Last week we shared some tips on how to have a more sustainable Christmas, but now I’d like to get specific on arguably the best bit of the festive season – Christmas dinner. If you celebrate Christmas, then from decor to Christmas pudding, here are some tips and recipes to keep that all-important meal as eco-friendly as possible.
You can make beautiful Christmas decorations with easily accessible foraged material – think sprigs of holly and mistletoe, dried oranges, jars full of cranberries etc.
Make sure to reuse any decorations you already have instead of buying new ones every year. If you’re purchasing new decor, try to find some with sustainable, recyclable materials that you’ll be able to reuse year after year.
Starters and sides
Most people are aware that meat has a far higher carbon footprint than plant-based foods. If Christmas isn’t Christmas without a turkey, you could consider keeping the starters and side dishes meat-free. Veggies and sauces are easy to make plant-based: you could cook your roast potatoes in vegetable oil instead of goose fat, and try these vegan cranberry and bread sauces.
Try to source your veggies locally, perhaps from a farmer’s market. Choosing seasonal vegetables makes a massive difference for the planet due to both the lower carbon footprint transporting the produce and the reduction in packaging needed.
The vegetables in season are traditionally perfect for a Christmas dinner: brussel sprouts, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, cranberries.
The main event
When buying a turkey, goose, or whatever centre-piece you like for your meal, try to ensure you’re getting it from a local source. Local butchers will be able to provide you with a more sustainable option than the supermarkets. Not only is this better for the planet, but you’ll be supporting local businesses as well.
If you’re up for a fully plant-based dinner, there are so many delicious recipes to choose from. You could have a mushroom or beetroot wellington such as this one, or my personal favourite, the nut roast! I make this one every year, and the meat-eaters in my family can enjoy it as well as a side dish.
Christmas desserts could be another area to try plant-based without impacting your enjoyment of the meal, whether it be this Christmas pudding or for those with a preference for chocolate puddings, this impressive chocolate and orange cake combines all the flavours of Christmas. These vegan mince pies are another simple and delicious plant-based swap.
When making your desserts, again consider the ingredients. Frequently used ingredients are fruit, nuts, and milk. Simple choices such as choosing oat milk instead of almond milk, and seasonal nuts such as chestnuts can make a big difference to the overall impact of your meal.
If food waste were a country, it would have the third-highest emissions in the world. Christmas is notoriously a time of abundance and indulgence, but one of the most sustainable things you can do this Christmas is to only make what you know you will be able to eat. Enjoy your feast, but use up your leftovers. Enjoy the delicious food you’ve worked hard to make over the next couple of days. A great way to use up leftover veggies is in a bubble and squeak – chuck your leftover veg and meat with some oil and seasoning in a pan and fold it together. Let it crisp up, then fold over again. Repeat this process on low heat for about twenty minutes, then serve in any way you like.
If you really can’t finish all your leftovers in a couple of days, consider freezing them to enjoy at a later date. Eliminating food waste is one of the most impactful changes you can make as an individual for the planet, and Christmas is the perfect time to put it into action.
A note on eco-anxiety and seasonal stress
While there are many simple changes you can implement to make your Christmas dinner a little more sustainable, the best thing you can do on Christmas is to enjoy it. The holidays can be a stressful time – please don’t add to that stress by worrying about the carbon footprint of your fun. You can indulge in these delicious recipes, and make small changes where possible, but don’t complicate the meal to the point of ruin. A Christmas meal can only go so far, so do what you can, but don’t let eco-anxiety ruin your day.
Most importantly, have a lovely Christmas, and enjoy your Christmas dinner!