(Research) Can we have an ecologically responsible Christmas? The sweet

Bright decorations in each corner of the house, an extremely majestic fir tree that stands in the middle of the room, gifts galoretables worthy of the best buffets… The end of the year arrives with his big boots and, with him, this party that we wait for all year: Christmas. If celebrations should be synonyms for pleasureDecember, however, turns into a real race against time to prepare the menus, make all the purchases and make sure our uncle’s cousin’s niece will have her package to unwrap on New Year’s Eve. Never mind, traditions above all !

© S&B Vonlanthen/Unsplash

As important as they are magical, these traditions are not, however, not without impact for our beloved planet. A study carried out in 2007 by Stockholm Environmental Institutebelieves that every year, during the holidays, an individual emits 650 kilos of CO2, or half of what a person should emit annually. Why such a figure? It is not surprising that this Ecological disaster is due to multiple trips to ensure we celebrate Christmas with all family members, for new giftsin plastic, sometimes even both, bought by the dozen or more meal leftovers that we ended up throwing away because “ I won’t just keep it to that, though. “. In short, a succession of things that end up emerging tarnish the vacation record. But is it really worth it?

A celebration of excessive consumption

In our current societies, Christmas often rhymes with excessive consumption. This is also ” post-war », which Nadine Cretin, party historian, retraces the origins of this excess. “ With the establishment of the Marshall Plan in the United States in 1948, the consumer society increased “, She explains. The machine is then set in motion: to the traditions and festivities of Christmas, a marketing aspect encouraging you to buy more and more.

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If currently this mass consumption seems to be suffering a weak reductionno “according to the historian, a study carried out in 2022 by the Ecological Transition Agency (ADEME) still reveals that 77% french people Offer new gifts to your loved ones. 66% wrap them in gift paper. For more than half of the citizens questioned, it would also be unthinkable to arrive without gifts on holiday night. The problem is that one in three French people is disappointed with at least one of their gifts and more than 7.3 million plan to quickly resell them after receiving them, according to an Ebay study dated December 2020. However, if the unwanted gifts have not been acquired, this would allow save 80 kilos of CO2/personas explained by Stockholm Environmental Institute.

Greener alternatives

Gifts aren’t the only thing to have dramatic consequences in the environment. As for the decoration, the several lamps used to make the facades of our cities and our homes shine, they are true wells of energy. To decorate the whole of France, ADEME claims that a power of 1300 megawatts The equivalent of the power of a nuclear power plant is necessary. Just that.


There is still transportation left. To travel to each other’s houses during the holidays, the car remains the preferred means Domestic. On average, they travel 243 kilometers round trip. At dinner they are traditional meals which are placed on the table in 81% of cases, compared to just 2% of vegetarian or vegan dishes. However, there are alternatives, such as using Led lamps to decorate your home, which would save 95% of energy. If the train was favored over the car, 63 kilos of CO2 emissions per person could be avoided according to the Swedish Institute.

Traditions, the unbeatable

If the environmental impact of the holiday is We couldn’t be more worriedparadoxically, ADEME reveals that 43% of French people I never thought about the environmental issue during end of year celebrations. For 24% of them, it is a time to relax, where it is possible to violate its environmental principles. Also, many people say to themselves reluctant to delete the Christmas treelight decorations or even stop wrapping gifts.

The traditionsThey have the wind in their sails. “ They are older than you would believespecifies Nadine Cretin, the Romans were already giving each other gifts at the beginning of the year, when January calendars. » And with regard to more than abundant banquets, the observation is the same. “ Already in the 4th century there were large meals considered like lucky charms. We talk about “tabula fortuneta”, abundance promises abundance. Was a voluntary ceremonial wastebecause the profusion called prosperity at home », Develops the historian.

©Marie Symchych/Shutterstock

THEN Christmas and ecology, are two things really compatible? For Elsa, 23 years old and the eldest of three children, there is no doubt: “ For some environmental problemswith us, the factory I changed the wrapping paper and my father built a wooden tree with remnants of triangle-shaped boards, in place of a cut fir. » To this same question, Nadine Cretin provides a more nuanced answer. For the historian, who compares Christmas to the American Thanksgiving holiday, the value of family and the pleasure of being together will always predominate. Travel from one city or country to another will therefore be inevitable. “ Yes, the two can be reconciled, but depends on everyone’s wishes. Many city councils and municipalities wanted to find alternative solutions to fir trees, for example. But they are often sad. Whatever we want to do, the magic of Christmas you will always want to impose yourself », concludes the historian.

For more:

– “ The environmental impacts of year-end holidays », a study carried out byADEME
– “ Christmas and food waste », a documentary available on Arte.tv
– “ different Christmas », a podcast created by The reporters

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