A group of scientists from the University of Leeds’ School of Earth & Environment have calculated that Santa’s carbon footprint from travel over the festive season to the UK alone could be as high as 9 tonnes per stocking – 25% more than the average Brit emits in a whole year.

As part of the University’s work with Yorkshire-based sustainability charity, the United Bank of Carbon (UBoC), set out to highlight the possible environmental damage caused not only by Santa’s sleigh rides and his reindeer helpers, but manufacturing the presents to be delivered to children’s homes.

The findings have been drawn from a series of calculations including the distance travelled by Santa in delivering presents to over 7 million homes in the UK, the collective weight of stockings, the methane emitted by the reindeers, and the energy required to power a sleigh overloaded with presents.

According to the academics, an environmentally-aware Santa may be able to capture some of the methane with specially designed reindeer backpacks and use it to aid sleigh floatation.

In addition, the sleigh would also be flying closer to the ground than a typical passenger jet, so water vapour from the reindeer’s heavy breathing would be unlikely to form the night-time contrails that are particularly bad for warming the climate.

Commenting on the findings, Piers Forster, professor of physical climate change at the University of Leeds, said: “We thought that by doing some quick calculations of the possible environmental damage caused by Father Christmas’ annual journey, it might just make people think harder about making efforts to reduce their own carbon emissions over the festive season.

“While I don’t want to be a Christmas grinch, I would like to encourage people to think about their own carbon footprint in December and, indeed, throughout the rest of the year.”

Maxine Perella

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