Monday, November 28, 2011

Twelve days of carbon Christmas

A very large part of our ecological impact is hidden in the stuff that we buy. We often overlook the resources required to produce our consumer goods. For instance, some people obsess over personal water use and are proud that they now turn the tap off while brushing their teeth (a no-brainer), saving a handful of litres each time, but ignore the hundreds of litres required to produce the dairy and meat products they consumed before brushing.

Now that Advent has begun, it may be fruitful to consider the ecological impact of our Christmas shopping. This infographic (click to see at a more readable size or go here) lists twelve kinds of presents which each involve about 50kg of carbon dioxide emissions (or equivalent) in their production. Some may surprise you (for instance the ecological impacts of gold mining are shocking, and carbon is not the worst of it. I am seriously reconsidering whether gold rings are a wise symbol of fidelity). For reference, the average annual Australian, Canadian or US per capita footprint is something like 18-25 tonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent), depending how you calculate it. The UK average is approximately 8-14 tonnes. The global average is around 5 tonnes. To minimise very serious climate consequences (which mean social, economic and political consequences), we probably need to be more like 1-2 tonnes each, so a 50 kg gift would represent up to 1/20th of one's total annual carbon budget.

If you're looking for ways to cut down the stuff you give and receive this Christmas (while enhancing the spiritual, relational and celebratory tone of the season), you might like to check out some suggestions I made last year.

4 comments:

byron smith said...

Black Friday is, well, black.

Donna said...

Thanks for the link to the gift suggestions, it comes just in time for us. I've not really thought through all this so I appreciate your post.

It's strange being in two cultures. On the one hand in Australia people often get "things they don't want". But in my part of India it's different. I was talking with my househelp the other day, and she regards any gift as precious because of the meaning attached to it, (and the fact that she doesn't have much in excess of her needs already).

Speaking with her helps me remember to buy less stuff throughout the year for myself too.

Regarding Black Friday, I'd never heard of it before this year, but oh my! Craziness. What does it mean that they were "trying to decide whether to lay charges"?! Pepper spray to get a bargain. Perhaps it might be a bigger punishment just to take away the bargain she got.

Kairos Uniting Church said...

Grace and peace Byron.

Thanks for this & the reminder about last years post. I am presiding at a end of year Sunday School service this Sunday and plan to use my sermon time to explore different ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus, ways which are really good news of peace on earth to all peoples.

Of course I share the personal struggle to not buy gifts and to encourage a more reserved approach within my wider family where 'gift' generosity is understand as an expression of God's love. My wife puts hours in to getting the 'right' thing for people so that the gift expresses how she thinks and feels about them.

Another suggestion comes from my family. My Dad once told me he matched the $ spent on gifts in the house with the $ given to the Christmas Bowl. I have never quite done this but as a concept I believe being generous to charity does help me reflect on & limit how much we spend as a family.
Peter Lockhart

byron smith said...

I realise I'm a month late on these comments, but had meant to say to Donna that your suggested punishment was hilarious and to Peter that your suggestion (matching the money on presents with money given away) has become an oft-repeated suggestion at our church here in Edinburgh, which participates in a movement called Just Christmas.