Christmas is a time to celebrate family and friends, to enjoy good food and drink and to give and receive presents. The sad fact of the matter, though, is that Christmas can also be rough on the environment. Wrapping paper fills up our bins, new gadgets use up more electricity and unwanted presents might go to waste. For those of us who are concerned about the environment, this can make even a well-meant gift a little less thrilling. Here, then, are some ideal gift ideas for the environmentalist on your Christmas list.
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Modern homes tend to be filled with electrical devices, all of them using up a steady trickle of energy even on standby. Standby savers fit between a device's plug and wall socket and can be switched off remotely, making it easy to deactivate a number of devices at once.
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Solar panels are a clean way of generating electricity, but they need to be deployed in large numbers to generate enough to run a home. Fortunately, charging a mobile phone requires only a steady, low-level source of power. Solar phone chargers provide free electricity for mobile phone users. As an added bonus, they're great for travel and in case of power outages.
Related: The practicalities of solar power
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They may not be the most Christmas-y gift in the world, but manufacturers say their dryer balls help reduce the running time of tumble dryers -- and therefore their energy consumption -- by up to 25%. In the winter, when there's nothing more welcome than warm clothes straight from the dryer, that's not a gift to take lightly.
Related: 10 Ways to improve energy efficiency
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A charitable donation is a great gift, and many environmental charities offer gift donations. You can plant a tree in the recipient's name, support sustainable farming in third world countries or benefit local conservation groups.
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Part of a commitment to helping the environment is a desire to learn more about it. Books on conservation, sustainability or climate science can help the recipient keep up on the latest developments in the field. Books like Tom Hodgkinson's "How to Be Free" or the handy "How to Live a Low-Carbon Life" can suggest more ways to help the planet.
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Bicycles under the tree aren't just for children. Cycling is an eco-friendly way to get around, as well as being a good source of exercise. In the depths of a British winter, though, it might be advisable to include a pair of warm gloves as well.
Related: How to build a custom bike
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Recycled wrapping paper
Every year, trees are cut down to manufacture miles of Christmas wrapping paper, most of which quickly finds its way into landfill. Using recycled wrapping paper -- and making sure it's properly recycled afterward -- can combat these problems. Of course, wrapping paper is a better gift before Christmas than on the day itself.
Even though more and more coffee shops are moving to using recycled materials for their takeaway cups, most such cups end up in the bin, contributing to waste. A reusable insulated mug is a great gift for the ecologically-minded coffee addict on your shopping list.
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Adopt an Animal
Animal adoptions are an ideal charitable gift for conservationists. Adoptions allow the giver to sponsor one of the world's most endangered animals, such as an Amur leopard, in the name of the recipient. The WWF offers adoption gift packages for a range of species.
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As environmental issues achieve more and more prominence, artists and designers are focusing more on reusing and recycling materials that would otherwise go to waste. From jewellery made from old silverware to purses made from crisp packets, a recycled item from a local crafter is a perfect environmentally-friendly Christmas gift.
Related: Green design: Another way to recycle
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