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Green Christmas Dinners - Environmentally Friendly Festive Food

Updated on February 1, 2011

Ecofriendly Christmas Dinners? Really?

In 2006, over 22 million turkeys were consumed in the US, alone. Several times as many cranberry dishes and enough wine to flood the Low Countries were consumed with them. In fact, just a few days of the Christmas holiday account for over 10% of the rubbish tossed out in most Western countries. One UK research group found that the average Christmas dinner in the UK travelled nearly 50,000 miles when all the ingredients are accounted for!

However, between the food waste, food miles and the empty containers, there is ample opportunity to make your Christmas dinner more ecologically-friendly by making some very simple adjustments to your Holiday routine. While some may be resisted by members of your family, others are far easier to implement.

Traditional Turkey

Organic Christmas Dinner Alternatives

Perhaps the easiest way to make an environmental impact with your food is to purchase foodstuffs that are produced organically. This means that you are not only supporting a farming model that reduces the use of herbicides and pesticides, but such farms are also far more complex systems that are ecologically-based. As a side benefit, many people think organic produce and pasture-raised meats simply taste better.

Most grocery stores now carry a wide selection of organic products, both as fresh and prepared foods. While these foods can cost a bit more, you can save money by trying out different types of produce or even joining a subscription service such as community supported agriculture (CSA) programmes.

Local Foodstuffs can help the environment

In the United States, the average piece of produce travels some 1,500 miles to reach the table. In Europe, the distance is even greater, especially in the winter when much of the produce is imported from warm countries such as Israel. This represents a tremendous use of resources and quite a bit of carbon.

One of the benefits of eating locally is that you'll be eating more seasonal food. Moreover, supporting local agriculture is good for the local environment and economy. Fresh local food tends to be grown for its flavour and agronomic characteristics, not juts how it'll hold up to a long trip.


Free-range, Locally Raised Meat

Most Christmas dinners feature some type of meat as the main course. This is very often a Christmas turkey or ham. You can have a significant impact on the environment, animal welfare and your own carbon budget by purchasing a locally-raised, pastured meat product.

Often, these animals are supplemented with organic grains. Also, your support goes a long way towards supporting the sort of local agriculture that keeps farming and ranching alive for small, family farms. Every bird or pig purchased from a local farmer means a lot more to their bottom-line than a big agri-business company that operates on razor-thin margins.

Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

If you really want to use less energy with your Christmas dinner, consider serving a vegetarian dinner. Each pound of meat raised requires far more energy (and carbon) to produce than vegetables, pulses and grains. While some families might be reluctant to try different dishes when they're expecting the usual Christmas turkey, this is a great chance to learn how to cook new and exciting diners.

Reusable Serving and Dining-ware

Many Christmas dinners and holiday parties use a large number of disposable plates, forks and glasses. Most of these are non-recyclable, eventually ending up in the already critically full landfills. But, it doesn't have to be that way. You can always use dishes that can be washed and reused indefinitely. Even if you don't have enough small plates in your own collection, you can borrow dishes from your friends and neighbours or rent them from a party rental service – they're not just for weddings, any more.

While recyclable or compostable paper plates are an option, there is still a manufacturing and transport budget of waste that's associated with them. When utilizing reusable dishes and silverware, you might be surprised how little extra clean-up work is involved, especially if cleaning is included in a dish-ware rental contract.

Send Electronic Party Invites

One can also save a considerable amount of paper and fuel by sending out electronic invites to your Christmas dinner and Holiday parties. There are many services online that allow you to craft your own invite. Even better, you can keep track from your computer how many people have accepted your invite and even provide quick links to maps and updates.

Use Recycled and Recyclable Christmas Decorations

The food on your table isn't the only thing that you can have a “Green Christmas.” Most holiday parties and Christmas dinners use quite a few decorations and household trimmings that can be eliminated with some consideration.

One of the most popular types of home-made and bio-degradable ornamentation are made from different types of food such as citrus slices and popcorn or cranberry garlands. These make a wonderful treat for wildlife when put outside at the end of the Holidays.


For other hubs in this series, please visit the index hub where you will be able to see all topics in this series and navigate between them.

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