Christmas: the most wonderful – and, we have to say it, wasteful – meal of the year. But, it doesn’t have to be that way!
The zero-waste movement is seemingly the antithesis of Christmas – a time of huge consumption and over-indulgence. But, far from being the Seasonal Scrooge, buying more consciously at Christmas means all of the joy of the feast without the guilts of chucking huge amounts of leftovers in the (compost) bin and adding to the mountains of rubbish once celebrations are over.
“Bin collections go up by 30 per cent over Christmas. It’s a time of remarkable waste, so I’m not going to buy anything,” Tom Hunt, eco chef and author of Eating for Pleasure, People and Planet, told us a couple of years ago. He was well ahead of the game.
The restriction sounds extreme, but the food-waste campaigner insists this period of time allows him to be creative and learn new habits.
“You’re limited because you have to plan a bit more. But, then your options improve. It forces you to seek out the better producers – at a farmers market, via vegetable box schemes or health food shops,” he says.
“You start connecting with the people who are growing your food and become part of a community, which is what Christmas is all about.”
The Covid-induced lockdown has made us all more appreciative of local independent businesses. So, why not put that knowledge to good use?
A more considered Christmas does not necessarily require going cold turkey, à la Hunt. If we all make small changes each year it creates a big impact. We’ve collected some tips from the zero-waste experts to get started, starting with the all important Christmas meal…
Zero waste Christmas feasting: is it really possible?
One way to create minimal food waste is to eat EVERYTHING, and we won’t judge you if you do. But ensuring there is zero waste really starts with a more conscious approaching to buying…
Packaging is one of the biggest problems when it comes to food waste. Try to buy loose fruit and vegetables where possible. Zero-waste lifestyle guru Kate Arnell also takes tins to the butchers to fill them with meat.
Food box schemes often use less packaging and are usually open to requests to take back boxes. You could even give wonky veg a try by ordering from Oddbox. It sells produce 30 per cent cheaper because it’s not perfect.
There’s also a growing number of ‘bulk buy’ shops across the UK where you can take your own refillable containers, from The Zero Waste Shop in Totnes to Bulk Market in Hackney. In fact, we’ve even tracked down the best plastic-free shops in London according to your neighbourhood. You are very welcome.
Arnell recommends the Bulk locator to find stores near you that also sell oils, wine, beer and coffee in refill form. Bonus: these can make lovely gifts, too.
Reyouzable is a new company that delivers dried goods such as pasta and tea bags, as well as cleaning products, in refillable containers to your door. It’s only operating certain London postcodes at the moment, but well worth keeping an eye out for.
But, back to the cooking. Here, Hunt’s root-to-fruit philosophy is key. “A lot of people don’t consider peeling their vegetables a waste,” says the chef. “But a lot of the nutrients are in the skin.”
So brush carrots and potatoes rather than peel them. If you do peel, save the skins to make vegetable crisps. For cauliflower cheese, treat the leaves as you would the cauliflower. Slice them finely, steam or boil them and make them part of the dish.
Main image: Fat Macys