The holiday season is known for its tasty eats — pies, casseroles, cakes and more. Whether you’re hosting friends or eating alone, it’s great to accommodate sustainable food options whenever possible. You can have an astounding holiday dinner without raising your stress levels or harming the environment. All you need is creativity and a willingness to try new methods.
Here are a few ways to practice sustainability when cooking your favorite winter meals.
Reduce Your Waste
Reduce your food waste by eating smaller portions and composting anything you don’t finish. Composting is easy to do and only requires organic matter, food waste and water. If you don’t have the space for a compost bin, you can give your scraps to a local program.
Consider using different methods of food preparation. Use the “unwanted” vegetable parts like celery leaves and kale stems for a smoothie or stir-fry. Stale bread can make delicious stuffing or croutons with some added seasoning. If you use citrus juice for a dessert, put the rinds in an infuser to make flavored water.
Online tools like the Guest-imator and Calculate This! let you determine how many ingredients you’ll need to feed all the guests at a holiday bash. You can also gauge how many leftovers you want to have — if any. These apps provide excellent and precise ways to contribute to food conservation.
Preserve Your Food
Leftovers are a part of any holiday meal, but they don’t always live out their full purpose. Sometimes you forget about them in the back of the fridge. Or you let them sit because you’re unsure how to repurpose them, and they end up spoiled. Solve this problem by stocking up on some holiday leftover recipes and preserving your food this winter.
Freeze, pickle or salt it — you have endless choices for keeping your food edible longer. And don’t forget to purchase reusable wraps to extend the shelf life of your goods. Say goodbye to mold on your bread and fruits. FreshPaper is an excellent product to extend the shelf life of your food.
Join a CSA
Community-supported agriculture benefits the farmer and the consumer. You buy a share of the farmer’s stock, which allows you to receive fresh produce straight from the source. In return, the farmer gains monetary support and can sell more goods before the growing season starts. Buying food from your local farmer can also support your local economy. In fact, a study done by the American Independent Business Alliance found that each $100 spent at a local level, generated $45 of secondary local spending.
Avoid Extra Packaging With Bulk Buys
Buy an extra-large can of peas or pick up an oversized bag of rice. Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging you throw out later — all of which isn’t recyclable. You’ll also make fewer grocery trips because you’re less likely to run out of ingredients while cooking. Less transportation means fewer fossil fuel emissions.
Serve your dishes in bulk, too. A hearty casserole or pitcher of vegan hot chocolate can go a long way, and you’ll save time and energy. In addition to time and energy savings, buying in bulk usually means spending less money
Bring Out the Reusables
If you’re hosting any parties this season, you’ll be shopping for food and drinks — unless you’ve struck gold with an at-home garden. (Speaking of your own garden, all donations to Change Food receive a free copy of “Grow Herbs Indoors” — a step-by-step guide to creating your own indoor garden!) Take reusable grocery bags with you when you hit the store and pass on the plastic. In addition to their sustainable qualities, many reusable totes come with insulated lining to keep your food hot or cold. Forgo disposable dinnerware and bring out your best reusable goods for a truly fancy dinner party.
Give Edible Gifts
Gift-giving is the core of the holidays, but between non-recyclable wrapping paper and energy-intensive electronics, it involves a ton of waste. Change your gifting strategy this year by making edible goods. Homemade gifts come from the heart, and what better way to prove your affection than with a home cooked present? Make a batch of peppermint bark or whip up some vegan gingersnap cookies — it’s practical and delicious.
If homemade gifts aren’t your thing but you don’t want to contribute more waste to the environment, you could also consider donating to your friend or family member’s favorite charity. Regardless of the way you choose to give, the most important thing is to show your friends and family how much you care about them!
Celebrate a Green Holiday Season
Following these tips can help you have a merry and eco-friendly holiday season. Wintery joy comes once a year, but the planet is forever. Protect the Earth and all its organisms by being conscious of what you eat and how you prepare it.
Emily Folk covers agricultural and sustainability topics. You can find more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.