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Einstein Year - a year celebrating physics - Festive excuses for scrooges
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Festive excuses for scrooges

We all love the festive season, but there are certain traditions that some of us could do without – battling your way through crowds on the high street, driving for miles to visit your in-laws, and agonising over roasting the perfect turkey, to name a few

Now scientists have created the perfect series of scrooges’ excuses to avoid these trials, and ease your conscience slightly.

As a round-off to the end of Einstein Year, physicists at the Institute of Physics (IOP) have calculated the energy consumed – and the CO2 emissions created – by the most familiar (and to some, the least welcome) festive activities in the week leading up to Christmas.

Cooking the perfect turkey uses an approximate 2.9 KWh of energy. As a nation, we roasted over 10 million turkeys for Christmas last year, using over 29 million KWh of energy, and creating 13,500 tonnes of CO2 – enough to fill 2,695 hot air balloons.

The average Briton watches almost 30 hours of TV over the festive week but in total, UK households used 61.5 million KWh of energy just viewing from the couch last year, generating over 28 thousand tonnes of CO2 – enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall 155 times.

Want to avoid visiting the in-laws this year? Just explain that if every family in the UK made a 100-mile round trip in a Ford Focus over the festive season, we would burn 1,075,538,685 KWh of energy in total, releasing 281 thousand tonnes of CO2. That’s the same amount of CO2 it takes to drive from Land’s End to John O’Groats 1,057,905 times.

When those jolly carol singers come a–knocking, you might want to think twice before answering. If every UK household opened its front door to carol singers for the length of one carol, 1.8 million KWh of energy would be lost, creating 338 tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to driving round the earth 44 times.

Ridiculous reports of Britons going OTT with Christmas light decorations should be taken a tad more seriously. Festooning every house in the UK with a typical set of Christmas lights over the 12 days of Christmas would use 3.5 billion KWh of energy, emitting 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 – enough CO2 to fill the Cardiff Millennium Stadium 543 times.

On a lighter note, long may Christmas shopping continue – as a nation, we burnt 134,100 million calories in total walking round the shops at Christmas last year – and that’s enough exercise to burn off 725 million mince pies!

Sam Rae, scientist at the Institute of Physics, said: “In Einstein Year we tried to show that physics comes into our everyday lives, well the festive season is no different. We’re not saying don’t celebrate it, but physics gives us some real excuses to get out of some of the more dreaded chores.”


Notes to Editors

Calculations were made by the Institute of Physics, based on statistics from the following:

Energy Saving Trust

SPSL (People Counting Systems and Customer Tracking)


The British Turkey Information Service

Einstein Year is a year-long celebration of physics and its relevance to all our lives. Marking the centenary of Einstein’s three ground-breaking ideas it communicates the vital role physics plays in developing new technologies like cancer screening equipment and mobile phones, whilst addressing big questions such as how the Universe was created and how climate change can be tackled.

Einstein Year is here - be inspired by physics in 2005.

The Institute of Physics is a leading international professional body and learned society with over 37,000 members, which promotes the advancement and dissemination of a knowledge of and education in the science of physics, pure and applied. It has a world-wide membership and is a major international player in: scientific publishing and electronic dissemination of physics; setting professional standards for physicists and awarding professional qualifications; promoting physics through scientific conferences, education and science policy advice The Institute is a member of the Science Council, and a nominated body of the Engineering Council. The Institute works in collaboration with national physical societies and plays an important role in transnational societies such as the European Physical Society and represents British and Irish physicists in international organizations. In Great Britain and Ireland the Institute is active in providing support for physicists in all professions and careers, encouraging physics research and its applications, providing support for physics in schools, colleges and universities, influencing government and informing public debate.

For more information, contact Dee Rossi,, or telephone 0208 392 5714


Contact Maneera Stenhouse, Einstein Year,, or telephone 020 7470 4813


Released: 2005/12/19 15:19:04 GMT+0