Christmas: an environmental disaster?

Alex Ventisei delves into the environmental issues of Christmas, and how to solve them

Alex Ventisei
4th December 2020

Environmentalists argue Christmas to be the world’s greatest annual environmental disaster, due to excessive consumption alongside increasing levels of waste and pollution. While the forthcoming celebrations are likely to be a little different after a turbulent year, the precipice of festive luxuries and indulgence mean that the season is still likely to bring about significant environmental and ecological damage. However, there are five 'environmental disasters' associated with the season that are not only reducible, but avoidable altogether. 

Christmas food waste
Image: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Food Waste

Every year it is reported that 230 000 tonnes of Christmas food is disposed of rather than being eaten - the equivalent of 74 million mince pies! As a consequence, an average of £40 per household is wasted on uneaten Christmas-day food purchases. The solution? Simply to buy less food, saving money; alternatively, save your leftovers for some tasty boxing day turkey sandwiches!

Christmas Cards

A significant amount of waste is produced annually by thrown-away Christmas cards. While this shouldn’t mean we have to stop buying cards altogether, simply using your leftover cards from the year before to label your presents next year - rather than throwing them away and buying labels separately - would save enough energy to light up 340 Blackpool illuminations! 

Paper Choices

Wrapping paper with glitter might look great, but it can't be recycled. Although it may slightly reduce the visual impact of your present wrapping, the financial and environmental benefits of switching to glitter-less paper may tip the balance for you! If everyone switched to standard wrapping paper, an additional 1.5 billion presents' worth of wrapping paper could be recycled.

Glitter-less wrapping paper is much easier to recycle
Image: Kira Auf Der Heide on Unsplash

Present Buying

In Britain alone, £4 billion is wasted annually on unwanted Christmas gifts. Giving fewer presents, with more thought behind them, would allow you to save money, while showing that you really care. Simply removing unwanted gifts from Christmas would save 8kg of CO2 per person in unnecessary packaging and manufacturing. 

Unwanted presents waste money and resources
Image: Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Ethically manufactured Christmas Cards are much better for the planet
Image: JamesEllis

Ethical Products

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that everything we buy at Christmas carries its own chain of production, in which each link has its own environmental impact. Paying special attention to this and aiming to purchase ethically-manufactured and transported products (like plastic-free Christmas cards and advent calendars, or giving gifts of sustainably-manufactured clothing) is a fantastic way to reduce not only your carbon footprint, but also to ensure that you’re not contributing to human-related ethical issues like sweatshops. 

The message that "more is better" suits advertisers' ends far better than ours.

In recent years, advertisers have pushed a message that “more is better”, but we should remember that this philosophy suits their ends far more than ours. Solving issues such as climate change is impossible individually, but if we all make small changes, as a collective we have incredible power. This Christmas, spare a moment to look down this list and consider how you can play your part.

Featured image: Eugene Zhyvchick on Unsplash

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