Santa’s Carbon Footprint

Wed, 12/19/2012 - 12:09pm
PD&D Staff

In 2008, IDC completed a Carbon Footprint Analysis of the top gifts likely to be on Christmas lists that year. As it was such a success, the organizaion decided to repeat this process again this year analyzing everything from books, to tablets, to cooking utensils. The result is that the carbon footprint of the top Christmas gifts in 2012 has had a decrease of 15% since the analysis in 2008.

Each year the popular presents change, so it can be difficult to compare like with like, but this suggests that manufacturers have become more conscious of their CO2 emissions over the years.

Overall CO2 Analysis 

For the analysis, IDC used the LCA Calculator - a sustainable design tool that assesses carbon footprint quickly and accurately. 

In comparison to the 2008 survey (where calculations were made on spreadsheets) this method was much more time efficient and accurate. This process involved analyzing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with all the stages of a product’s life cycle; from the materials it is made from, to the manufacturing processes, transport and the energy used by the product.

The carbon emissions for the top gifts this year are as follows:

#9 - Shamballa Bracelet - 0.18 kg CO2
#8 - Grippy Pad - 0.2 kg CO2
#7 - Jaimie's 15 Minute Meals Cookbook - 7 kg CO2
#6 - Oral B Professional Toothbrush - 11 kg CO2
#5 - The Cube Board Game - 13 kg CO2
#4 - Nerf Elite Hail Fire Blaster - 15 kg CO2
#3 - Kindle Fire HD - 46 kg CO2
#2 - Just Dance 4 Video Game - 52 kg CO2
#1 - Tefal Acti-Fry - 134 kg CO2


The graph below shows a quick comparison of the highest and lowest impact items (click for a larger view).

Devices with electronics gave the biggest carbon footprints (such as Tefal Actifry), due to the great amount of energy required to produce the components and batteries, and the energy they consume in use. At the other end of the scale, paper goods, such as books and plastic items (e.g. the Grippy Pad) gave relatively small emissions.

It is interesting to note that while the Tefal Actifry has relatively small CO2 emissions at the manufacturing stage, it is the product use which has contributed to its overall high CO2 score. 

The Kindle Fire HD, by comparison has a higher manufacturing CO2 output, yet the product use is much lower. It is therefore a more ‘sustainable’ product. 

The results have revealed a wide range of carbon emissions, which should help consumers become more aware about the environmental impact of products. With growing consumer concern about carbon emissions, product designers and manufacturers are under increasing pressure to start a new generation of more environmentally-friendly products.

IDC’s Managing Director, Stephen Knowles commented; “Research shows that around 80% of the environmental impact of products is determined by the decisions made by the designers of the product. So while consumers can influence emissions with their buying decisions, the real breakthroughs occur when marketers, designers and engineers work together to create greener products with unique sales propositions. Judging by the CO2 results calculated in 2008 and 2012, it is clear that that while some companies are ignoring the issue of carbon foot printing and environmental impact, the more forward thinking companies are engaging with the idea of product life cycle impacts and will get the rewards of sustainable business growth - not just this Christmas but into the future.”

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