January: repairing environmental damage from the year before

December has ended, but the environmental impact endures: what can we do to help slow climate change down?

January: repairing environmental damage from the year before

Perhaps you think it is too late to reflect on the effects Christmas, but the environmental footprint that this celebration leaves each year is huge. The out-of-control consumption of goods and services is a tradition throughout the worlds during this season: besides the growth in the consumption of electricity and plastic and the increasing production of garbage, the consumption of beef soars significantly, one of the main causes of global warming.

Irresponsible consumerism

In Colombia, it has been estimated that the consumption of electric energy increases by 22% in december. Other organizations, such as the Asociación de los Consumidores de Energía (ANAE) in Spain have estimated the rise in 28%.

The increase in electricity consumption has multiple environmental impacts:  

  • It endangers biological corridors
  • The emission of greenhouse gases soars
  • In countries like Colombia or Brazil, which produce large part of their electric energy with hydric sources, water bodies might be compromised

Christmas comes to an end and many gifts are returned or thrown way. The process leaves a huge carbon footprint and garbage production increases.

Possible solutions

One of the main polluters during Christmas and New Year festivities goes almost unnoticed. The consumption of animals boosts during this time of the year and the damage is worse than anyone could have imagined. It has been estimated that the meat industry is responsible for about 18% of the worldwide carbon emissions and that one kilogram of meat requires between 10.000 and 15.000 liters of water, almost 85 times more than the production of wheat.

Professor Tim Benton of the University of Leeds stated for The Guardian that the biggest effort people could make to reduce their carbon footprint is not to abandon their cars, but to eat less meat.

For that reason, the UN has said that reducing meat consumption is an urgent measure to struggle against climate change. In many cities the proposal has been accepted:

  • In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the government created a “Meat-free Monday” in schools and public offices
  • In Medellín, Colombia, the city council approved a “vegetarian day” in public schools, as means to reduce the environmental impact and to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organizatión (WHO) on the risks of consuming animals on a daily basis.

It is evident that consumption is no longer a private issue. We are free to choose what we eat, but that freedom ends when the environment is at stake. Responsible consumption could repair and reverse the damages. Reducing meat consumption only one day of the week could suffice.


Latin American Post | Ricardo Díaz Alarcón
Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda