The Environmental Crisis won’t be taking a holiday over Christmas. Here are some simple tips that will not only lessen the impact you have on the environment but can also help you focus on what’s really worth celebrating at this time of year.
Let’s make this the season of goodwill, not the season of landfill. We can all make an impact by trying to have a sustainable Christmas celebration!
Sustainable Christmas Meals
If, like the glam rock band Wizzard, you wish it could be Christmas every day, we have good news: some traditional Christmas fare has a lot going for it, when it comes to sustainability. Sustainable Christmas food is easier than you might think, so check out how you can do your bit with our top tips.
A diet that includes lots of vegetables is kinder on the planet, no doubt, but when it’s flown in from Kenya or the Far East, it loses a lot of its green credentials. It’s no coincidence that the traditional Christmas veg in the UK are seasonal: red cabbage, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, chestnuts, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, mushrooms, onions, and even the cranberries. So embrace the amazing winter veg this year. By including more traditional UK veg on your sustainable Christmas dinner, you can help the environment all by yourself!
A kilogram of turkey creates notably less carbon than beef, lamb, pork and cheese. At COOK, we just use turkey crowns, but the family-run farm in East Anglia sells on the legs and wings, and the carcasses is used for stocks and pet food, so nothing is wasted. That’s just how it should be. Investing in an organic and sustainable Christmas turkey doesn’t only help the environment, but is also delicious for everyone you have around on the big day.
Eat Less Meat
You can be traditional and avoid loading up on meat for every meal. Try adding a few more veggies and a little less meat to your casseroles or switching a few meals to veggie alternatives: a veg lasagne instead of beef, a nut roast one day instead of yet more roast meat. By opting for a vegetarian Christmas dinner or even some vegan Christmas food, you can help your bank balance, your waistline and the planet.
There’s a lot to love about the calm grazing of tasty leftovers in the wake of Christmas Day. This is a great habit and it just makes good sense, financially and environmentally. Turkey stock, turkey curry, turkey casserole, bubble and squeak, cold cuts and baked potatoes ... leftovers are so versatile.
It almost goes without saying, but it’s not just vegetable that clock up air miles. There are so many great suppliers and farmers in the UK, why not support them this year. And, when it comes to festive tipples, remember to recycle all those bottles and cans. With hundreds of British alternatives to your favourite treats, make your Christmas shopping sustainable this year.
Given the nature of our business at COOK, you won’t be surprised that we’re fans of the freezer. It’s easy to overestimate at Christmas, but don’t let all that lovely leftover food go to waste.
The rule of thumb is meat can be frozen once in its uncooked state and again in its cooked state (just don’t store them together). Milk, bread, even cheese can be frozen too. Just be aware that anything with a high-water content (like soft cheese, tomatoes and strawberries) will go mushy after freezing, although they will be fine to cook with.
As for proper food waste, like vegetable peelings, compost them if you can (or make a veggie stock!). If your council doesn’t run a food waste collection service, you can always add a PS to your Christmas card, asking them to start one.
Can I Buy A Sustainable Christmas Tree
Real or fake? Over 8million trees are bought in the UK every December, so it’s little wonder this is such a common question. Buying a sustainable Christmas tree isn’t on everybody’s minds, but the differences between fake and real Christmas trees is actually quite significant - so keep the following things in mind for this year:
A good fake tree will last for years. However, when you factor in the environmental cost of making them, shipping them (typically from China), and that they will end up in landfill, their carbon footprint is around 10x higher than a real tree that’s used for one Christmas then burnt.
You’ll need to find one sturdy enough to last a decade before it starts earning its stripes. As this is a real investment, look for ones made primarily with polyethylene (PE) rather than PVC, which is worse for the planet (and looks less realistic as well).
Your best option is to either rent a tree (try your local garden centre or nursery) or buy a potted tree with roots that you can use year after year. If that’s not an option, do bear in mind that even a typical tree is “farmed”, so another will be growing in its place for next year. Just make sure you choose one that was grown locally and sustainably. Look for the logos of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Soil Association.
Real trees are best kept away from landfill; it’s much better to have them chipped and spread on the garden or burnt. Burning them emits the carbon dioxide they’ve stored up, so there’s no net increase. Seasonal drop-off centres and recycling centres will be able to have your old tree chipped and used for mulch or compost.
Sustainable Christmas Decorations
Bring a bit of your family history to life by reusing tree decorations from your childhood, if you can. Alternatively, check out what pre-loved decorations are going on websites like Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace and eBay.
Slices of citrus fruit, dried in a low oven on a non-stick tray for 2-3 hours, look lovely hung up with ribbons. With a little imagination, you can make your tree look magical without spending a small fortune on shiny plastic.
