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Ecological holidays: Christmas trees, gifts and AI Christmas cards

Should you buy an artificial or natural Christmas tree for Christmas, and which one is less harmful to the environment? Dr Paul Caplat, an ecologist at Queen’s University Belfast, said that natural Christmas trees “are grown in areas where there was no forest before, so in that sense, cutting down Christmas trees is not deforestation.” It is worth looking for trees grown organically instead of Christmas trees from a large farm fed with pesticides and fertilisers. Moreover, a tree grown, cut down and thrown into a landfill will have a carbon footprint of approximately 16 kg, and a tree shredded and used as mulch will have a carbon footprint of up to 3.5 kg. Meanwhile, for an artificial tree to have a lower carbon footprint than a real one, it would have to be used for over a decade.

Is it necessary to constantly replace, e.g. with Christmas gifts, phones, laptops, smartwatches or headphones when new models appear on the market? Gone are the days of rapid technological progress that fueled constant improvement in consumer technology, so frequent hardware replacements are no longer viable. For example, the last breakthrough in phone technology was the introduction of a periscope lens in 2019, enabling much longer optical zooms. For smartwatches, the last big step was the addition of an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor heart rhythm in 2018.

AI also applies to the Christmas business, offering, for example, the ability to prepare personalised Christmas cards. However, when creating a Christmas card, the biases built into the AI algorithms make families appear whiter than their actual skin colour or even look too attractive.

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