Ben HaywardDecember 11th
2019

We all know how the song goes, and although Christmas may very well be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, it also happens to be one of the most wasteful.

In the UK alone we create 30% more waste than usual during the festive period - including two million turkeys and (maybe I am in the minority who like them) a whopping 17.2 million Brussels sprouts!

Sadly, despite growing awareness, the vast majority of this waste still ends up in landfill, ultimately resulting in greater methane and carbon dioxide emissions which contribute to the Climate Crisis - and that’s before you take into account the amount of energy and resources that go into providing something simply for it to be thrown away!

It’s only fair that we should get to enjoy Christmas for what it is - a chance to relax, give gifts and spend time with our nearest and dearest - but the cold truth is that as consumers we simply must reduce our impact on the planet, and food waste is an enormous part of that.  

But that doesn’t mean Christmas has to be any less fun (or much more effort), and we’ve put together a handy guide packed full of tips to help you have a guilt-free, but belly-full Christmas.

Shop smart

It kind of goes without saying, but a huge part of waging war on Christmas food waste is planning your needs in advance and only buying what you’ll actually use.

If possible try and plan your meals carefully and try not to buy things ‘just because it’s Christmas’, neither the environment nor your bank balance will thank you!

That said, of course it’s really easy to succumb to the temptations of seasonal treats and when you’ve got the world and their uncle rocking up at your house it’s not hard to end up with surplus supplies - but don't just bin what's left over! 

Transform leftovers into new meals (turkey curry anyone?) and save both money and waste in the process. If you’re struggling for a bit of inspiration it’s worth checking out the BBC Good Food leftovers recipes  and the Love Food Hate Waste  website. 

If you still have stuff knocking about see what you can freeze, definitely check out what we said about not buying too much, or you could… 

Donate it!

Elderly neighbours, local food banks, soup kitchens and homeless charities will all be hugely appreciative of donations.

Around 135,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas according to estimates from housing charity Shelter, with a total of 320,000 people having nowhere they can call home.

On top of that, The Trussell Trust’s State of Hunger report estimated that one in 50 UK households used a food bank in 2018-19 and at least three million food parcels were given out.

I don't think we need to say anything else.

Ditch (some of) the meat

Why not try cutting down on the meat this Christmas? There's no need to go completely meat-free (if you want to that would be great!) but you could try setting aside a couple of designated veggie mealtimes over the festive period - try not telling anyone or making a big deal out of it and the chances are they won't even notice!

Reducing the amount of animal products in your diet is the single best way of minimising your effect on the environment, with a recently published study conducted by a team at the University of Oxford finding that removing meat and dairy from your diet can reduce your the impact you have on the environment from food by a massive 73%.

And, if everyone gave up eating processed meat, the amount of global farmland could be reduced by around 75%, which is roughly the size of the US, China, Australia and the EU combined. Wow.

What is more, as well as the significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, it would free up wild land lost to agriculture - one of the main causes for mass wildlife extinction.

There are hundreds (probably thousands) of great vegetarian Christmas recipes out there - and who knows, it could be the first step...

Go Organic

If you can't get past those meat cravings (understandable), a good eco-option could be to go organic and free-range.

It might be a bit more expensive, but it's better to buy less low-impact, good quality meat than lots of cheap and cheerless intensively-farmed stuff - and you'll also be supporting more small-scale, local farming in the process.

Companies like Abel & Cole, run really good organic delivery schemes, and they even offer special seasonal vegetable, meat and dairy packages.

Recycle!

Remember those 17.2 million Brussels sprouts that are wasted at Christmas? Well, they could power a home for three years. And if you think that's impressive, if all Christmas food waste was recycled into energy, it could power the average medium-sized home for an astonishing 57 whole years.

First up - and this applies all year round to be fair - try and choose things that are light on packaging (especially plastic) or buy loose items with no packaging at all.

Next you need to think about food waste. Most of the stuff you do produce after using up leftovers and freezing anything suitable can be composted either by your local council or in your own garden if you have one.

Merry Christmas!

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