– Hi, what can I get you?
– I’ll have a slice of that chocolate cake and a hot chocolate. Make it thick, so I can eat it with a spoon.
– … Is everything ok?
To welcome Sinterklaas in the office this year we presented him with our scientific skills. You can call it a cheap consultancy, in the sense that the Sint now knows where the best behaved children in Flanders are, how to optimize his present distribution route, and other useful things to make his trip more sustainable and efficient, and all for some chocolate, speculaas and clementines. Some companies get big money for this type of assessment, but let’s say the PhD students in our division have a soft spot for gift-bearing semi-religious white-bearded legends.
(It also made me question how the hell does he do it. Our presents alone take almost 7h to distribute! How does he manage the whole Flanders plus the Netherlands in one night? Hypothesis: he poofs them.)
My contribution to this effort was to provide the Sint with some information so he can minimize his carbon footprint. I showed him which presents are responsible for higher greenhouse gas emissions (chocolate is safe you guys, don’t worry) and also evaluated his options to perform the trip between Spain and Belgium. Turns out his doing just fine as he his, with his old-fashioned steamboat. If he and his polemic Zwarte Piet helpers were to take the plane, the carbon footprint would be much much higher.
The Sint’s doppelgänger – Santa Claus – is doing much worse by the way… Although no one’s questioning the ethics of the elfs, his nine reindeers require a lot of animal feed and, as we all know, animal feed production is a well-known source of greenhouse gas emissions. Sorry Santa, you my guy, not this Sint fellow, but truth is: deforestation’s a bitch!
(Disclaimer: please do not cite this extremely accurate scientific data without the consent of the authors!)