Sustainability is a hot topic right now, with good reason: climate change is escalating and the production of our food and drink can have a huge impact on the environment. It might not be the first thing on your mind as you look forward to indulging and celebrating this Christmas, but finding eco-friendly ways to stuff your face is absolutely doable, and might even be more fun!
Here are five ways to reduce your impact on the natural world this holiday season, without compromising on the festivities.
Reducing food miles is a great way to make your food shopping more sustainable, and the more locally you can source Christmas essentials, the better. Sprouts and cabbage are probably the most well known (if not well loved) seasonal greens, but did you know that UK-grown cranberries, chestnuts, apples and pears also flourish on home soil during December? Flour, sugar, milk, cheese and much more should be easy to source too; look for the Red Tractor logo.
This approach even applies to wines, because England has really upped its vineyard game in recent years. Denbies of Surrey, Biddenden of Kent, The Bolney Estate of the South Downs and Lyme Bay of Devon create a range of still and sparkling bottles that are sure to tickle your tastebuds without breaking the bank or the ecosystem!
2. Embrace wonky fruit and veg
The big issue of supermarket waste is being tackled by charities such as FoodCycle and consumers are rebelling against the standards that cause perfectly edible produce to be thrown out before it ever reaches the shelves. You can help by using curvy carrots, knobbly parsnips and lumpy potatoes to make your favourite festive foods this year. They taste just as good and are often cheaper from brands that have made more wonky fruit and veg available. More on this here (link to Lydia’s blog post on Meze website)
3. Try vegetarian or vegan alternatives to some of your usual meaty meals
Put your grimaces away, we don’t mean a dry nut roast or predictable something-with-cheese. It’s perfectly possible to make delicious food – often for less money – without the animal products, or just swap the meat for a veggie centrepiece. The Vegan Society has recipes for rich gravy, seasonal stuffing, eggnog and even Christmas pudding ice cream on its website here: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/recipes
You don’t have to swap everything, but try making half of your festive feasts plant-based or at least meatless for far less impact on the environment.
Opt for organic and free-range meat from local small-scale farms
The realities of intensively-farmed turkey and chicken are pretty grim, and it’s harder to be sure of welfare standards unless you’re buying organic or free-range food. It will be more expensive but the superior taste plus the knowledge that your dinner had a happy and healthy life seems more than worth the difference. If there’s a farm shop near you, make sure to pay them a visit and check out the produce, which may have even been reared on that very farm. Welfare standards are likely to be higher and you can ask about exactly what you’re getting. This map should help: http://www.farma.org.uk/members-map/
Buy only what you need, without the plastic packaging
If you have the time, popping to your local greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, bakery and zero-waste shop is a brilliant way to avoid single-use plastics. Paper bags and wrappers, or containers that you bring along to refill with dried goods such as rice and pasta, are eco-friendly alternatives to the plethora of non-recyclable packaging found in most supermarkets. However, not everyone has these nearby or is able to get to them, so if you are shopping at the supermarket, remember to bring your own reusable bags and look out for loose produce or items packaged in recyclable materials. Labelling can be confusing, so guides like this from Which? are a helpful place to start: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/recycling/article/what-are-supermarkets-doing-about-plastic
Remember, less is more and perhaps taking some slight breaks from tradition this year will freshen up your festivities. Let’s make our celebrations even more magical by eating sustainably, so that generations to come can enjoy everything we know and love about this most wonderful time of the year. Wishing you all a very merry and green Christmas!