“12 Days of Sustainability” Guide Created to Provide Tips for a More Environmentally Friendly Festive Season
The true carbon cost of a typical family Christmas has been calculated and a series of tips to reduce environmental impact this yuletide has been compiled in a free “12 Days of Sustainability” guide. The initiative, from Project Solar UK, highlights just how much carbon an average Christmas family get together produces and offers practical steps to reduce emissions without cutting down on fun.
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree
Office Christmas parties are a staple in many people’s social calendars, but the environmental impact is rarely considered. A corporate party for 60 or more staff emits 62,000kg of carbon emissions. Consider food, dancing and transport and the carbon cost begins to add up.
Combat this by arranging to share taxis, buy locally sourced food where possible or go one step further and host a carbon-neutral event!
Step into Christmas (in a dress you already own)
It’s tempting to splash out on a new outfit for the office party, but often items like this are worn once and banished to the back of the wardrobe. During the Christmas season, 2 tonnes of clothing is bought every 60 seconds, with the production creating 50,000 kg of carbon emissions.
Try digging out an outfit you already own this party season or rent something from Hurr or By Rotation.
The same goes for the Christmas jumper. 95% of novelty sweaters are made from plastic. Manmade fibres are notoriously bad for the environment, as when they’re washed, they break up and end up in the ocean. Two out of five pieces of festive knitwear are only worn once during the Christmas season and thrown away soon after.
One of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions at Christmas is cards and gift wrapping.
The UK uses almost 227,000 miles of wrapping paper every Christmas – that’s enough paper to wrap the planet nine times over. The average person in the UK uses over 1kg of paper in Christmas cards – the equivalent of 3.5kg of carbon emissions.
Consider using recyclable paper and sending electronic Christmas cards to reduce the impact on the planet.
A Turkey on The Table
What’s Christmas without turkey? A lot more environmentally friendly it would seem.
While a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for eight people creates 31.5kg of carbon emissions, a roast turkey alone creates 10.9kg. Switching to a plant-based alternative or making sure turkey leftovers don’t go to waste are a couple of practical steps to consider introducing in 2021.
We’re a nation of food wasters, and no more so than at Christmas time. In 2019, 4.2 million Christmas dinners were thrown away across the UK. To put it into perspective, the waste is equivalent to 263,000 turkeys, 740,000 portions of Christmas pudding and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts. Households discard an average of 74kg of food per person each year, and the Christmas leftovers for a family of eight will produce 48kg of carbon emissions providing us with food for thought.
It is worth trying to buy only what is needed for guests or giving away any extra food to a food bank or charity.
Oh, Christmas Tree!
Many people wonder if they should get the real deal or is faux fir better for the planet? A real tree that is sent to a landfill at the end of the season produces 16kg of carbon emissions. Compare this to an artificial version, which would need to be used for 12 years to offset the 40kg of carbon emissions it produces during manufacturing. Real trees can generally be recycled in the UK in January with local council’s websites offering guidance on collection.
Lighting up the tree
On average, UK families put their tree up on the first weekend of December and have the tree lit for five hours a night. Working on the average that 25 incandescent bulbs will be used, a whopping 13.5kgs of carbon emissions are produced from Christmas lights alone!
It may be time to consider lighting alternatives – such as solar – or go one step further and install a solar system to power the home. On average, a solar system can save up to 900kgs of carbon emissions per year, meaning families can reduce their carbon cost of Christmas by almost a third. Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative energy source as gas and electricity bills continue to rise.
Waiting for the family to arrive
Pulling a cracker over Zoom just wasn’t the same in 2020. Many of the population will be driving home for Christmas this year, but an average journey of 30 miles in a family-sized petrol car produces roughly 10.9kg of carbon emissions.
The longer the journey, the more carbon emissions will be produced – so finding an alternative method of travel, such as car sharing, can be a practical step to reduce emissions.
Mistletoe and Wine
The return of the Christmas markets to many UK cities is a welcome sight after we missed out last year. A popular festive attraction, the biggest markets in Manchester and Birmingham welcome an average of 9 million people each year. The average person emits 1.2kg of carbon emissions each day so when other factors such as transport to the city, food and drinks are considered then the carbon impact increases by roughly 0.5kg per person.
Fortunately, many UK Christmas markets are working towards being more environmentally friendly. Manchester, for example, has introduced a new recycling method and LED Christmas lights to reduce the footprint of the Christmas markets.
‘Tis the season for giving
According to NORAD Santa tracker, the main man delivered over 4 billion presents across the world in 2020. Many of these presents will be plastic-based, with 6kg of carbon emissions produced for every 1kg of plastic produced.
Alternative or wooden gifts could be considered for a more sustainable approach.
The tips were created by Project Solar UK, the country’s leading retailer and installer of solar panels. CEO Simon Peat believes that taking small steps can help as we work together to establish how to reduce our own carbon emissions this festive season. Says Simon, “We’ve created our ‘12 Days of Sustainability Guide’ to give practical tips and advice to those who want to do their bit for the environment around the festive season. As a company in the solar power industry, we are encouraging people to think about sustainable energy alternatives all year round, not just at Christmas. Many people think that solar panels only work best to help create energy and save money in the summer when the sun shines most, but the winter sun of December is a fantastic natural resource to create energy as more people are finding out as they look for ideas to reduce their carbon footprint and their energy bills.”
Activity Carbon impact (in kgs)
- Christmas lights 13.5
- Travel 62
- Christmas jumper 22.4
- Christmas Dinner 31.5
- Artificial Christmas Tree 40
- Presents 6
- Cards and wrapping paper 3.5
- Christmas Leftovers 48
- Christmas Market 13.6
- Christmas Party 62
- New Christmas Party Dress 88
- Total carbon impact 380kg of carbon emissions
Statistics based on a Christmas day with 8 people attending.