handmade products: Think of how great it would be to buy a present from a local and sustainable business.
No wrapping paper : use furoshikis
Do you know about Furoshiki?
It’s a Japanese traditional wrapping cloth. It can be use to wrap a present or just transport objects. It will allow you not to use to much paper this year, and it is also part of the present. A beautiful Furoshiki is already a beautiful gift. And I will make some, only on special orders this year. You can ask me for the colors and patterns I have in stock or check out in the shop.
Avoid travelling miles
If you can, try not to travel too much for Christmas as it is part of a very big pollution. If you have to travel, prefer taking the train than the plane or the car. Think sustainability. Maybe this year you don’t need to go to see your family a cross the ocean?
What we should remember…
The impact of the Christmas holidays on the planet is huge and yet unsuspected. The most important thing is to be conscious and aware when we consume for Christmas.
It is essential to remember why we celebrate Christmas even without being religious: to rest during a break, to enjoy with family and friends, to share moments together and reunite, to create memories or to show gratitude for the past year.
These reasons are not supposed to harm the planet and the environment, they are actually opposed to it. Thus, remove all the superfluous that we added unnecessarily to Christmas, to find the pure essence of this holiday: gather with your loved ones and share a great time together.