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How to Make Your Christmas Dinner More Sustainable

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Find out how to plan, prep and shop your way to a more sustainable Christmas dinner.

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Many of us might never stop to question the environmental impact of something as familiar and traditional as our Christmas dinners. Busy with the rest of our festive preparations, the thought of organising and planning a sustainable Christmas dinner might seem like an added burden. But as well as being important, planning a more sustainable kind of lunch doesn't have to be complicated. I have put together some simple, low-hassle tips on how to make your Christmas dinner as eco-friendly as possible.

Reduce Food Waste

In the UK, typically 17 million Brussel sprouts, 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies, 2 million kilos of cheese will be chucked away every year.

Plan ahead

It sounds simple enough, but the right kind of planning will play a big part in ensuring you end up with as little food waste as possible. Before doing your big shop, start by considering how many people you are cooking for and what kind of foods they enjoy. Thinking back to previous Christmases might help you remember exactly what people liked and what kinds of foods were binned. Regardless of how traditional or festive some foods are, try not to include things on your Christmas menu that people might not eat. A common offender is the Christmas pudding. 5 million puddings a year are wasted, so researching great alternatives that people are more likely to enjoy, is the safer, more sustainable route to go down. Here is a guide to some delicious Christmas pudding alternatives.

Avoid overshopping

When it comes to doing your actual food shopping, don’t be tempted to overshop! Once you enter those enticing festive food isles, all rationale and good-intentions can quickly fly out the window. Surrounded by curious-sounding seasonal treats - before you know it, you could be back at home unpacking mince pie sausages, chocolate covered brussel sprouts and all sorts of other bits and bobs that were never on your list! Of course trying new products can be part of the fun at Christmas, and while you don’t want to scrimp and scrooge - an ethical lunch will mean not going overboard. It’s about having a good game plan and doing your best to stick to it!

Get creative with leftovers

Leftovers are often an inevitable (and delicious) part of the Christmas dinner aftermath. Boxing Day and beyond are a great time to use them up to avoid them going in the bin. Maybe you’ll even find it useful to pre-plan some recipes for the leftovers to make sure you know what to do with everything that doesn’t get eaten. From a turkey curry to mince pie ice cream, there are so many delicious things to make with Christmas leftovers that can be frozen and enjoyed well into the new year.

If you do end up with a lot of surplus food, especially stuff that’s not opened, you could also consider looking up where your nearest Community Fridge is or look up your local Food Bank on The Trussell Trust. Alternatively, for any compostable bits, check to see if your postcode offers a local food waste collection service here.

Shop locally

Where you shop and get your produce from will determine just how eco-friendly your Christmas dinner is. A simple rule to follow is to buy local.

Buying local will reduce the environmental impact of your food and the miles it has had to travel to reach your plate. Visiting Farmers markets in the run up to Christmas can be a fun festive outing, so why not research to see if there are any in your area (these are great places to pick up local cheeses, cranberry sauces, chutneys etc).

Regardless of where you live, shopping online is always a good option and there are a number of online, organic British suppliers and farms you can order from that prioritise sustainable farming practices. I’m a regular shopper at Farmison & Co, and all their heritage breed meat is sourced from responsible and sustainable British farms, visit their website to check out their full Christmas range (the sugar spice pork belly "burnt ends" sound amazing). Daylesford are another favourite, and they have some great vegan and vegetarian options this year like their organic beetroot wellington, and vegan bread sauce too! All the lovely seasonal Christmas vegetables like parsnips, potatoes, carrots and sprouts are grown in the UK so you should be able to find them wherever you shop - just double check that they have been grown in the UK.

The Packaging Problem

Something like 125 000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away during the festive period.

Some simple ways you can avoid adding to this packaging problem is to buy your vegetables loose, choose products (be it chocolates or desserts) that come in eco-friendly, recyclable packaging, and - when storing your leftovers - try to stay away from cling film. Another culprit is the Christmas cracker which is often full of plastic bits. You could always get your hands on some plastic-free, recyclable versions, like these great ones below.

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Note: All statistics and figures on Christmas food waste are taken from commercialwaste.trade, gwp.co.uk and thebigissue.com