A compassionate Christmas: easy tips on being sustainable this festive season

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Indulgence at Christmas is well deserved after a hard first semester at university, but we’ve put together some little tips for minor ways to cut down on animal products that are easy to implement if you are looking to be more sustainable and cruelty-free. All food we eat has a carbon footprint, and ourworldindata.org says that food production contributes to one quarter of the worlds greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Data from a large analysis of global food systems found that overall, animal-based products produce higher emissions than plant-based. For example, 1kg of beef emits 60kgs of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalent) while 1kg of peas produces just 1kg. So on a personal scale, reducing just a few products across your diet can have a positive impact on the environment, as well as your health and how many animals are harmed. One easy way is to keep your traditional turkey but swap out things that don’t have a huge taste difference – such as gravy, stuffing and wine. 

Christmas dinner swaps 

  • Most gravy are based on chicken or beef stock but you can get one based on vegetable stock or try to make your own.

  • Rapeseed oil instead of goose fat for roast potatoes. Or try this recipe for the perfect roasties made animal-product free.

  • Stuffing - a lot can include a sort of sausage meat and are served inside a roasted chicken or turkey, but without a big difference in flavour you can make stuffing balls from packs such as Paxo sage & onion or make your own. 

  • Wine – a lot of wines contain gelatines as an additive so check if the bottle has a V symbol or take a look at Tesco’s selection of vegetarian wines for a better idea.

  • Including a higher proportion of sides like vegetables, stuffing and potatoes with smaller amount of meat helps to reduce overall animal consumption. You can make the veggies extra tasty by stir frying brussel sprouts rather than boiling, honey roasting the carrots and being heavy handed on the rosemary all round.  

  • Dessert – making keeping your normal dinner and opting for a vegan dessert could be a easier option to reduce animal products this christmas – check out this recipe for a dreamy Vegan chocolate Yule Log.  

  • Eat seasonally – buying locally produced products when in season is more sustainable that foods that may have been grown out of season in heated greenhouses or shipped from other countries. 

Christmas essentials 

  • Wrapping paper – Shiny and glitter based wrapping paper is not widely recycled so simply sticking to simple paper based wrapping paper reduces festive waste.  

  • Christmas cards – Consider making your own Christmas cards or buying cards from charity shops or small local businesses.  

  • Stockings – Buy quality stockings than can be reused for many years to come - this cute stocking from WWF is 100% GOTS organic cotton and printed AZO free (AZO free meaning it doesn’t include harmful or toxic chemicals)  

  • Christmas tree – if buying a real tree, ensure it is FSC-certified (responsibly sourced) from a local forest perhaps or consider investing in a quality and realistic looking plastic tree if you are going to reuse it for many years.  

 (Image from Pixabay)

Reduce food waste 

  • The ‘Best Before’ stamp signals the last date of which best quality is assured but often you can eat a little bit past this date, if you use your common sense and the food smells, looks and tastes normal. 

  • Buy the ‘imperfect’ fruit and veg from the shops – this is most likely to be discarded at the end of the day.  

  • Buy from companies who make a conscious effort to be environmentally friendly and sustainable – some products may use food waste for good – bread can be made into beer, food scraps can be made into animal food etc.  

  • Avoid unnecessary Christmas deals – supermarket advertising may convince you something like 8 boxes of mince pies for the price of 5 is better value for money, but if you only planned on buying a couple then it’s likely there will be lots left over after Christmas and it wasn’t money saving after all. 

  • Leftover trimmings belong in sandwiches after the big roast. Simple. 

Changing up a traditional meaty Christmas may be a big ask, but you could consider joining the thousands of people who take part in Veganuary. To help you get started – this 4-week meal plan gives you a shopping list and meal ideas. 

Or maybe including small sustainable New Year resolutions like meat free Mondays appeals to you more. You don’t have to give up pigs in blankets just yet. 

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