For some it’s the meal they look forward to all year. For others, the thought of cooking fills them with dread before December even begins. But love it or loathe it, Christmas dinner is just around the corner.
Christmas is obviously a time to (over)eat, drink and be merry, but, in the poignant year of COP26, how do we make our meal eco-friendly?
As luck would have it, a traditional Christmas meal is already quite eco-friendly, rooted as it is in seasonal food available in the winter months. But for anyone wanting to make their meal a little more green, we’ve got just the guide for you.
So sit tight for turkey with all the trimmings, but with a bit of Go Eco on the side.
The good news is that, despite the high environmental impact of meat, poultry is generally one of the lesser evils. This is down to less water used in production and less methane from the turkeys. Turkey is much better for the planet than beef.
Transport costs are a big consideration when it comes to a food’s carbon footprint, and luckily most turkeys on sale in the UK are born-and-bred here. We recommend buying from a trusted local butcher or directly from a farm, that way you know exactly where your bird is coming from.
Can we tempt you to go meat-free this year? There are a variety of options available, including making your own tofu-turkey or using seitan. Or perhaps the most traditional; a nut roast!
There are many nut roast recipes available online, but we recommend checking the water footprint of your ingredients before using them. The water used to grow nuts is their main environmental impact. Almonds, cashews and brazil nuts use the most water; peanuts and chestnuts the least.
For a vegan special, use butternut squash or sweet potato as binding agents instead of eggs.
Pigs in blankets
While pork isn’t as bad as public enemy number one beef, it does rank fourth after lamb and mutton for carbon emissions.
Here, we’re going to push you a little harder to go meat free. If you’ve already eaten a turkey and trimmings, maybe you could do without meat sausages on the side? Some veggie pigs in blankets are available, but you can also have some fun making your own by wrapping veggie sausages in fake bacon.
If you are going to have real-meat pigs in blankets, try to source locally. It’s worth bearing in mind that 80% of bacon and 60% of pork is imported to the UK, so the transport emissions of pork products are higher than turkey and other poultry.
Vegetables have some of the lowest emissions per capita of food, so you’re pretty safe to dig in. What we want you to concentrate on is where your Christmas day veggies come from. At this time of year, the traditional carrots, potatoes, parsnips and (love them or hate them) brussel sprouts will all be available grown in the UK.
Avoid unseasonal veg like broccoli and green beans. If you want greens, cabbage and kale can be grown through autumn and winter.
It may be a bit late this year, but if you have the time and inclination, look into growing some of your own vegetables for next year. Urban gardening has been growing exponentially since the pandemic. If you don’t have a garden look into community gardening projects you could become involved with.
Desserts can prove controversial on Christmas day; trifle? Christmas pudding? Cheesecake? The options are seemingly (and deliciously) endless.
To stick with tradition we’ll start with Christmas pudding. The main ingredient here is the dried fruit and blanched almonds. Raisins can be bought fair trade, guaranteeing that they meet high environmental standards. Almonds are also available fair trade but you should consider replacing them with the less water-consuming walnut.
For the all important brandy, try an English label to cut down on import emissions. There may even be local distilleries you can visit, for example the Thames Valley, Oxfordshire where brandy is made from grapes grown locally.