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Calculating the carbon cost of Christmas — in puddings!

Posted on 7 December 2007

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI-Y), based at the University of York, calculate that three days of Christmas festivities¹ could result in as much as 650 kg of carbon dioxide (CO²) emissions per person — equivalent to the weight of 1,000 Christmas puddings!²

The carbon produced comes from our spending and consumption on items such as food, travel, lighting and gifts. Over Christmas, the average person could produce as much as:

  • 26 kg of CO² from Christmas food equal to the weight of 40 Christmas puddings
  • 96 kg of CO² from Christmas Car travel equal to the weight of 148 Christmas Puddings
  • 218 kg of CO² from extravagant lighting displays equal to the weight of 335 Christmas Puddings
  • 310 kg of CO² on Christmas Shopping equal to the weight of 477 Christmas puddings

The York researchers showed that we could reduce our Christmas carbon emissions by up to 60 per cent to about 250 kg³ — a saving in weight equivalent to 615 Christmas puddings.

Dr Gary Haq, of SEI-Y, coordinator of the Climate Talk project that raises awareness of climate change issues, said: "Christmas time is accompanied by seasonal increases in our level of consumption. From eating and drinking to giving and receiving, it is the time of the year when we do things to excess. Unfortunately, it also means we are likely to have a greater impact on the environment.

"With a bit of thought and planning, we can limit our impact and still have a good Christmas but one which is both is kinder to the planet and to our pocket."

Food  Potential CO² savings Equivalent weight in Christmas puddings
Vegetarian Christmas 3 5
Organic Christmas 50‰ 2 3
Low waste (composting food) 7 11
A combination of vegetarian/organic/low waste Christmas 8 12
Taking the train to family and friends 63 97
Using a regular a set of energy efficient LED fairy lights rather than an extravagant display 216 332
Not buying unwanted Christmas gifts 80 123
Not sending Christmas cards 5 8

Actions for a Low Carbon Christmas:


Support your local economy and try buying from local organic suppliers.

Compost your vegetable peelings after you have finished cooking to make sure that this extra organic waste does not head straight to landfill.

Plan your meal carefully to reduce the amount of uneaten food thrown away — check who likes Brussels sprouts!


Plan your Christmas travel to reduce the distance travelled and try to use environmentally friendly modes of transport or car share.


Less is more when it come Christmas lighting! Opt for a subtle lighting display and turn the fairy lights off before bed saving both money and carbon.


When it comes to Christmas presents buy quality not quantity. Well-made goods last longer and will not have to be replaced in the New Year.

A good Christmas gift does not necessarily have to be expensive. Think about giving alternative gifts such as a charity or environmentally friendly gift, an experience or giving your time.

Give your unwanted gifts to charity or to local hospitals or hospices.

Recycle Christmas cards.


¹ Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day² Based on the net weight of a Christmas Pudding being 650 g³ This is due to savings from food (16 kg), travel (63 kg), lighting (2 kg) and consumables (169 kg)


Notes to editors:

  • "Climate Talk" is funded by DEFRA’s Climate Change Challenge Fund. The project aims to raise awareness and understanding of climate change issues in the over 50s via public seminars, radio programmes and press articles and competitions.
  • The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) is an international, independent environment and development research institute. It is a part of an international network or centres with the York centre based at the University of York.
  • For further information see
  • Contact Gary Haq : 01904 432917 or 07950 188106

Contact details

Dr Gary Haq

Tel: +44 1904 432917