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How to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Christmas Dinner

Close up photo of cheerful fellows in formal wear sit around table enjoy christmas party.

Dinner: for many of us, it’s one of the best parts of the holidays. Whether it’s traditional fare like ham or something more adventurous like tofurkey, a big Christmas dinner is an important part of the celebration. Needless to say, this has been a strange and very stressful year, with a renewed emphasis on the value of time spent together. As we approach the December holidays, it’s nice to look forward to a delicious meal with our loved ones.  

Zero Waste Christmas Tips | Sustainable Decorations, Gifts and More – The Eco Swap

This season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or some combination of holidays, you probably have your mind set on doing good for others. Taking the time to appreciate everything you have can inspire you to help improve the state of the world around you. That might look like donating to your favorite charity or volunteering for a worthy cause, like a nearby soup kitchen. The time and energy you devote to making life better for other people is always well-spent. 

There’s something simple you can do for the world during the holidays: reduce the environmental impact of your celebratory meals. Yes, that’s right—being mindful of your carbon footprint this season is an act of love for our planet. Here, I’ll explain more about how you can minimize yours as you prepare and enjoy your Christmas dinner and other holiday feasts.

Christmas Dinner and Your Carbon Footprint

The events of 2020 have taught us that we truly are a global community. What affects a few of us ultimately can have an impact on all of us. And that means that making even a small change can make a big difference. If you’ve ever asked, “What is environmental wellness and why is it so important?” the last several months have provided us with clear answers.

Family opening presents at home together after christmas dinner.
You Might Choose Reusable Gift Bags In Place Of Single-Use Wrapping Paper (Image Source: Shutterstock)

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you may not be thinking much about how to help the environment. After all, between car trips to the mall, gifts for your loved ones, and all that wrapping paper, it may feel like a wash. It’s tempting to just put your environmental concerns aside until after New Year’s Day. But being conscientious of your environmental wellness means staying aware of your behaviors all year long. And you’ll find that keeping green in the season of red and green isn’t as challenging as you may anticipate. You might choose reusable gift bags, for example, in place of single-use wrapping paper. That wastes less paper and creates less garbage—and it’s easier for you to clean up, too! 

When it’s time for dinner, you don’t need to sacrifice your feast to minimize your carbon footprint. While we do affect the world around us with any meal we eat, you can take action to reduce your impact. It’s just a matter of knowing some basics about the relationship between what’s on our plate and what’s happening to the planet.    

Preventing Unnecessary Waste at Christmas Dinner

Green Grocery Shopping

An environmentally friendly meal begins as soon as you leave the house to buy your groceries. When it’s possible, use public transit to travel to the store or farmers’ market, walk, or carpool with a friend or neighbor. Using less gasoline per trip is always a great first step! Don’t forget to bring your reusable canvas grocery bags.

When you’re at the store, look for food that’s been locally sourced, especially fresh produce. Making a point to eat this way can help reduce your greenhouse gas emission, and it’s a fantastic way to support local businesses and farms. You’ll likely find that your fruit and veggies taste better too.

Choose Your Protein Sources Wisely

If you’re a carnivore, take heed: having meat in your diet contributes significantly to climate change. Any time you choose to eat less meat or prepare a vegetarian or vegan meal, you’re improving your environmental wellness. Even eating a meat-based dish as a side portion rather than your main course can make a difference.

Source of protein for vegetarians.
Choose Your Protein Sources Wisely (Image Source: Shutterstock)

A plant-based Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be a major bummer. Check out these amazing vegetarian Christmas dinner ideas from Delish. They’re better for the planet and better for you, and they’re so tasty that you won’t feel deprived.

Nix the Disposable Dinnerware

Cooking for a crowd? It may seem easier to use plastic disposable plates and flatware to avoid a full sink later on. When you think about how that junk will wind up in a landfill, however, the idea loses its appeal. Skip the single-use plastic, and serve your meal on dishwasher-safe plates instead. Using your dishwasher can be a better choice for the environment than handwashing (great news!). 

Don’t Throw Away Your Leftovers!

When you’re preparing Christmas dinner, it’s easy to wind up with enormous portions of your favorite dishes. And no matter how much you love them, you’re bound to tire of them by day three or four. Resist the temptation to toss your leftovers in the garbage! Wasting food is never good for the Earth (or your wallet).

Family together at christmas celebration.
Try Freezing Some Of Your food After Dinner (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When the meal has ended, you might send some of the leftovers home with your dinner guests. Use washable, reusable plastic or glass food storage containers rather than single-use containers or bags. Try freezing some of your food, like soups, casseroles, and Christmas cookies, so you can enjoy it at a later date rather than night after night. And check out these great Christmas leftover recipes for fresh ideas and new ways to enjoy what’s still in your fridge. 

This Season, Share the Good (Green!) News Over Christmas Dinner

Now that you know more about how to enjoy your holiday meal more sustainably, don’t keep these simple tips to yourself. When your guests compliment your cooking, you can share how easy it is to make your eating habits more environmentally friendly. Don’t worry—you won’t sound like a preachy tree-hugger when you tell your friends and family what you did. That’s because you’re not bragging or making recommendations that are impossible for the average person to follow. Buying local food, eating a largely plant-based diet, and using leftovers creatively are simple changes for most people, and they can help us save money. Moreover, they can help us to lead a healthier lifestyle ourselves. That’s a great way to end the year and begin a brand new one. Happy holidays!