How Christmas affects the Environment, the Good, the Bad

You know what Christmas means now that it’s arrived! It’s time to spread cheer, and spend time with loved ones, but, how Christmas affects the environment is not being discussed well enough.

For every one of us, Christmas may be the happiest season of the year. However, it’s also one of the most wasteful times of the year, with a rise in the amount of waste created and disposed of.

Holidays are a time to gather with loved ones and rejoice, but this may lead to a lot of waste. We frequently eat out and attend parties throughout the holiday season to celebrate.

We frequently send Christmas cards to everyone we know and can spend excessive amounts of money on gifts for friends and family. The high street seduces us with “Christmas offers,” luring us to purchase gleaming new presents, house accents, and holiday goodies presented in opulent-appearing packaging.

Most of us aren’t considering how Christmas is affecting the environment as we’re carving our turkey, opening our presents, and reaching for another glass of champagne. Why would we, too? Seasonal indulgence is required.

Christmas has been called “the world’s greatest yearly environmental disaster” because of the massive amount of waste and pollution we all produce. According to estimates, some households spend up to 60% more of their wages and produce 30% more garbage at home during the holiday season.

Woah! An additional 1 million tons of waste every week goes to our landfills as a result of Christmas food waste in trash cans, ribbons, bows, boxes, shopping bags, and wrapping paper.

Christmas is demonstrating that as consumers, we are becoming more and more conscious about the sustainability of our actions. Christmas time is thought to result in the production of 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging, with toys and advent calendar trays being the greatest offenders.

You might be surprised to learn how much trash is generated each Christmas. We wasted 228,000 kilometers of wrapping paper on average each year—nearly enough to cover the moon in the paper!

Over the Christmas season, more than 100 million trash bags are dumped in landfills, according to Biffa. Additionally, during the holiday season, extra waste from packaging, wrapping paper, cards, and food rises by 25 to 30% internationally.

How Christmas affects the Environment

Below are the ways Christmas affects the environment

1. Mountain of Waste

An estimated 12 million Christmas sweaters are expected to be purchased this year by Britons, even though 65 million of them are already hanging in U.K. wardrobes, according to environmental group Hubbub.

According to Sarah Divall, project coordinator at the charity, “the Christmas jumper is one of the worst examples of fast fashion, with two out of five jumpers only being worn once throughout the festive period.”

According to Hubbub’s research, the majority of new sweaters contain plastic, which contributes to the already enormous quantities of garbage. In its investigation of 108 items of clothing sold this year by 11 retailers, it discovered that 95% of the jumpers were entirely or mostly comprised of plastic materials.

2. Food Waste

Food waste is a problem that doesn’t only occur around the holidays. It is obvious that the holiday season exacerbates an already terrible situation since the more we eat, the more potential waste is generated.

Climate change is worsened more by food waste than by single-use plastic. Food waste involves more than just the leftovers. When you discard anything, you also discard the growth and production process that went into it.

Let’s say you toss away an uneaten turkey as an illustration. Not just the meat itself, but everything that went into its production—including the animal’s breeding, feeding, medication, slaughter, packing, distribution, and cold storage—is being thrown away.

It’s the fossil fuels that were utilized to transport, cool, and cook that turkey inside your home. Then there is what occurs once the meat has been disposed of. Methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more strong than carbon dioxide, is released as food rots away within trash sacks in a landfill.

3. Wrapping and Paper and Packaging

Gift-giving and receiving are essential components of the Christmas season, which also includes wrapping paper and packing. Over the Christmas season, 10,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are discarded annually. And the majority of it is dumped in landfills.

Also not always recyclable is wrapping paper. Paper that is metallic or shiny isn’t. Even if you place the paper in the recycling bin with the sticky tape still attached, it probably won’t be recycled.

According to a recent study by Greenpeace, producing only one kilogram of wrapping paper results in the emission of three and a half kilos of CO2, using roughly one and a half kilograms of coal. This disregards additional packaging and freight.

4. Christmas Cards

Christmas cards have an effect on the environment. everything, including packaging, printing, posting, and disposal. According to Envirotech, only about 33% of Christmas cards are recycled. 

Most people mistakenly believe that Christmas cards are always recyclable, but that is not the case, according to Mark Hall of Business Waste. He explains, “People chuck their cards into the recycling bin, which causes havoc at recycling centers causing whole loads of paper to be dumped because it’s contaminated with glitter.”

