Christmas. A time for mulled wine and mince pie fuelled happiness. But what if you could sit back and enjoy the festivities, while also helping to save the planet? Well, here’s how…
At Siemens, we have made some big steps towards reducing the impact of climate change, including our commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. With all this good work going on, it is hard not to want to play our part as individuals. Luckily, the Christmas holidays provide the perfect opportunity to set some new goals for lowering your carbon footprint.
From Christmas trees, to cards and presents, and of course a Christmas dinner, we go through a whopping amount of resources at Christmas. As well as our waistlines getting a little bigger over the holiday season, so does our carbon footprint. Research from the Stockholm Environment Institute found that over the three days of Christmas festivities, the average person will emit up to 650 kg of CO2 (the equivalent of flying from Manchester to London 11 times!) Whether you’re already carbon Christmas champion or maybe an eco-friendly first timer, this article will give you a few hints and tips about how to have a lower carbon Christmas this year.
1. Go for a real, FSC approved Christmas tree
Whether to get a real tree or artificial tree for Christmas is an age-old debate. However, in terms of carbon emissions there is a clear winner. Research by the Carbon Trust and the American Christmas Tree Association has shown that real cut Christmas trees have a much lower carbon footprint than artificial Christmas trees. In fact, you would have to reuse your artificial Christmas tree for up to 5-10 years for it to have a lower carbon footprint than a real Christmas tree. Furthermore, artificial Christmas trees are made from non-recyclable plastic, meaning that many go to landfill.
When choosing your real Christmas tree, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your choice is as eco-friendly as possible. First, try and choose a Christmas tree that has been grown locally. Second, make sure that your tree is approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This will ensure that your Christmas tree has been grown in a responsible manner, minimizing the use of pesticides. Finally, recycle your Christmas tree. Most local councils will collect Christmas trees after the holidays and arrange for them to be recycled into improvers for deteriorated soils.
2. Classic newspaper wrapping and trendy e-Cards
We all love the sight of a beautifully wrapped present on Christmas morning, but we also know that most of that wrapping will end up in the bin by the end of the day. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has estimated that the amount of wrapping paper wasted in 2018 alone would be enough to wrap up the whole of Guernsey…
If we recycled just half of the wrapping paper produced every year, we would save around 25,000 trees. Glittery, plastic lined and shiny wrapping paper is not recyclable and can contain harmful microplastics. So, when you decide to face your Christmas wrapping this year, opt instead for a more classic look by using brown paper or newspaper. Whilst you’re there, you could also trade the Sellotape and bought decorations for some string and home-made spruces, maybe even a sprig of holly.
On the subject of paper, think about swapping out the same old Christmas cards for a trendy e-Card – saving money, saving trees and reducing your carbon footprint. This year, Siemens are going one step further by donating the money saved from buying paper Christmas cards to Mind.
3. Food, Glorious Food!
Christmas dinner is one of the best bits about the Christmas celebrations and it provides some super easy opportunities to cut down on your Christmas carbon footprint. Reducing your food waste over Christmas is a great place to start. Biffa, a waste management company, has estimated that around 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million sprouts are thrown away every Christmas. As well as wasting nutrients, food waste has a huge carbon footprint. In fact, if food waste was a country it would be the third largest global emitter of CO2 after China and the USA!
A simple way to cut food waste this year is to allow everyone to serve themselves. This way, people will only take what they would like to eat (maybe dodging a few sprouts) and choose a portion that suits them. Of course, you can also use up your Christmas dinner left-overs by making a delicious turkey curry or Boxing Day bubble and squeak.
Another easy way to lower your carbon footprint this Christmas is to swap your choice of meat. Choosing beef or lamb for your Christmas dinner has a much higher carbon footprint than a turkey or a nut roast. One kilogram of beef produces 59.6 kg of CO2e. This is almost 10 times the amount of CO2e produced by a kilogram of turkey. Vegan and vegetarian Christmas dinners are even better, with research showing that a vegan nut roast with all the trimmings produces half the amount of carbon emissions than a turkey Christmas dinner. Whatever you decide to eat at Christmas this year, make sure that you go for British meat, and look out for the organic and Red Tractor labels, as this will minimize your environmental impact and carbon footprint.
4. Buy less, buy better
When buying gifts for your friends and family this Christmas, choose things that are relatively local and good quality. Fewer gifts of higher quality are more carbon efficient that more, lower quality gifts. Good quality gifts will not only last longer for the receiver but can have second and third lives with other friends, family members or with a charity. And of course, gifts that don’t consume electricity, such as books or toys, will also have a lower carbon footprint. Small businesses are really struggling in the current climate, so supporting them this Christmas is a great way to support your local community. Look out for Social Enterprises and, like Siemens, you can use your buying power to create social good.
Another option for low carbon presents, is to replace the same old Christmas socks and soap sets for exciting experience tickets, adopting an animal with WWF, or even buy an acre of rainforest to protect!
Finally, this Christmas you could focus your gift giving on those that need it the most. You could try a reverse advent calendar, donating an item of food or clothing to a charity or food bank every day. Or maybe donate the extra cash saved from a Siemens team Christmas party to a charity of your choice.
5. Set a New Year carbon resolution!
There is no reason to let all your low carbon Christmas hard work come to an end after the holidays. The final step you could take to ensure that all your brilliant efforts live on is to set a personal carbon footprint New Year’s Resolution.
Use the quick and easy WWF environmental footprint calculator to see what your current carbon footprint is and set a goal for how much you would like to reduce it by in 2021. Remember to start small! You can choose to focus on reducing your carbon footprint from your travel habits, your energy usage, or your diet. Every personal effort you make to reduce your carbon footprint contributes to the global effort to tackle climate change.
For more information about how to achieve a low carbon Christmas, have a read through the following articles:
The Carbon Trust’s Top Christmas Tips (2013) https://www.carbontrust.com/news-and-events/news/the-carbon-trusts-top-christmas-tips
The Guardian (2019) ‘Dreaming of a green Christmas? Here’s how to make it come true’ https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/dec/16/dreaming-of-a-green-christmas-heres-how-to-make-it-come-true