man wearing santa suit with fingers intertwined

The holidays are such a special time of the year, one that always fills me with deep nostalgia for childhood memories of Christmas past. But even as a child full of imagination, I have to admit there were some things about Santa that just didn’t add up. How is it possible that one man is able to deliver a gift to every child in the world in one night? How can those poor little reindeer carry the weight of that sleigh? Why was his handwriting the same as my mom’s?!

Now, as an adult who has grown older and wiser, I’ve obviously gotten some answers. But over the years, new burning questions have come to mind. As a person who is deeply concerned about the state of our planet, I can’t help but wonder about Santa’s environmental footprint. Are Santa’s operations sustainable? What environmental footprint does Kris Kringle leave behind every December 25th?

If Father Christmas has a not-so-jolly carbon footprint, we just might need to cancel him. I know, I know, nobody wants to cancel Santa. Trust me, I’d really rather not myself. I’m no Grinch! Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and respect Saint Nick but I love and respect our planet much more. So, as a concerned dweller of planet Earth, I’ve taken it upon myself to conduct this totally serious, not at all satirical investigation of Santa’s sustainability score.

You’re welcome.

Sleighing those emissions


The most obvious place to begin our investigation is determining the environmental impact of Santa’s famous sleigh.  According to the New York Times, air travel accounts for 2.5% of global carbon emissions. Although this isn’t as much of a contributor as cars or power plants, the Times found that air travel can take up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. So it’s best we keep an eye on air travel, especially those who fly a significant amount – especially Santa.

I mean think about it: the man manages to fly around the entire world, visiting every single household (except the naughty ones) to deliver the highly anticipated gifts. Even though this happens just once a year, that’s a whole lot of flying. Fortunately, we know one thing for sure. Santa isn’t running on fossil fuels. Of course, his sleigh flies around the world with the help of his trusty reindeer. That sounds like a much lower emission travel solution, right?

Oh but ho-ho-hold up! As much as we love those reindeer, they aren’t a zero-emission travel solution. Livestock animals are responsible for 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from larger animals like cattle. Since reindeer are much smaller in size compared to cows, we can assume they aren’t contributing too much to the world’s emissions. Still, you’d think with all that North Pole magic, Santa would have find a way to fly an emission-free sleigh by now.

Emissions score: 9/10

Rudolph and renewable energy


Santa’s annual mission of bringing joy (and gifts) all around the world would be impossible without the sleigh’s MVP: Rudolph the red-nose reindeer. Rudolph leads the way on Christmas Eve, guiding Saint Nick and his fellow reindeer through the darkness of a cold winter night using his iconic ruby-red nose lighting up the sky.

The question is, what type of energy source could possibly power Rudolph’s nose? It has to be one powerful enough to shine so brightly for an indefinite amount of time, as our research has shown that there are zero (0) reports of Rudolph getting a nose job to his light. 

After considering all the possible energy sources, we have concluded that the most likely energy source of Rudolph’s nose comes down to just one possibility: the holiday spirit. Since the holiday spirit comes alive every year and is comprised of joy and the spirit of giving, we can count that as a renewable resource and clean energy.

Clean energy score: 10/10

Workplace sustainability


Okay, here’s where it gets a little dicey. We can’t talk about overall sustainability if we don’t talk about the working conditions up at the North Pole. I have so many questions. According to several news reports, the largest hole in the ozone layer exists above the North Pole and it continues to grow. Is it a coincidence that this is where all of Santa’s operations take place? I think not.

Let’s think about what goes on at Santa’s workshop. As we all know, his magical elves work tirelessly to make gifts for all the good boys and girls every year. But I’m realizing that they have to wait until the end of the year to find out who has been naughty or nice, right? This means they have probably had to produce billions of toys in a matter of weeks to have everything ready in time for Christmas. It cannot be a healthy work environment to have all the elves cramming in so much work in such little time, and I worry they are being overworked.

Based on my research, meaning every Christmas movie I’ve ever seen, the elves seem to handmake all the toys. This means Santa’s workshop probably don’t produce the amount of toxic waste and emissions created by many other factories around the world. I was also unable to find any sort of memo from the North Pole that indicated they are prioritizing the use of sustainable materials in their toys, which means they are likely contributing to the 90% of toys made of plastic – which contains toxins that endanger the environment and our health. So between the overworked elves and material output, there’s a lot of room for improvemnet here.

Workplace sustainability score: 6/10

Total score: 25/30


P.S. Santa, if you’re reading this, I hope you take this feedback to heart. This report finds that your sustainability score is at 83%, which isn’t bad (as any B student will emphasize). But there are certainly opportunities to improve your seasonal operations without compromising your jolly brand. Remember, I criticize because I care. Please keep me on the “nice” list. The only thing I wished for this year was a Pulitzer for this very serious, very real investigative report.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!