5. Unwanted Christmas Gifts

It can be challenging to resist feeling obligated to buy Christmas presents for everyone you know, especially in light of how commercialized the season has become. Unwanted ones are expensive to create and wasteful to the environment.

Each of us has received unwelcome Christmas gifts. This year, about 1 in 5 gifts will go unopened and wind up in landfills. The full life cycle of the product must be taken into account, including the production process, packing, transportation, and logistics, similar to the problem of Christmas food waste.

6. Christmas trees Real and Artificial

Artificial Christmas trees are made of non-recyclable plastic. They are primarily manufactured in China before being transported elsewhere. Since real trees take between 10 and 12 years to mature, the Soil Association contends that they are better for the environment.

The tree absorbs carbon from the atmosphere as it grows and offers a habitat for any wildlife. Real trees are often cultivated, as opposed to artificial trees, thus they should have a lower carbon footprint.

The Woodland Trust emphasizes that farmers frequently replant up to 10 trees for everyone that is removed. Making the entire procedure as sustainable as feasible requires woodchipping or mulching a Christmas tree after the holidays. The amount of methane released during landfill decomposition will be greatly decreased as a result.

The secret to utilizing an artificial tree well is to utilize it every year. A 2-meter artificial tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg, according to the Carbon Trust. To match the lesser carbon impact of a real tree, you must utilize it ten times. Sadly, the majority of artificial Christmas trees are only used four times before being discarded.

7. Travels

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – NOVEMBER 27: Holiday travelers run through the Salt Lake City international Airport on November 27, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A wintry storm system that is covering much of the nation is threatening to wreak havoc on holiday travel . (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

A lot of us will be making trips to visit friends and family over the holidays, which could increase our carbon footprints depending on the form of transportation we use and the distance we travel.

If you intend to drive, you can always switch to public transportation to reduce your carbon footprint. Apart from attempting to balance your air miles, there isn’t much you can do to lessen the impact if you’re flying.

Currently, around 2.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to aviation. Aviation would surpass Germany to become the sixth-largest carbon polluter in the world if it were a nation.

Impacts of Christmas Lights on the Environment

Energy consumption is high throughout the holiday season. The US Department of Energy estimates that the annual energy usage of holiday illumination is over six TW, or around 500,000 houses’ monthly energy use.

Oil, natural gas, and coal will be wastefully burned to power holiday lights, which will raise greenhouse gas emissions and harm the environment.

The carbon dioxide created by Christmas illumination, according to reports from the Energy Saving Trust, is enough to fill 15,500 hot air balloons. Since LED Christmas lights use 90% less energy than traditional Christmas bulbs, they are the greatest alternative for christmas lighting.

Another innovation in the lighting sector is solar electricity, which is perfect for festival seasons. Due to the fact that only one light bulb is required to illuminate the entire decoration, fiber optic materials are also very energy-efficient and environmentally friendly .

How Christmas affects the Environment – FAQs

How much pollution is caused by Christmas?

The pollution caused by Christmas is as much as 650kg of carbon dioxide per person

What produces the most waste at Christmas?

The biggest waste generated during the Christmas season is the wrapping paper and gift bags.

Are Christmas trees environmentally friendly?

Only the real christmas trees are environmentally friendly.
Artificial trees, which are primarily made of plastic and have a carbon footprint of about 40 kg of greenhouse gas emissions, add to the global problem of plastic pollution.
Due to the fact that artificial Christmas trees cannot decompose, they are either disposed of in landfills or burned, both of which have detrimental effects on the environment due to the emissions.

How do you make Christmas eco-friendly?

We can make Christmas environmentally friendly by having sustainability in mind while celebrating Christmas and we can do the by making use of sustainable or recyclable materials for our gifts and decorations.


Changing certain firmly ingrained holiday customs can be challenging, but there is no denying that Christmas has a significant negative impact on the environment. To lessen the quantity of waste sent to landfills and improve environmental health, we must all do our part.

And as more of us begin to make these adjustments, hopefully, more manufacturers will start to pay attention and make more environmentally friendly production and packaging choices. We don’t have many more Christmases to stop the impending climate change, which is something we’re all aware of now.


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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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