Each year, Christmas affords Environmental and Sustainability professionals the opportunity to face an annual dilemma to enjoy Christmas with family and friends in a place between the rampant consumerism that is all around us & our inner, still sustainability voice and principles that we live by throughout the year.
Last year (2017), I posted Can Environmentalists enjoy Christmas? as my perspective on my conflict with one aspect of Christmas during a holiday in the USA & returning with our “American” Christmas tree, which had not only had made a long journey from China to the USA to be at the very Walmart, when we walked in to buy it but I took it on an equally unsustainable journey from the USA back to our home in the United Kingdom.
This year, our Christmas is at home. And with that simple, family setting comes a multitude of variables that can make or break a sustainable Christmas.
As an IEMA Environmental Auditor & ISO 14001 consultant, I thought I would look at the environmental aspects and impacts of Christmas & offer some suggestions on how I am trying to have an eco-Christmas.
As a Lead ESOS Assessor, my mind is turning towards energy management as the theme for next year’s consultancy as many of my clients will meet the compliance criteria on 31 December 2018 and will be obligated to be an ESOS participant.
So, I have brought LED Christmas lights for our tree. The 200 lights strung across our Christmas tree are a positive “low energy” and “low carbon” development over our previous traditional incandescent bulbs.
Additionally, I have purchased some Smart Plugs which not only allow for remote “on / off” through my Smartphone but measure the energy consumption.
Currently, the LED Christmas Tree lights are consuming 0.03 kW per day compared with incandescent Christmas lights at 0.3 kW per day.
Even greater energy consumption is made on Christmas Day, itself, with the cooking of the traditional Christmas lunch. The energy consumed on the Day is 31 Giga-Watts with around 40% coming from renewable sources according the Energy Institute’s article: UK set new green energy record on Christmas Day
What eco-Christmas options do you have for reducing energy during Christmas?
As part of my commitment to the UN World Environment Day 2018, I am seeking to reduce my plastic usage and will be recording the plastic content of our waste based on the principles in my video: Beat Plastic Pollution Video 3: Waste Weighing and Audit
But Christmas brings an even greater deluge of waste in the form of Christmas Cards (with an unbelievable 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year) & cardboard packaging quantities, which would cover the London Eye almost 50,000 times, wrap the Angel of the North a shocking two million times, or cover the Eden Project biomes in Cornwall over 11,000 times according to WRAP’s article: Tis the season to be aware of recycling at that was in 2015.
I have tried to ensure that my wrapping paper is eco-friendly or is recycled but there is more that can be done. Maybe, even using newspaper or magazine paper as wrapping paper. Just make sure that it passes the “Scrunch Test“.
How will you reduce your waste for an eco-Christmas?
We all know that we should “shop locally” to be more, sustainable in a food shopping but could we make more fundamental changes to our Christmas Day meal.
With one Vegan and one Vegetarian in our family, we are going to try a Vegan Christmas Lunch with nut roast (or maybe, even Tofurky) as a “low carbon” alternative to the traditional turkey and trimmings.
Can you suggest your sustainable options for an eco-Christmas Lunch?
Christmas Day can be the most, frustrating day for “low carbon” travel as almost all public transportation stops with this year being the London’s biggest ever Christmas rail shutdown, which will see many stations and lines – including direct links to Heathrow and Gatwick – closed throughout the holiday season for much-needed upgrade work (Network Rail in London at Christmas).
This leaves local travel by foot or bicycle or the less, environmental option of the car.
Should we just stay at home or travel to be with friends and family?
The choice of presents is, even more contentious, than an alternative Christmas Lunch with a multitude of options from books, perfume, electrical goods, clothes offer up on our television screens daily in the run-up to Christmas as well as through the ever available outlet of Amazon.
The environmental credentials of our presents and their journey to the recipient is a veritable minefield with the internet shopping spend over the Christmas season expected to top last year’s figure of a total Christmas spend of over £78 billion with many families turning to Amazon instead of Santa to deliver their presents with nearly 50% of households ordering on-line (Centre for Retail Research: Shopping for Christmas 2017)
One challenge that we set ourselves as a family is to try to find one Christmas present that did not cost anything but the love and care that it took to make for the recipient. Over the years, there have been very inventive gifts ranging from wooden photo frames and jewellery.
What traditional or contemporary eco-Christmas presents are you choosing this year?
Over to you…
I have shared some of my thoughts on a sustainable, eco-Christmas and the key environmental aspects and impacts & how I try to take personal leadership at a complex time of the year, which challenges me to think even harder about my own sustainability values.
I welcome any comments that you have on my eco-Christmas options or how you are planning to address these environmental impacts in your own eco-Christmas.