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"Winter, You’ll Miss it When it’s Gone" by TBWA agency in Johannesburg for Greenpeace. (2014)

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22 December 2023

No Coal This Christmas 

JOSH GIBBS

‘Tis the season to be jolly... But remember, your carbon footprint ain't no joke.  

From the stresses of finding the right present to the sometimes painful chit-chat with extended family, the holiday season can be a lot, even at the best of times. No doubt it can all get a bit much when you chuck in climate angst, considering the environmental cost of a conventional Christmas. According to a study at the University of York, a typical seasonal session can result in more than half a tonne of CO₂ per person (the typical person produces 10 tonnes in a whole year!).

Here are the 5 biggest offenders of party pollution and some tips to deal with them:

  1. What’s more festive than a Norwegian spruce in the living room to the fine tune of 16kg of carbon? And for all you’s with an artificial one, it is arguably more polluting at 40kg. Your best bet is homegrown and potted so it can keep growing year on year, but this takes serious discipline. Without even calculating the resulting decorations which can add up to 200kg depending on their extravagance, buying and decorating a tree is one of the most costly aspects of Christmas. Sadly, the Christmas tree may become a thing of the past as a necessary sacrifice to reduce our footprint.

  2. Whether we like it or not, the holidays are a time to see extended family which often means a drive in the car. That’ll be 60kg, please. How about one of those gruelling family walks you’ll only do at Christmas? Or take public transport instead? Or even better, don't see them at all.

  3. Although some people think it is not a real gift until it has been wrapped, my climate conscience has always kept me from properly wrapping my presents and this has saved me 3.5kg a year. Try reusing old wrapping paper or even better, give newspapers a go this year to kickstart a row over this year’s hottest wedge issue.

  4. 10 million turkeys in the UK are slaughtered each year for Christmas dinner with the average bird costing 10.9kg (btw this is the least polluting of all the meats to eat). If the idea of gobbling a meat free alternative, like a traditional cauliflower roast (which only costs a humble 3kg) is inconceivable, then why don't you ensure your turkey is locally sourced or at the very least eat every scrap the bird has to offer?

  5. What’s more disappointing than a bad gift that you know will never be used? ...The 80kg of waste that could have been avoided. Although it’s the season for giving, don't buy for the sake of it and ensure the present is sustainably sourced. Consider gifts with a low carbon impact, such as experiences which avoid physical consumption, for example, concert tickets. Good ideas for physical gifts could be second-hand clothes or a plant. Here’s a list of my three favourite brands with sustainability at the heart of what they do: https://bottletop.org/, https://www.veja-store.com/en_uk/, https://finisterre.com/pages/sustainability.

 

If you would like to offset your footprint through sequestration projects and you are unsure where to start here is a WWF calculator https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/questionnaire and a whole range of different projects to invest in https://marketplace.goldstandard.org/collections/projects.

I might sound like the Grinch right now, but if we do not correct our unsustainable approach to festivities, it might be the climate emergency which steals the Christmas spirit.

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