While there may be some debate whether he lives in Lapland, at the North Pole, or even in Spain as the Dutch believe, it’s a well-known fact that Father Christmas has a very modern outlook on life, as seen in revealing documentaries such as Elf and Santa Claus: The Movie.

This extends in his attitude towards recycling.

If we assume that he lives in relative isolation somewhere inside the Arctic Circle, supplies are going to be scarce for Mr & Mrs Claus and their hardy team of elves and reindeer.

With this in mind, we’ve investigated how adopting a zero-waste lifestyle has enabled Santa to keep the world’s children in presents for hundreds of years, and hopefully hundreds more to come.

Is this where Santa lives?

Food

Santa’s thoughts on global warming aren’t public knowledge. But, even before the reduction in the polar icecaps, he could grow a wide variety of fruit and vegetables on his plot of land.

In fact, growing food is vital to his self-sufficient way of life. He works with dozens of elves, who despite being short in stature work up enormous appetites on the factory floor – and of course, it’s well known that Father Christmas has more than a passing interest in a hearty meal himself!

On top of their daily rations of sweets and Kendal Mint Cake to help them through the cold weather, root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and swedes are a staple on the menu. There are even some hardy varieties of strawberry that thrive in the chilly conditions.

Speculation is that they tend a series of greenhouses to, producing a wide range of interesting crops throughout the year, while they likely make use of some strains of barley which grow elsewhere inside the Arctic Circle.

They can mill this to produce the flour that goes into their mince pies, which aren’t just a festive treat that far north, but a foodstuff enjoyed every day of the year.

With each person at Father Christmas HQ expected to munch through around a 1,000kg of food per annum, this creates somewhere around 8-10 tonnes of food waste, practically all of which goes back into their perfectly balanced ecosystem.

Snow on berries. Is this food eaten by Father Christmas? Possibly.

Reindeer

As well as the legendary team of eight reindeer, which pull Santa’s sleigh on the most important night of the year, there is also a theory that the Claus family keeps a semi-domesticated herd of reindeer on site.

They use them for their rich and nutritious milk. While the average reindeer only produces around 350ml of milk per day, it has an extremely high buttermilk content of 22% and makes excellent cheese.

Grazing on plants and mushrooms – which grow locally – supplements their diets, while the reindeer also help reduce what would otherwise be a mountain of food waste. Carrots and apples are among their favourite nibbles, and with them being so well fed, they do inevitably generate some waste of their own…

With good quality topsoil being scarce, the elves prize reindeer fertiliser. It’s high in phosphorous and introduces some much-needed nutrients into ground which is often rock solid.

Reindeer in the snow. Maybe a member of Santa Claus's herd?

Wood

Although the responsibility for making toys has largely passed to other companies these days, Santa’s secret base is still a worldwide hub and distribution centre for all the biggest names in toy manufacturing.

However, there is still enormous demand for traditional wooden toys. While many elves have become world experts in logistics, there is still a dedicated team who devote their working lives to carving building blocks, wooden trains, and sausage dogs better than anybody else on the planet.

Of course, all this wood creates a lot of shavings and sawdust.

Along with the leftover food, some sawdust goes into the compost heap, while large piles of it become bedding for the reindeer. The most mouth-watering use for it, though, is when chippings are used to smoke all kinds of ingredients in Santa’s custom built smoke hut.

Logs covered in snow.

Hair

Naturally, elves need their hair cutting every so often. Using it in mulch helps on the vegetable patch, but believe it or not, there is always some kept back in case of oil spills.

Using hair to help mop up oil spills first started with the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, when a hair stylist from Alabama, Phil McCory, noticed the slick sticking to stricken otters.

He experimented with a gallon of motor oil back at his home, and it proved to be such a resounding success that he now works with the Matter of Trust charity. They provide ‘hair booms’ to help stop oil spreading in waterways all around the world.

After all, we shampoo our hair because it collects oil, and this simple idea makes a tremendous difference to wildlife and shorelines wherever a leak occurs.

Beardy elves in the snow

Santa’s Letters

About 8 million boys and girls send letters to Father Christmas each year from all over the world.

It goes without saying that he personally reads them all. As well as keeping a tally of who has requested what, he updates a ledger of who has been ‘Naughty’ or ‘Nice’ during the current year.

What would be an administrative nightmare for most people has been part of Santa’s daily routine for hundreds of years, and he shows no sign of slowing down just yet.

While it is easy to be sentimental about letters, there just isn’t the room to store many of them.

The world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 828m (2,717 ft). Just 1 million letters from children towers over that at around 3,680 ft (1122m). 8 million letters reaches around 29,440 ft (8.976m). That’s well over 100m taller than Mount Everest!

There’s not a paper recycling bin on the planet which could hold all these letters, but they need reusing, Considering the chilly climate where Santa lives, they shred some of it to use as energy efficient wall insulation.

However, it’ll come as no surprise to learn he and his team are by far the world’s biggest users of wrapping paper. Most letters are eventually recycled into it to deliver everyone’s gifts in a neat and tidy fashion.

Christmas wrapping paper

Biofuel

Of course, living among the tundra, heating is of great concern for Santa’s team.

While it’s true elves have become somewhat conditioned to the sub-zero temperatures, they still prefer to stay warm. This is particularly true in the winter when the daily average temperature is between -30 and -35 °C.

As we know, sweets are a huge part of daily life up there, but they don’t wolf everything. While we don’t have precise figures, we know they convert a significant percentage of their produce – whether it’s candy canes, syrup, or even Father’s Christmas’s favourite biscuits – into biofuel.

Anaerobic digestion breaks down the sugar-rich foods which soon ferments. Fortunately, Santa picks up enough sherry while he’s dropping off presents to last him the full year, and elves aren’t interested in alcohol, so rather than being turned into spirits, they leave the concoction to mature.

Eventually, the sweet gloop emits a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. This is siphoned into separate holding tanks and eventually used to fuel the impressive underfloor heating system and kitchen ovens.

It’s incredible how Santa, Mrs Claus, and their team of elves and reindeer have adapted to their environment, with their zero-waste lifestyle and innovative closed loop recycling system being a lesson to us all on sustainable living.

However, we know that not everybody has the time or the means to be as resourceful as Father Christmas, so if your company needs a forward-thinking waste management company this festive season, call us on 0808 178 1066 or email info@fswaste.co.uk.

Santa in a waste wagon
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