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Yes, Virginia, Reindeer Emit Methane Gas...

December 23, 2011

SEATTLE - Santa works hard to make Christmas magical for boys and girls around the globe, but new research shows his operation could be more environmentally friendly with some fine-tuning because it's leaving a huge carbon footprint.

During his 122-million-mile trip around the world, the Ethical Ocean research has found, Santa will release more than 69 million metric tons of carbon emissions. Tony Hancock, president of operations at EthicalOcean.com, says the greatest impact is the combination of toy production, assembly, packaging and eventual disposal.

"One of our biggest recommendations was for Santa to switch to a recycled-toy-only policy. Either re-gifting toys or actually using toys that are made from recycled plastic or other materials."

Other ideas to help Santa become "greener" include using solar technology to power his toy workshop and redesigning the sleigh to reduce wind resistance and ice build-up.

While Santa's mode of transportation could use an upgrade, Hancock says Rudolph and his friends are to blame for more than 40,000 metric tons of air pollution.

"We recognize that the sleigh is actually run on Christmas cheer, but it was the reindeer that actually were the emitters of methane, which is 21 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas."

And this is the environmental impact of just one holiday. Hancock hopes the rest of us can learn from Santa's mistakes and make some eco-friendly changes in our daily lives.

"If you can avoid buying these new products - or think even about the impact that every product you buy has - I think we could take things a lot farther, on just a personal basis."

Instead of leaving lumps of coal for folks who've been naughty, Hancock suggests giving them an alternate form of energy generation, such as a tiny wind turbine or pinwheel.

A related infographic is online at ethicalocean.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA