Eco-friendly tips for a sustainable Christmas

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How to be greener this Christmas

Most of us love to indulge over the Christmas period. But Christmas can have a big impact on the environment – with all the gift-giving and decorations, we can produce a lot of waste.

There are some small changes we can all make to help reduce the environmental impact of our Christmas celebrations. And why not encourage your friends and family to join you in celebrating a sustainable Christmas this year?

Here are some of our top tips for an eco-friendly Christmas, without compromising on the festive fun.

Ways to have an eco-friendly Christmas

1. Recycle or rent your Christmas tree

The debate between buying a real Christmas tree or an artificial one is long standing. But if you want to limit your impact on the planet, and unless you’re investing for the long term, then get a real tree. Artificial trees need to be used for at least 12 Christmases to have a lower carbon footprint than a real one1.

When looking for your tree, make sure it has an FSC certification so you know it’s been sourced sustainably, and shop locally as a real tree that’s been imported will have a significantly higher carbon footprint than a locally grown one. 

And once you’re finished with your tree, recycle it rather than sending it to landfill. Trees that are recycled and used for chippings or firewood have a much lower carbon footprint than those that are thrown away1. Check if your local council or garden centre has an environmentally friendly tree disposal scheme or take it to your local recycling centre.

Or why not go a step further and rent a Christmas tree? There are businesses across the country that plant trees for 11 months of the year and make them available to rent during December. The trees are then collected in January and replanted to be used again next Christmas. You could even choose the same tree year after year as it grows. 

2. Use eco-friendly wrapping paper

We’re all trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we consume and why should this be any different at Christmas? Most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, and the glitter, synthetic inks and plastic coating often means it ends up in landfill. Instead, consider alternatives such as fabric, recyclable paper and even paper bags.

Reusing gift bags, boxes, tissue paper and ribbon from last year is a great way to reduce your waste too – you could even use last year’s Christmas cards as gift tags.

Brown paper is another great option and you can get creative and decorate it yourself with wooden stamps, ribbons or even foliage. Make it a family affair and get the kids involved, it’s a great way to keep them occupied and involved with in wrapping presents.

3.  Choose green Christmas cards

Writing and receiving Christmas cards is part of the magic of Christmas. But one billion Christmas cards are thrown away every year when they could be recycled2.

So for a greener Christmas, send cards that can be recycled and make sure you recycle any cards that you receive too. Or why not send digital cards this year? It’s an easy and low carbon way to spread some Christmas cheer. 

4. Reduce your food waste

If you don’t finish all the food on your Christmas table, then think twice before chucking it in the bin. In the UK we waste almost 270,000 tons of food over the Christmas period3, which has a big impact on the planet and can easily be avoided.

Shopping smarter so you only buy what you need, using leftovers and making use of the freezer are all great ways to improve the sustainability of your Christmas dinner. There are lots of great recipes out there if you need some inspiration on how to best use your leftover turkey and vegetables – and there’s always the classic turkey curry.

5. Give gifts that will last

Instead of presents that will date, why not go for a timeless gift such as a house plant. If cared for, they’ll not only last for years but can also help clear the air pollution in your home.

Another great way to give more sustainably can be through Secret Santa. You can invest more money into one thoughtful gift, instead of lots of little gifts that could (sadly) end up in landfill.

And don’t forget to check out the sustainability credentials of the business you’re buying from. For example many small businesses are already supplied with 100% renewable electricity4, like we offer our small business customers.

Ways to use less energy this Christmas

1. Switch to LED Christmas lights

Having Christmas lights on your tree or on the outside of your home is a non-compromising tradition for many of us, but we don’t need to spend a fortune powering them. Choose energy efficient LED lights which use almost 90% less power than incandescent lights1.

And rather than leaving your lights on all day, consider using smart sockets to set a lighting schedule for your Christmas lights to come on later in the day when it’s starting to get dark.

Just make sure to turn your Christmas lights (and your normal lights) off before you go to bed to save you wasting energy when no one is up to enjoy them. And if you forget, you can even turn them off from the comfort of your bed with your smartphone if you have smart sockets or smart lighting

2. Heat your home efficiently

We all want our homes to be warm and cosy for Christmas. And having an energy efficient boiler means you can keep your home at the perfect temperature, while using less energy and spending less on your heating bills than if you have an older, less efficient boiler.

Be smart with your heating – only heat the rooms that you’re using, close the doors to empty rooms and use a draught excluder to stop cold air from getting into your home.

Why not consider installing a smart thermostat too? It can give you even more control over your home’s heating, even while you’re out – meaning that you’ll never heat an empty home, but it’ll always be warm for when you return. 

3. Reduce oven time

We all look forward to the big meal on Christmas Day, whether it’s turkey, salmon or a nut roast. But cooking the main event can be an energy intensive process – it takes the same amount of energy to heat a full oven as it does a nearly empty one.

So make the most of your oven, and the energy that goes into heating it, by cooking several dishes at once. And you might even have more time to sit down and relax or play a game with the family.

4. Switch off appliances

Over the festive period we might all spend more time than normal on our devices, but once you’ve finished using them remember to turn them off. Appliances such as TVs, games consoles and laptops all use energy when left on standby so turn them off at the socket to help save energy and reduce your energy bills.

And with a smart meter you can easily monitor and control your energy usage, so you can keep an eye on how much energy you’re using to power your Christmas in the chilly, dark winter months.

5. Consider renewable electricity

With all the extra energy we use over Christmas, choosing a renewable source is one sure fire way to ensure your Christmas is more sustainable. At E.ON, we supply all our customers’ homes with 100% renewable electricity4. Our customers can have peace of mind that powering their Christmas lights or Christmas viewing will not cost the Earth.

These are just a few ways to celebrate an eco-friendly Christmas. We hope you have a very ‘green’ Christmas! 

1. Energy Saving Trust: Wishing you a merry (sustainable) Christmas

2. House Beautiful: How to recycle Christmas cards, Christmas trees and wrapping paper

3. Respect Food: How Much Food Goes to Waste During Christmas, and How Can We Prevent It?

4. Electricity backed by 100% renewable sources. All our customers' homes and eligible businesses get 100% renewable electricity, at no extra cost. Eligible businesses are SME customers that sign a contract directly with E.ON. Electricity sourced from E.ON’s renewable generation assets, supply agreements with independent UK wind generators and the purchase of renewable electricity certificates. The electricity supplied to homes and businesses comes from the National Grid and DNOs. eonenergy.com/renewable.