There was no way he could get down the soot-filled chimney with clean shoes, after all.
You probably missed them because you were looking at the bounty of toys, or pile of coal, under your tree Christmas morning. But Santa, like the rest of us, also leaves another carbon footprint: the amount of carbon released into the air from human activity, including Santa's superhuman feat of delivering toys to the world's children in one night.
The Cadence Network of Cincinnati, Ohio, calculated Santa's footprint as a way of bringing attention to an issue it says too few businesses understand.
All told, from fuel used to ship raw materials to the North Pole to the gas that the reindeer (and all other animals for that matter) naturally produce, it works out to 6,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide gas.
Just to deliver to York County alone.
The total amount for every house with a Christmas tree in the world comes out to about 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide - about as much as the country of Luxembourg produces in a year.
Carbon dioxide gas is the leading culprit behind global warming, many scientists say.
“We thought it would be kind of a neat idea, talking about Santa,” said George Kehler, director of renewable energy and carbon services for Cincinnati, Ohio-based Cadence Network.
Kehler heads a new division of the company that seeks to advise businesses on how to limit their carbon releases, if and when government regulations mandate it - or businesses begin acting on their own.
Although government regulation is not expected until at least January 2009, businesses are expected to start taking actions sooner.
Kehler, who came to Cadence by way of Dow Chemical and has testified on climate-change issues, said many businesses know something is coming and want to prepare.
Kehler calculated Santa's footprint, and like most businesses that would take a look at their environmental impact, it's a lot more than he thought it would be.
Especially in the transportation category.
Reindeer don't burn fossil fuels, after all. But, “reindeer produce methane,” Kehler said matter-of-factly.
Especially when traveling 122 million miles per hour for more than 30 hours.
The Cadence Network said that to avoid such a large footprint - and to avoid protests by polar bears who might make meals of elves in retaliation - Santa could move closer to his raw materials suppliers.
Or put up wind turbines to capture large wind gusts in the Arctic for energy.
Also, a capital campaign - maybe taking a few extra cookies at Christmas and having a bake sale - could help pay for Santa to update his infrastructure, making it more efficient.
An elf who wished not to be named said Santa was too busy prepping the sleigh and putting on belly fat to comment, but would consider the issue some time next year.
Carbon by category
Different sectors of a manufacturing and distribution operations including Santa's, have their own carbon footprints.
For Santa, transportation (to and from North Pole) is the biggest contributor to the total carbon footprint because of how far home base is from customers.
The following numbers reflect the total carbon released in making and shipping toys to the entire world and how much of that carbon is released to build and ship toys to York County only.
Carbon released translates into about four times that amount of carbon dioxide. The 2 million metric tons of total carbon liberated becomes 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide when it mixes with oxygen in the atmosphere.
Shipping: Includes sending raw materials to the North Pole; shipping materials to advance warehouses.
· World: 2,250,000 metric tons of carbon
· York County: 1,800 metric tons of carbon
Warehouse/manufacturing:Includes making and storing of toys on site.
· World: 6,661 metric tons of carbon
· York County: 5.3 metric tons of carbon
On-site housing:For the elves, assuming there are 500 working at the North Pole, and each shares a house with another elf.
· World: 7,100 metric tons of carbon
· York County: 5.7 metric tons of carbon
Distribution:The part that Santa magically gets done all in one night.
· World: 11,081 metric tons of carbon
· York County: 8.7 metric tons of carbon
Total:From beginning to end, the amount of carbon liberated by Santa.
· World: 2 million metric tons of carbon
· York County: 1,600 metric tons of carbon
The Cadence Network found there are about 144 million households in the world with a Christmas tree and used that to calculate the how much effort, materials and other factors would go into how much carbon Santa Claus would produce.
We found our own number of Christmas-tree households in York County by taking the 2005 estimate of how many people lived in York County (416,322); dividing it by the estimated number of people per household (about 2.5); and dividing that number by the ratio of households with Christmas trees in the United States (about two out of three) gleaned from various tree-industry Web sites.
The resulting calculation says one in every 1,250 households in the world with a Christmas tree is within the boundaries of York County, making our Christmas carbon footprint roughly 1/1,250 of the world's burden.