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Going vegan, buying low energy Christmas lights and sustainable gifts

How Brits are striving for a carbon neutral Christmas

  • 3.1 million Brits are set to turn down a turkey dinner in favour of meat-free festive fare this Christmas, in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Over half will make sustainable swaps such as opting for low energy lights, 'green gifting' and recycling wrapping paper. One in 10 will even give up gifts altogether
  • Despite this, Brits can still expect to spend a whopping £499 million more on festive energy use, watching an extra four hours of TV per day and leaving lights shining for over 100 hours
  • Sustainability advocate Lisa Faulkner shares her top tips to help Brits get even greener this Christmas
  • The research was commissioned by Smart Energy GB, the campaign for a smarter Britain, to highlight how getting a smart meter can improve home efficiency over Christmas

More than three million Brits are set to go meat free this festive season in an effort to offset their Christmas carbon footprint.

Over half (52%) admit to making changes to celebrate Christmas more sustainably this year, with a quarter (24%) opting for low energy Christmas lights, a fifth (22%) using a smart meter to keep an eye on their Christmas energy consumption, and a further 15% taking public transport or car sharing to visit family and friends.

When it comes to merry meal times, more than a third (38%) of households will make sustainable swaps such as using locally sourced ingredients (39%) and choosing foods that take less time and energy to cook (35%).

Recycling wrapping paper (19%), forgoing festive cards (17%) and reusing party outfits (17%) are other behaviours adopted by eco-conscious Brits, according to the research* conducted by Smart Energy GB, the campaign for a smarter Britain.

Despite these steps, Brits can still expect to spend over a fifth more than usual on their festive energy bills, turning the heating up an extra 3.84 degrees, leaving the TV on for four hours extra per day and using the oven for four additional hours per week. All this extra energy adds up to a whopping £499 million across the UK**.

And it seems 'green gifting' is a theme for yuletide this year, with 45%  of us asking for sustainable presents such as reusable water bottles and coffee cups (28%). One in 10 (9%) are even happy to give up gifts altogether.

These gifts are even more popular than traditional presents such as gift vouchers (14%), health and beauty products (13%) and tech gifts such as smart phones (3%), laptops (1%) and iPads (1%).

It seems the younger generation are a great force for change when it comes to Christmas habits, as 44% of parents admit it's their children that inspired them to adopt a more conscious approach to Christmas. Energy efficiency (17%) is the most common change encouraged by kids, alongside getting consciously crafty by making their own Christmas decorations (16%) and Christmas cards (13%).

And while kids are demonstrating the "Greta effect", the changes are across all ages, with eight in 10 (82%) over 60s suggesting they're more conscious of the environment now than they were 10 years ago.

Robert Cheesewright of Smart Energy GB said:

"It's great to see so many people considering their impact on the environment during the festive season. Amongst the small steps we can take to be more sustainable at Christmas, getting a smart meter installed is a really simple one. It will help you to take control of your energy use, reduce energy waste and upgrade our system to achieve a cleaner, greener future.

"If every household across the country took action on energy efficiency now, including getting a smart meter, this alone could achieve 11% of the UK's 2050 carbon target. What's more, we'd save enough energy to power more than 40 million strings of Christmas lights, which is enough to stretch around the world 15 times!"

To help Brits get even greener this Christmas, Smart Energy GB has partnered with sustainability advocate Lisa Faulkner to share tips on how to keep things eco at home.

Lisa Faulkner comments:

"Sustainability must be for life, not just for Christmas. But it's great to see so many people making tangible changes to reduce their carbon footprint whilst still enjoying the festive season. Making small swaps, such as opting for low energy lightbulbs, real trees and getting a smart meter installed to track festive energy use can go a long way to protect the future of the planet."

Lisa's tips to have a Green Christmas at home are:

  • Defrost any frozen food at room temperature - cooking food from temperate will reduce cooking time, therefore saving energy
  • Get the family involved in cooking - not only will you spend some quality time together, but it'll get people away from the TV and other appliances - so also cuts down on screen time
  • Find recipes that let you keep heat consistent - while a lot of people are giving up meat all together, those cooking turkey should know that 180 degrees is the most energy efficient
  • Turn the oven off when finished - if you keep the door closed, food warm for roughly 30 minutes
  • Get a smart meter - smart meters help households to become more aware of their energy use and take steps to reduce it, while also improving the situation at a national level. By pooling all the data from the nation's smart meters, a smart energy system can prevent waste at source by making far better assessments of the nation's energy needs
  • Try cutting down on meat - for many, meat is traditional, but there are also a number of vegetarian or vegan alternatives such as nut roasts or mushroom wellingtons
  • Make a smart choice on the Christmas tree - experts are debating real vs plastic. If real, get it from a sustainable source - look out for the FCS Certification. If plastic, consider second hand, or ensure it is one you will use for years to come
  • Recycle any old wrapping paper, ribbons and string from last year. If you don't have any, save some from this year, for next
  • Use reusable decorations - decorations made with recycled glass, wood or fabric are a great alternative to plastic items that are non-recyclable. Opt for classic designs so you're less likely to be tired of them by next Christmas
  • Get crafty - making your own gifts, Christmas cards, or Christmas decorations can save money but also mean that old items are recycled - reducing waste
  • Why not get your friends and family involved in a Secret Santa - rather than an exhaustive shopping list, this could make you buy a single more considered gift, rather than a number of smaller gifts
  • Make a list and check it twice. Write a list of what you need and stick to it

One of the easiest ways to become more energy efficient at home, at Christmas and all year round, is to get a smart meter installed. Smart meters help households to become more aware of their energy use and take steps to reduce it, while also improving energy efficiency.

Using data from smart meters, a smart energy system can prevent waste at source by making far better assessments of the nation's energy needs. This reduces our carbon footprint and contributed to the ongoing battle against climate change.


Notes to editors

For more information please contact [email protected] or call 020 3950 7552


*Research by Censuswide, 2,035 general consumers excluding respondents in Northern Ireland (25th - 27th November 2019).

Gen Z meaning respondents aged 16-20

About smart meters and the rollout

Britain is committed to a cleaner future - one with zero carbon, zero emissions and reduced pollution.

To make this happen, our nation requires a major upgrade to its energy infrastructure, specifically, it requires the creation of a smart energy network. Smart meters, which replace traditional, analogue  meters, are the building blocks of a more reliable, clean and affordable energy infrastructure, allowing Great Britain to better manage energy use, transition to mass uptake of electric vehicles and to build a greener economy.

There are already over 14.9 million smart meters installed in homes and microbusinesses across Great Britain. Every household in England, Scotland and Wales can now see their energy use in near real time, receive accurate bills and do their bit for the planet, by requesting a smart meter, at no extra cost, from their energy supplier.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the campaign for a smarter Britain. It's our task to help everyone in Great Britain understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to be cleaner and greener with their energy use. Our national campaign is reaching households and microbusinesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit our website


To find the average energy usage increase in the UK over Christmas, we used the below.


  • British households expect their energy bill to increase by 17.31% over the average Christmas
  • The average household bill is £104.50, meaning we expect to spend £18.80 extra per household on energy over a normal Christmas
  • In 2018, there were 27.6 million households in the UK
  • Equates to £499,008,000 nationally



  • Brits do 1.5 extra washes per week over Christmas period


  • Brits leave our TV on 3.92 hours longer per day over the Christmas period


  • Brits leave our oven on for 3.7 hours longer


**Please see substantiation which can be downloaded from HERE.