At a time when the world is discussing the issue of Climate Change and food crisis, majority of people are unaware of the fact that in only ten to twelve days, from December 24 to January 4, when Christmas and New Year (According to the Gregorian calendar) is celebrated, irreparable damage is done to the environment. On the one hand, when many people in Africa sleep without having their proper meals; on the other hand, millions of tons of food are wasted in the US, the UK, Italy, France and other countries during the New Year celebration. Also, when the world is regularly facing flood-like situations and all the environmental experts are advocating for afforestation across the globe, millions of trees are cut for Christmas celebration. Moreover, when people are searching for fresh air, billions of dollars are spent on firecrackers to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
The fact is that over 2 billion people across the world celebrate the festival of Christmas. In this background, if we look at the statistics, Christmas celebration has emerged as a big source of pollution every year, from generating tonnes of waste cards to miles and miles of waste packaging material to cutting down millions of trees to huge food wastage.
Millions of Christians across the globe celebrate Christmas and send gifts to their families and friends, involving cards, gift wrappings, electronic items and plastics, leading to predominantly overflowing landfills across Europe, the United States, Australia and other countries. In addition, the wastage of food, use and throwing of real and plastic Christmas trees makes it one of the most environmentally harmful festivals.
AS per reports, only in the United Kingdom, one billion Christmas cards are sold annually. As per The Royal Mail, it delivers 150 million cards during Christmas in the United Kingdom. In the US, as per Hallmark and Greeting Card Association, approximately 1.3 billion cards are sent by Americans each year. Notably, it takes one tree to make 3,000 Christmas cards. And as per estimate, across the globe, more than 33 million trees are cut down for cards only. Also, as per various reports, over 120 million trees are cut each Christmas, which results in a carbon footprint of between 2-3 billion kilogrammes. Here, the UK consumes about 8 million trees annually, while in the US, between 35 and 40 million trees are sold during the Christmas season.
During Christmas every year, 228,000 miles of wrapping papers are thrown away. In 2018, it was estimated that the British threw away about 108 million rolls of wrapping papers after Christmas was over. In the United States, an additional five million tons of waste is generated over Christmas, four million of which is wrapping papers and shopping bags.
Generation of food and plastic waste
Importantly, the plastic waste generated by the UK at Christmas equals the weight of 76,000 giraffes, and it costs £26 million to dispose all of the UK’s Christmas waste. In the UK, during Christmas, 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies get disposed of while still edible, causing more than 270,000 tons of food waste in total.
In Australia alone, over 5 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill each year. In the United Kingdom, the amount of waste produced at Christmas is 30 percent higher compared to the rest of the year. Also, Americans throw away 25 per cent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year, which generates 25 million tons of garbage!
According to Biffa, more than 100 million rubbish bags are sent to landfills during the Christmas period. And globally, the excess waste from packaging, wrapping paper, cards and food increases by 25 to 30 per cent during the holiday season.
New Year’s Eve parties left behind around 225 tons of garbage spread across several locations throughout Jakarta, and around 80 percent of the garbage was non-degradable, reported The Jakarta Post in 2017.
Air Pollution due to firecrackers
In 2021, Americans spent approximately $1.5 billion on fireworks despite an increase in prices. Notably, fireworks emit a plethora of various air pollutants as a result of the chemical reactions that occur when the components are combined. Gaseous air pollutants include carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone. Importantly, during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to New Year, Americans toss 25 per cent more trash, producing an additional one million tons of waste every week.
“Many people were disappointed with London’s show, as smoke obscured the views amid still air. Lack of wind also slowed the dispersion of firework smoke throughout London, creating the year’s first air pollution incident in the capital,” reported the Guardian in 2020. Also, as per the report, over 300,000 people signed a UK petition to ban the sale of fireworks to the public in 2019.
Situation in many European countries are same. Like, Germans spends about $240 million on firecrackers every New Year’s Eve.
Fire tragedies during New Year Celebration
For many Austrians, the New Year’s Eve fun ends in the hospital. According to the Austrian Road Safety Board (as of 2019), every year, around 200 people are so seriously injured by firecrackers that they have to go to the hospital for follow-up treatments after an accident. Approximately 90 per cent of these accidents occur in the hours around New Year’s Eve and the most common injuries affect the eyes, ears and hands. The fact is that many unfortunate incidents were reported during the New Year celebration. On January 1, 2016, a huge fire engulfed the 63-storey Address Hotel in downtown Dubai hours before the New Year, leaving 14 injured and 2 suffering from a heart attack.
Furthermore, in 2015, New Year’s Eve celebration in China’s Shanghai ended in disaster and 36 people lost their lives in a stampede and nearly 50 others got injured.
In 2021, more than 60 people in Iraq were injured in the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the capital Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces, said the Iraqi Government.
Not only humans, this Christmas celebration is also dangerous for animal and other species. In January 2021, hundreds of birds died after many people set off fireworks in the Italian capital on New Year’s Eve. Footage of streets near Rome’s main train station showed dozens and dozens of birds – mostly starlings – scattered lifeless on the ground. Animal rights groups called it a massacre,” reported Associated Press. The use of firecrackers during the New Year celebration also affects animals like dogs and cats. Reportedly, the sounds of fireworks and firecrackers have been linked to dogs going missing and even results in deaths of companion animals who don’t tolerate the loud noises surrounding the festivities.
Drunken driving incidents
The incident of hooliganism and drink and drive are also reported across the world. In Poland, on Christmas Eve and Christmas, there were 62 road accidents reported across the country, in which three people died and 81 were injured. Also, more than 380 people drove after drinking alcohol.On Christmas Day in 2022, a man was arrested in London after crashing into and “completely uprooting” a lamppost following a police chase. Also, more than 100 motorists were booked for drunk-driving on Christmas Eve on December 25, 2022, in Kolkata and Bidhannagar, West Bengal.
Travels amidst the Covid risk
The world is facing the deadliest Covid 19 virus, due to which millions of people across the world lost their lives. Despite this, report of mass gatherings on Christmas and preparation for New Year celebration could be seen. Despite a large number of Covid 19 cases in the US, New Year’s Eve was celebrated at New York’s Times Square. This time around too, demand has soared for Christmas-New Year celebrations and occupancy level has touched higher than pre-Covid levels across the world. Notably, this short period of celebration badly impacts the tourist places.
Having said this, the negative impact of Christmas and New Year celebration on nature is enormous. However, all those organisations, from animal rights organisation like PETA to members of environmental activist gang, maintain a studied silence on this issue. The fact is that these gangs leave no stone unturned to defame Hindu festivals, which are much more diverse, eco-friendly and rooted in the local environmental milieu.