The carbon footprint of Christmas

Written by
June 12, 2024
5 min read

It is safe to say this year has come with many challenges so many of us will be making the most of this special festive period. It is of course the season for good cheer, spending time with loved ones and lots of food and drinks. However, this Christmas cheer comes hand in hand with a sizable increase in carbon emissions.

So what is the carbon cost of Christmas?

  1. Your Tree

A real tree christmas generates around 3.5kg of CO2e compared to an artificial one which has a cost of 40 kg per tree. This means that an artificial tree would have to be used 11 times for it to be more carbon effective than  a real tree. Check out SKOOT’s christmas tree blog to find out how to make your tree as carbon friendly as possible and to see more details on the benefits of using real trees.

In addition to the tree itself the sparkling lights also add to the carbon footprint. For a family’s christmas tree which is assumed to be put in the first week of December, the lights produce around 13.5kg of CO2. However, the displays across cities, like London now use LED lights which use about 3% of the total energy Christmas lights used before meaning that we shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying these mood boosting displays.

  1. Wrapping and cards

According to the North London Waste Authority just the manufacturing of christmas wrapping paper emits around 11.8 million kgs of carbon annually. In the UK alone we use approximately 227,000 miles of wrapping paper every festive season, with the earth's circumference being 24,901 miles that means we use enough paper in our country to wrap our entire planet 9 times.  

Wrapping paper is also often harvested with unsuitable practices such as deforestation but there are now many more eco- friendly options meaning that you do not have to forfeit the beautiful gifts under the tree. On websites such as Etsy you can purchase cheap reusable and handmade gift bags which are often made of sustainable materials or you could simply repurpose any old gift bags you have lying around instead of buying new ones.

The average person in the UK uses over 1kg of paper to send christmas cards each year which generates 3.5kg of carbon emissions, try sending electronic christmas cards this year or using recyclable paper.

  1. Driving home for christmas

Most people at Christmas will produce some form of travel emissions, whether that is jetting off to somewhere warm or driving across the country to visit family. Per mile in a car approx 200 grams of CO2 is produced, which on it’s own may not seem too bad but let's say you drive from London to Manchester that produces around 37 kg of CO2 just one way. However, if you took the train between these two it would produce around 11 kg of CO2 according to the LNER carbon calculator.

Additionally, around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions are a result of tourism, and the majority of this does in fact take place at Christmas time. In the UK around 4.7 million Brits are expected to fly overseas for the festive period. Each long haul return flight emits 500 kg of CO2 which is a huge amount, if you are flying this holiday make sure to offset your flights with

  1. Christmas dinner

The environmental impact of a christmas dinner is staggering. A traditional British Christmas dinner often consists of turkey as the centerpiece, for an average turkey that feeds 6, 16.2kg of CO2 are created. However, this is still significantly better than those who opt for lamb or beef which produce the biggest carbon emissions in the food sector. An average serving of beef for just one emits 7 kg of greenhouse gasses and for turkey it is around 2.6 kg of CO2.  Whilst this number may seem much smaller and therefore more environmentally friendly, turkey is the more popular Christmas option with 10 million being consumed each year around Christmas, so it really adds up.  

 Another traditional meat treat at christmas, pigs in blankets also have a huge carbon footprint despite their miniature size. The bacon and sausage relies on pig farming, the manure lagoons used in pig farming contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that the average christmas dinner for 6 produces 8.5kg of CO2 just via pigs in blankets.

There is still more meat emissions to be accounted for, meat stuffing and meat gravy. Gravy made from beef or turkey ramps up the carbon impact of the christmas dinner as once again the farming of these animals is a huge greenhouse gas contributor. Stuffing is often made of sausage meat which brings about all the previously mentioned problems with livestock farming. Christmas sauces for a family of 6 produces 3.11kg CO2 and stuffing 3.34kg of CO2.

Roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts produce significantly less carbon as they dont require intensive farming, however if you add dressing to these veggies such as bacon or animal fat when roasting their impact automatically jumps up so try to stick to olive oil rather than fat or even butter. Roast potatoes ,due to the size of the serving compared to the other veggies produce around 2.24kg of CO2 for a family of 6, the carrots and parsnips 1.09kg of CO2 and the brussel sprouts 310g of CO2.

So to summarize a traditional christmas dinner for 6 people produces around 34 kg of CO2 with nearly half of it being from the turkey. Comparatively, a vegan christmas dinner, where the turkey is replaced with a nut roast and vegan pigs in blankets are served, emits around 9.5kg of CO2. Even if you are not comfortable switching completely vegan for your christmas dinner, using vegetable gravy and vegetable oil in your cooking can still make a huge difference.

Give the gift of sustainability this christmas, for more tips and tricks on how to make the world greener and to find carbon offsetting solutions visit  

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Written by
June 12, 2024
5 min read