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Energy Use at Christmas & Sustainable Festive Gifts

By James Baker | Posted December 09, 2021

Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas

Christmas is a time to celebrate. It’s a time to eat, drink and be merry, which usually means spending a bit extra on food and presents. But that’s not the only thing we spend more on at Christmas…

Energy use at Christmas

In the UK, we use almost £66 million of electricity on Christmas day alone – that’s 402Gwhs of electricity, or to put it another way, enough electricity to light the Eiffel Tower for 50 years!

That doesn’t even include the rest of December, where the average home uses an extra £50 worth of energy on things like Christmas lights, charging fancy new toys or settling in for a Christmas movie-marathon.

Christmas waste

It's not just energy we consume more of at Christmas, though. This Christmas, we’ll create 30% more waste than we do the rest of the year. The UK will waste 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and up to 74 million mince pies, not to mention all the packaging.

Don’t panic - we’re not saying you need to turn off the oven, dismantle the tree and sit in the dark to have an eco-friendly Christmas. There are plenty of things you can do, big and small, to save on your bills and have a more sustainable Christmas. We’ve pulled together some Christmas energy-saving tips, as well as some ideas for eco-friendly Christmas gifts, decorations, trees and more.

Saving energy for a sustainable Christmas

  • Farewell fairy, hello LED. Regarding Christmas lights, research shows that incandescent bulbs can cost up to 83% more than LEDs. Upgrading to LEDs could save you money and will give you an impressive 25,000 hours of festive glow (compared to 1000 hours if you stick with incandescent)
  • Turn your thermostat down by 1°C. It doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a difference. The ideal temperature is somewhere between 18°C and 21°C, and the general principle is that for every degree you turn your heating down, you could save around £80 a year
  • Before you head for the thermostat, why not grab your Christmas jumper or some slippers? It’s not rocket science, and an extra layer could keep you warm without costing a penny
  • If you’re busy in the kitchen (perfecting Christmas dinner, perhaps), ensure you don’t open the oven door too much. The heat will escape, meaning your oven has to work harder to maintain the temperature needed for the perfect roast potato
  • Don’t let folks linger! If you’re throwing a Christmas party, get your hellos, goodbyes and Christmas well-wishes done and dusted before you open the door and keep the heat inside where it belongs
  • Turn things off at the plug. Chances are you’ve got all manner of electrical items plugged in and on standby now, and they’ll use more power than you think. You could save £35 a year just by turning things off at the wall
  • If you’re thinking of getting a new household appliance in the January sales, make sure you choose an energy-efficient model. Watch out for the energy rating sticker and aim for an A+++ rating. And once they’re installed, make sure they’re full before you set them going!

Eco-friendly Christmas gifts

Looking after your bills and your energy consumption isn’t the only way to save this Christmas. Gifts, cards, wrapping paper, crackers, decorations… it all adds up! But there are sustainable options out there for virtually everything, and you can easily find stocking fillers and festive favourites that don’t cost the earth.

Quality, not quantity

A good start when it comes to sustainable gifting is to think of quality, not quantity. The WWF estimates that just under half of UK adults get gifts every year that they don’t want and may never use. Focus on quality, and hopefully, your gifts won’t up in the bin!

Shop Local

Whatever you’re gifting this year, an easy way to cut your carbon footprint is to shop local. In 2020, the UK's Black Friday deliveries produced a whopping 429,000 tonnes of carbon (that’s the same as 435 flights between London and New York). Shopping online might be convenient, but it comes at a cost.

Give the gift of a good time

You could even skip the shops altogether and give the gift of a good time. Experiences, days out, classes and workshops are a great alternative to giving a ‘thing’ this year. A cooking display, jewellery-making course or even just a promise to spend time doing something fun can make for a wonderful, personalised present.

Go homemade

Why not do it yourself this Christmas? Homemade gifts are so meaningful and a great way to avoid single-use plastics and emissions from manufacturing and shipping. If you know someone with a sweet tooth, why not bake them something? You could fire up the knitting needles to make a cosy winter scarf or hat, or check out one of the many online tutorials for making candles or bath bombs.

Shop pre-loved

You can even share the love with pre-loved gifts. When you think second-hand, you might think dodgy Christmas jumpers or old DVDs, but the rise of the circular economy means more and more quality items are finding themselves in shops like Oxfam, Shelter and Preloved. Clothes, books, furniture and games can all be found for a fraction of the price and the carbon.

Don’t forget the trimmings… wrapping paper, cards, crackers, trees and more!

Gift wrapping

All this gift-giving means we’ll throw away up to 227,000 miles of wrapping paper – that’s enough to reach the moon! As a low-carbon alternative, you could make your own wrap out of newspapers or use cloth and ribbon instead. Or if you’re up for a challenge, you could check out a no-tape wrapping tutorial online or ditch the plastic tape for paper alternatives.

If you need wrapping paper, look out for recycled or FSC-certified paper. Most brown paper can be recycled, and you can jazz it up with ribbons, stamps or stencils. Just make sure to steer clear of foil-backed, glittery or glossy paper, as these can’t be recycled. Not sure if your paper is recyclable? Try the scrunch test – paper that stays put when you scrunch it into a ball can usually go in the recycling.

Christmas cards

The UK buys over one billion Christmas cards yearly, and they’ll probably end up in the recycling or the bin. Why not send an E-card this year? Or donate the money you’d usually spend on cards to a charity? You can repurpose old cards to make your own gift tags. An alternative is to buy seed cards which are made from post-consumer paper waste and 100% biodegradable seed-embedded cards printed with vegan-friendly inks.

Sustainable crackers

The Christmas table isn’t complete without crackers, but aside from a hat and a joke, they’re usually full of plastic destined for the bin. Consider getting sustainable, recyclable crackers without toys (you’ll still get a hat and a terrible joke, don’t worry), or get a DIY cracker kit and put your own gift inside!

Christmas trees

Real or fake, that’s the question. The results are in, and a fake tree could have a carbon footprint up to 4 times higher than a real one. If you want a truly sustainable tree this year, make sure you chop locally (get it?!) and consider a potted tree that you can reuse year after year.

Hopefully, we've given you some festive food for thought about how to have a more sustainable Christmas this year. We're dedicated to helping Britain achieve Net Zero, and we know little steps like these can add up to a big difference.

To learn more and get tips on everything from lowering your heating bills to solar panels and electric heating, why not head to our energy efficiency pages? After all, energy efficiency is for life, not just for Christmas.

Become more energy-efficient