The go-to 1980s Christmas decoration of tinsel is not a great option, environmentally. Use it if you have it already and save it from landfill but try and avoid buying any new. By using sustainable Christmas decorations you’re helping to reduce waste and improve your Carbon footprint - saving your wallet and still ending up with some beautiful decorations.
As for lights, thankfully most are LED now – which is better for everyone.
Recyclable Christmas Wrapping Paper
A lot of traditional wrapping paper is lined with plastic. It might make it pretty and shiny, but it’s also not recyclable. There are other options, including brown paper, which can look really traditional - but also perfect as sustainable Christmas wrapping paper.
They say that if you scrunch up your wrapping paper into a ball and it stays there, it’s recyclable; otherwise it’s not. Given that shops won’t thank you for screwing up paper into a ball before you buy it, just check the label for the recycling logo.
Funny socks are funny for all of about 10 seconds. Giving is a really special part of Christmas, but how can you make ‘more stuff’ be better for the environment? First of all, you can find whole websites dedicated to sustainable gifts these days, all full of inspiration. Another option is to give pre-loved presents – you’ll find loads of unique presents in charity and antique shops, as well as on the usual websites like eBay. They can be a lot more meaningful than something that comes encased in Styrofoam. This is especially true for small children … who, as all parents know, will inevitably play with the box more than the present itself, anyway!
Finding the best sustainable Christmas gifts is easier said than done, but with more and more websites dedicated to finding new loving homes to old gifts, it’s becoming easier than ever to give something different to a loved one without contributing to more landfill.
Also consider a truly eco-friendly gift that keeps on giving. In our office we’ve ‘twinned’ our loos with one that we’ve helped fun in the developing world, via a initiative from TearFund. Or you could ‘adopt’ an animal and help save a species. Or off-set someone’s commute to work for a year. There are loads of possibilities.
Last but not least, consider giving an experience, rather than an item. A family cinema trip, a theatre visit, dinner at a favourite restaurant, or membership of, say, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. These can be enjoyed by an entire family and are the stuff special memories are made of - and no landfill or carbon footprint to worry about!
Support Sustainable Businesses For Christmas 2023
How can you shop sustainably at Christmas? Every company will be vying for your Christmas budget. We’re not exception at COOK, as Christmas is hands down our busiest time of the year. Every pound you spend is like a little vote for the world you want to live in, so choose wisely. A good start is to look for the B Corp logo.
COOK is a founding member of the B Corp movement in the UK and more and more companies are joining this global movement of responsible and sustainable business. Any products carrying the little B logo come from a company that has taken a strict test about how they treat their staff, their communities and the planet. They retake the test every few years and, if they fail, they lose accreditation. Simple as that.
Whether you're outsourcing some of the cooking, cleaning up your house before the guests arrive, or looking for stocking fillers and presents, there are B Corps that can help. You’ll find a full list of UK B Corps here but here are some that you might find particularly useful this Christmas:
Climate Care – Looking to offset your Christmas? Climate Care can help! While offsetting isn’t a long-term solution to the Climate Crisis, it’s a big step in the right direction.
Delphis Eco – Cleaning products that are non-toxic and don’t cost the earth (and smell amazing!). Great for the pre and post-Christmas cleans.
Divine Chocolate – Delicious Fairtrade chocolates from a company co-owned by cocoa farmers. A great sustainable Christmas gift, too.
Tony Chocolonely – Delicious chocolate with bold, fun branding. Works to end slavery in the cocoa business.
Danone Oykos / Danone Light & Free – Silky Greek-style yoghurt. A tasty and welcome break from cream at Christmas.
The One Brand – Best known for their still and sparkling water, but also check out their One Gin. A beautiful bottle to give as a gift and the gin inside is phenomenal. The One Brand’s profits support clean water and sanitation projects.
Brew Tea Company – Proper tea from a family-run business in Manchester. A great brew!
Brewgooder – Drink responsibly! A cracking lager, where the profits go to fund clean water projects.
Toast Ale – Proper beer made from surplus bread, raising awareness about food waste. All profits go to charity.
Stroud Brewery – A great local brewery. Check them out if you’re in the Gloucestershire area.
Pukka Herbs – An amazing range of teas in such beautiful packaging, they make great presents. Herb alchemy!
The Body Shop – This is their first Christmas as a B Corp, and they are the perfect place for stocking fillers.
Octopus – Those Christmas lights don’t run on Christmas spirit! If you haven’t already, consider switching to a sustainable green energy supplier.
A succulent turkey from a handful of family-owned farms in East Anglia.
Pick from our selection of time-saving side dishes...
A great range of tasty vegetarian recipes suitable for all.
A great range of tasty vegan recipes.