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How to reduce the climate impact of your Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner is a very important part of Christmas day - for many, it’s the most important part! But food has a large carbon footprint - keep reading to find out how to have a more sustainable Christmas dinner.

Christmas dinner is a very important part of Christmas day – for many, it’s the most important part! Food brings friends and family together, and warms us up on a cold winter day. But food has a large carbon footprint – about one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted. There can be a tendency at Christmas to over-buy food, potentially wasting a lot of it. Below are a set of actions you can take to make your Christmas feasting more future-friendly. 

How to plan for your Christmas dinner

The biggest impact you can have on your Christmas food carbon footprint is to make sure that all of the food you buy and prepare is eaten. The Christmas foods most thrown away in UK homes each year are potatoes (710,000 tonnes), poultry (100,000 tonnes), carrots (96,000 tonnes), and gravy. The key to reducing food waste is planning ahead.

  • Only plan to serve food that you are confident will get eaten. Ask your family what they want to eat, and don’t be afraid to try new things if what people want diverges from the traditional Christmas dinner. 
  • Don’t be scared to suggest that your family try something new this year. Reports have found that ‘raising livestock contributes significantly to carbon emissions, with animal agriculture accounting for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions’. If your family members are open to new food ideas, why not suggest a vegetarian or vegan Christmas dinner? There are lots of interesting pre-prepared options available, or if you like cooking from scratch, there are many delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes online.
  • Plan to use British seasonal food. Foods that need transporting across the globe add a lot of carbon emissions to your meal. There are many traditional Christmas foods – potatoes, parsnips, sprouts and red cabbage, for example – that are in season and can easily be grown and purchased locally. 
  • Estimate the amount of food required. Try out this BBC Good Food portion planner: Christmas portion planner to waste as little food as possible, and make a list before going shopping.  

How to shop for your sustainable Christmas dinner

Christmas food shopping can be stressful and expensive. Is it possible to eat well, cut bills and reduce your carbon footprint? Keep reading to find out how.

  • Only buy what you need. Before you go shopping, make a list of what you need, and check what you already have in the cupboards – to save time, you can take a photo of your food shelves to refer to when you’re out shopping.
  • Take account of storage needs. Think about how long the food you want to buy will last and make sure you have the space to keep it fresh, tidying up your fridge and freezer and using up any perishable food before you add more. If you’re not sure how much you’ll need of a perishable ingredient, buy frozen or tinned, so it will keep longer if it’s unused.
  • Support local producers and retailers. Where possible, buy food that has been produced locally to save on transport miles. If you buy from local retailers, you will also find it easier to avoid excessive packaging – for example, buying loose fruit and vegetables.
  • Don’t forget the food accessories. Storing your leftovers can be done in a more sustainable way. Instead of using cling film or foil, why not use a reusable container or a reusable cooking wrap, so that you use as few single-use items as possible.

How to cook and serve your Christmas dinner sustainably

There are ways that you can save time and reduce your energy bills when cooking, whilst also making it less stressful!

  • Cook efficiently. Up to 60% of the climate impact of food can come from the cooking method you use.  If you have a microwave or broiler, part cooking before roasting helps save energy. Pressure cookers and slow cookers are much more energy-efficient than cooking in the oven, too.
  • Serve carefully and remember portion sizes. Try not to serve portions larger than people can eat – serve a regular portion with the option to come back for more, or present the meal in buffet fashion so people can pick their own portion. This makes it easier to re-use leftovers.
  • Share joy at Christmas. If you have a neighbour, friend or family member who will be eating alone at Christmas, why not invite them to share in your delicious meal? 

 

How to clear up after Christmas dinner

Another long-standing Christmas tradition is to put your feet up after the Christmas meal and have a well-deserved snooze.  Before you do that, take a few minutes to make sure that your mission to cut waste is fully achieved. 

  • Store leftovers. Sort leftovers into those that can be frozen and those that will keep for a short time in the fridge. You can use these leftover foods to make winter-warming post-Christmas curries and soups – you can find many tasty recipes online.
  • Create compost. If you have a garden or allotment, any food waste that cannot be used should be composted, to help grow next season’s food. We created a handy guide to composting, which we have linked below. If you don’t have a compost bin, why not ask a neighbour or family member if they can compost for you?

We hope our handy guide has been helpful to you in planning your festive meal – let us know on social media how you plan to reduce your climate impact this Christmas by using the hashtag #candosouthyorkshire