Save your energy this Christmas: practical tips living centrepiece

Yes, Christmas can be expensive, and wasteful, but there are things you can do to reduce your bills. – a specialist retailer of energy-saving stuff for the home – has offered a plethora of advice on gifts, a lot of which is common sense but might get forgotten under all that tinsel.

Speaking of which, remember homemade paper chains? Reuse newspapers, magazines or junk mail to make colourful garlands, or have a go at making ornaments out of corks, citrus peel and brightly-coloured sweet wrappers for your sustainably sourced tree – a potted one can be planted outdoors after Christmas and used again next year.

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When it comes to giving presents, suggests gifting your time instead of things: promise to clean the windows or to walk the dog, perhaps. And if you found a new jumper wrapped up (in recycled paper) under the tree, consider donating an old garment to charity.

Ahead of Christmas Day, buying local food like vegetables cuts down on carbon emissions, while you can save energy at home by defrosting food overnight rather than using the microwave – and use a lid on saucepans to save cooking fuel. A sustainable centrepiece made of living herbs or salad leaves adds a natural touch to the dinner table.

If you're off to visit family or friends over Christmas, split the cost and carbon footprint by car-sharing – there are lots of websites – and maybe contribute a dish to the meal instead of bringing a gift.

Remember to turn your heating and hot water temperature down while you're away. In fact, even if you're at home you could cut your heating bills by ten per cent by turning your thermostat down by just 1ºC, and more on your electricity bills by switching off lights in rooms you're not using and not leaving things like TVs on standby. It all adds up.

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