Food is an area where we can take lots of steps to reduce our Christmas carbon footprint. Whether we’re looking at the food miles the ingredients in our meals have travelled or if sustainable growing practices have been used to produce our food, there are many elements to consider this yuletide.
During the festive period, Christmas Dinner is one of the biggest elements we tuck in to, so why not consider making some changes this year to give you a more environmentally friendly Xmas lunch.
If you’re a meat eater, the centre point of your Christmas lunch is usually the meat on your plate. Traditionally a choice of turkey or goose will satisfy the appetites of most families, however an increasing number of people are choosing beef or salmon for variety.
Meat is one of the most controversial areas when considering a greener lifestyle mainly because of the resources that go in to raising animals, but if you choose ethical sourcing and quality produce, you can help promote the best of British farming and there’s no denying the landscape we love is carved out by our agricultural practices.
If you’re opting for a bird for your Christmas table, choosing free range or birds raised under the Freedom Foods scheme run by the RSPCA is essential but there is even more you can do to reduce the carbon footprint of your lunch. Choosing organic meat means the birds and animals have not been reared on steroids or dosed with antibiotics and have grown naturally rather than with growth hormones. Their feed is sourced more sustainably too meaning a greener supply chain for your food. Although it costs more, the knowledge of a quality life for the animals raised for food is worth the extra.
Another ideal step is where you buy your meat from. If you have a local butcher, they often start taking orders for joints of meat and birds in November and as they usually source from independent producers, if you don’t want to be disappointed, it’s worth getting your order in early. It’s a common myth that buying meat from a butcher is more expensive. You can often get good deals from a local butcher and also have the knowledge that your meat is traceable and sustainably raised, that you’re supporting a small business, and often independent farmers. In addition, shopping locally is cutting both your mileage in buying your meat, and the food miles in transportation and processing.
The rest of the Christmas dinner plate is usually taken up with a range of tasty vegetables, from carrots and roast potatoes to the classic brussels sprouts and honey glazed parsnips. Choosing organic vegetables is obviously the best option if you’re buying from the supermarket, but cutting down on the food miles and eating seasonally is preferable to veg shipped in from overseas. Fortunately many of the traditional Christmas Dinner vegetables are seasonal favourites too which should make finding local, or at least UK grown, produce easier.
If you have a veg plot in your garden and planned your crops to include carrots, parsnips, sprouts and potatoes, you may not have very far to go at all for your Christmas veg. A frost on your sprouts can give a lovely sweet flavour, so you can leave them on the stalks until Christmas morning and pick them fresh.
For the less green fingered, look out for local Farmer’s Markets in the run up to Christmas where you should be able to get all the essential parts of your lunch covered. The other benefit is you don’t have to purchase pre-packed bags which may have more than you need; if you only need 2 parsnips, you can just buy two parsnips! Packaging is often recyclable too, or you can take your own bags to carry your veg home in, further reducing your veg’s carbon footprint.
Farmer’s Markets and Christmas Markets are full of delicious chutneys and tempting sauces to add a bit of spice or fruitiness to your Christmas dinner and festive larder. Supporting independent producers makes a huge difference to those running small cottage industries from their home kitchens, and you can often find some unusual and delicious alternatives to traditional cranberry jelly or apple sauce.
If you like to make your own sauces like apple sauce for with your turkey, look out for British produce. You may even have an apple tree in the garden, or a neighbour could have a tree they don’t use the fruit from, so why not give it a home and make some delicious accompaniments to your lunch with produce that would otherwise have gone to waste. You could even give your neighbour a bowl or small jar back as a thank you for sharing their fruit.
Most people enjoy a glass of wine with their Christmas dinner, and maybe even pudding wine with their dessert. Local wine producers can be found at Christmas and Farmer’s Markets too, offering a wide variety of fruit wines, liqueurs and spirits for before, during and after your lunch.
If you don’t have a local market, many independent shops and delis have artisan and gourmet ranges to give you something a little different and special this Christmas. Most villages and towns have either a market or an independent shop and they can often offer quite a wide variety of different and unique ideas. Keep an eye out for Christmas preview evenings and tasting days, as this can give you the chance to sample something new and discover delicious locally made produce.
Quality over quantity
One of the big temptations with so much mouthwatering food on offer is to go mad and buy boxes of biscuits, cakes, crisps, nuts, snacks and bottles of pop and drink to wash it all down. How often do you return to the cupboard after Christmas to find much of it there until the end of January and sometimes beyond?
Although some of the ideas above may cost a little more in order to support smaller independent suppliers and give that little bit extra back for animal welfare and sustainable growing and manufacturing processes, perhaps if we cut back on the excess and go for quality over quantity, we can have the best of both. Make this Christmas a year to enjoy good food with good people and celebrate the festive season in style.