Ever wonder about the real environmental implications of Santa doing all his work on Christmas Eve? And if he can really make all his deliveries in one night?
Santa is on an incredibly tight deadline, having just 31 hours to deliver presents to the approximately 380 million children worldwide who celebrate the Christmas holiday. His day gets a bit extended due to the Earth’s rotation, but it’s hard to imagine that an extra seven hours would make much difference! In thinking about how he gets around, how many houses he has to stop at and the number of houses he has to cover in just one second, it’s important to discuss his energy usage as well.
To begin, if we suppose that the 380 million children are distributed at roughly three per house, that’s a mind-boggling 127 million houses Santa has to visit. Thirty-one hours is equal to 111,600 seconds, which means he has to deliver to 1,138 houses per second. Busy day, right?
Now, when it comes to energy use, we know that speed matters. According to an article published by First Utility, in order for Santa to reach every house in one night, he would need to travel at 1,046 kilometres per second—that’s 3,000 times the speed of sound! Right there, you have the reason why we never actually see him: our eyes and brains can’t see or interpret anything moving that fast.
Anyone calculating the energy needed to travel at such speeds knows that weight is a crucial factor. If each child was to receive a present weighing about one kilogram, the content of Santa’s sleigh would weigh more than New York’s Empire State Building. The eight famous reindeer we all know wouldn’t be able to pull this sleigh even a tiny fraction of the distance Santa has to travel. The sleigh alone travelling at that speed would break the laws of physics pretty severely.
What if we consider an alternate fuel source? If Santa opted for gas to power his sleigh around the world, he would need something like 57.8 billion megawatt hours of energy, which translates to approximately 6 trillion litres of gasoline. Using the conventional energy calculation model for a regular car (as we’ve yet to develop one for sleighs), at a rate of 2,100 grams of CO2 per litre of ordinary gasoline, Santa’s fuel consumption would release 13 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. That’s equal to 34% of the world’s total CO2 emissions in 2015!
Clearly Santa is able to make it around the world in fine style on Christmas Eve (both of them), although there is no known propellant commonly available that would get him moving sufficiently fast. Gasoline would be horribly polluting and not at all in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. It’s probably safe to assume Santa has access to a new and clean kind of fuel that’s yet to be discovered by the rest of us. Just to be sure, and to fulfil his environmental reporting duty, Santa should track and calculate his emissions and regularly complete a cost/benefit analysis to ensure he’s always working as efficiently as possible!
In the meantime, we simply have to believe in a bit of magic—and some impressive ultra-high tech that Santa is keeping to himself for now. Probably for the best!
Wishing you all a very Happy Holiday Season.
This blog and infographic were written for Emisoft, a leading environmental reporting company. View the original here.