Ever wonder how this season’s festivities impact the environment?
Guest blogger Krista Fairles takes a humorous look at this very topic:
The holidays are a fabulous, cheerful time when most people like to take it easy, drink some eggnog and perhaps wait for Santa to bring them presents.
But as you may have already guessed (though I do my best to hide it), I’m not like most people. I spend my time wondering just what the environmental impacts of Santa Claus and his reindeer are, and more importantly, how I can calculate those impacts.
Lately I’ve been particularly curious as to whether Santa’s vintage ride is a clean green flying machine, or if he should be replacing his 8 deer-power engine with the 100 horsepower V4 of a Prius.
Firstly, I should start by clarifying that Santa has 8 reindeer, not 9. Rudolph is a fictional character born out of the lyrics of a children’s song written in 1939. He does not actually live at the North Pole with Santa and the real sled-pulling reindeer.
I should also mention that, oddly, I was unable to find statistics specific to magical flying reindeer, so these calculations use numbers from various sources and may not correlate to actual emissions. In other words, don’t ask TerraPass
to sell you a “reindeer offset” based on this article.
Santa’s yearly jaunt around the globe puts 44,000 km on his odometer (twice the average North American driver). If we assume that the magic provides the altitude for this trip and that consequently, the reindeer power only the forward momentum at over 3100km/h, then we can determine that they burn a whopping 980 million calories each!!
So the next question is: how much food is in 980 million calories? Well, if they’re eating corn, they’d need to scarf down 16,500 lbs – or 1.6 acres. Growing 12.8 acres of corn has its own implications that we’ll leave for another calculation.
We now need to consider that during the global jaunt the reindeer are “off-gassing” some of that corn, and as ruminants, this takes the form of methane. A sedentary cow emits 110 kg of methane per year, thus flying reindeer would each emit 4.8 tons. With methane ringing in at 20 times the global warming capacity of CO2, and the altitude magnifying that another 20 times, we can put Santa’s round-trip emissions at 15,488 tons. This is much more than the 100 tons a Prius would release on the same trip.