Christmas is an annual disaster, for the planet.
While the Holiday season is wonderful, it can be a strain on your wallet, patience, and the Planet. In Australia around 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper, 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and millions of dollars' worth of food and electronic waste winds up in landfill.
It's no shock that Christmas has been called “the greatest annual environmental disaster” with the excessive pollution and waste created. It's estimated that Australians spend 60% more and create 30% more waste over the holiday period.
The amount of paper used over Christmas is equivalent to hundreds of thousands of trees, this alone is catastrophic but when you consider that most wrapping paper cannot be recycled or reused due to its coating and fragile texture, the situation escalates.
The paper can also have dangerous chemicals such as lead, synthetic inks, chlorine, and metallic foils. Some even have formaldehyde, benzene and acetone, these chemicals have been known to cause irritation and, in some cases, cancer. This is because the most wrapping paper is not made in Australia and the brands do not need to follow our chemical guidelines.
The disposal of wrapping paper is difficult, some people choose to toss it or burn it, both mean hazardous waste and toxins entering our eco system, but our options are limited.
An estimated 365,000 kilometres of unrecyclable wrapping paper — enough to wrap around the equator nine times — and 1 billion cards that end up in the bin.
The holiday season usually involves spoiling the kids with toys, unfortunately most toys are made from plastic. The plastic used to make and package most toys is often created with various dangerous chemical that make the products and packaging difficult to break down when they eventually wind up in landfill.
Receiving these gifts also encourages an “out with the old” attitude meaning a lot of plastic toys get tossed into the bin.
The number of items and food we waste skyrockets over Christmas, the average Aussie begins to shop more, buying more food and gifts which creates more waste. With the average household numbers rising and the cost of living going up, we are buying more and more gifts that cost more and generate more waste, therefore, more landfill.
According to a University of Wollongong study, if unwanted gifts were not bought in the first place, the carbon footprint of Christmas would be reduced by 80kg of emissions per person.
Being Australian, we rarely see real Christmas trees, this is due to our holidays falling in summer and our lack of fresh pines to chop and decorate. You may think than cutting down less trees is better for the environment; however, the carbon footprint of a plastic tree is a lot larger than that of a real tree.
When disposed and farmed properly, the carbon footprint of a real pine is around 3.5kg of C02. The footprint of a standard plastic tree is around 40kg of C02, this is due to the energy used to create the tree. However, if you keep your plastic tree for at least a decade, the carbon footprint will drop to the same amount as a natural tree. Luckily, plastic trees have a long shelf life, so investing in a tree that will last a lifetime is the most sustainable choice.
One of the largest strains on the environment during the Christmas period is our roast dinners. During the holiday season, a large majority of the Aussie families that celebrate will eat a variety of pork, turkey, ham, and seafood. A Manchester University study found that an average turkey Christmas dinner has a carbon footprint of 20kg of CO2. Not to mention the added strain on our animals as they are bred to be served then tossed away.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in Australia over 5 million tonnes of food ends up as landfill each year – enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized pools and 90% of Aussies discard over 25% of their food during the holiday season.
The holiday season is a great time to catch up with family and spend quality time together, unfortunately this means a lot more carbon enters the atmosphere.
The peak month for Australian travel is December, around 8.7 million visitors come to Australia, 8.8 million Aussies travel internationally and 33.5 million travels domestically.
According to The Conversation, all of this travel comes at a cost of around 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
While the holiday season is about celebrating family and coming together, we cannot continue to do this without considering how it effects our planet. We need to buy less, spend less and consider more. There are plenty of ways to lower your Christmas carbon footprint, keep an eye out for our blog with helpful tips on having a sustainable Christmas.