With the big celebration just around the corner, gatherings around dinners are now being planned. This third and last of our Santa’s Role in a Circular Economy series will focus on aspects to do with waste around food.
Christmas food and shopping
As we think about preparing Christmas dinners, we want to make sure there is enough food for everyone. Knowing we all tend to overindulge at this time of the year, we also buy more for fear there won’t be enough. From the snacks to the main meal and desert, we buy food that can last well into January. But for perishable food items, they wont last that long and will end up in the trash.
Figures vary per country, but studies show that up to a third of food gets wasted during Christmas. The European Green New Deal aims to reduce food waste overall by 50% by 2030. This Christmas can be a time to try ways to reduce food waste and adopt practices that we can keep applying throughout the year.
Plan in advance
When hosting a dinner, tradition has us believe that it is embarrassing for a guest to leave our house hungry. Subconsciously this tradition has remained strong, so we prepare almost double the food needed.
We can however still make sure our guests leave with a full belly while making sure nothing goes to waste. It helps to take a little time in advance to plan how many servings you will need for the main meal, but also for any starters, snacks and desert. Asking your invitees to confirm they are joining is a good start so you know how many to plan for.
Plan your storage
Making sure you have enough storage for before and after the meal will help make sure nothing spoils and you can use everything. Ideally, storage shouldn’t be cluttered so you can know exactly what you have available easily. When it comes to fruit and vegetables it also helps to buy loose instead of big bags so you don’t end up buying food you don’t need.
Use the cold weather
If your fridge is filling up, consider keeping some items outside. Vegetables like carrots can be kept outside if it’s cold enough, freeing up space in your fridge for items that need more controlled temperatures like meat.
Avoid Unnecessary deals
Intense advertising at this time of the year convinces us to buy special flavoured snacks, luxuriously looking packaged treats and already prepared cheese and meat platters. Discount package deals promise savings and convince us to buy larger quantities.
If you know the quantity of food in these deals is too much, it is better to avoid them all together and if you do buy them, a good option can be to donate the excess.
Inform your guests
Another tradition when invited to one’s home, is to bring something and at this time it is often more food. If you have covered everything, ask your guests to not bring anything, or suggest they bring something that can last stored for a long time in case it is not eaten. If they insist to bring cooked food, then try to include it already in your meal and cook less.
You can also ask your guests to donate a meal. If you are the guest, check with your host what to bring so there is not too much of everything.
New recipes out of leftovers
No matter how well you plan, there is always something left. Leftover Christmas food like the turkey and vegetables can make delicious new meals. This is especially handy for the days after the feast when you might want to have a break from cooking.
Taking leftovers home
Depending on how much you have left after the meal, prepare some take aways for your guests by putting a little of everything in a container, ideally a reusable one.
If you are eating out in a restaurant, don’t be shy and ask to take the leftovers home with you. Even better if you can bring your own container to take with you.
Donating excess food is always a welcome option. You can contact your nearest food bank, shelter, orphanage or asylum for immigrants and let them know you have extra food. They can let you know the procedure for donations.
Compost your scraps
Scraps are unavoidable during meal preparations but there are solutions for those too. They can be composted at home or you can simply make sure to dispose of them in the right bin provided by your municipality, usually for organic material.
Cups, plates and cutlery
Each year 40,000,000,000 plastic forks, spoons, and knives are used and thrown away. To make matters worse, the plastic most of these are made of is still not easy to recycle and it can take around 1,000 years to decompose.
One way to minimise pollution is to use recyclable products. Nowadays there are options available made from bamboo or paper, which although not ideal as they are still disposable, would be preferable compared to their plastic alternatives.
Still, the best way to achieve zero-waste is to remove single-use products completely. Try to avoid using these in your gatherings. Before disposables where invented, when people went on picnics, they had baskets with compartments specially designed to carry dinnerware.
In a similar fashion, if you don’t have enough cutlery, plates and glasses to go around for everyone, you can ask your guests to bring their own, you can borrow some from a friend who can’t join, or buy some from your local charity shop.
For sure, this option means the dinnerware won’t all match, but all the different shapes and colours can add up to creating a festive mood. If you like to host dinners throughout the year, it may also be an idea to invest in a set that you keep stored and use on such occasions.
You can also avoid creating waste by using cloth napkins instead of paper ones. This can also add a fancy feel to your dinner, like a restaurant.
It is also typical to add Christmas decorations to the table to heighten the festive mood. For a more cosy atmosphere you can use natural ornaments, such as pine cones, pine branches or candles.
Check out Part 1: The Christmas tree and ornaments and Part 2: Gifts and gift wrapping of our Santa’s role in a Circular Economy series for more tips on how to make your Christmas more circular!
The Circular Based Waste Management project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund Fund for Regional Cooperation – eeagrants.org.