The air is crisp, the days are shorter and the holidays are fast approaching. It got me thinking about how I could make my holidays a little greener. With all the gift wrapping, decorations, and parties, it can be quite challenging to keep it environmentally friendly. I decided this year to see if I could put together a (mostly) plastic-free “traditional” holiday dinner.
Since I don’t live in a major city centre, and driving around increasing my carbon footprint looking for all the waste-free alternatives is not an option, I wasn’t sure if it could be done. But I’m up for the challenge. Some of the choices may end up using plastic, but I really wanted to try and eliminate single use plastics altogether.
For those of you wanting to put yourselves to the test with me, here are helpful tips to get you started:
- Reusable Bags: Don’t forget you reusable bags at home, it’s such an easy change to make and really makes a difference.
- Main Meal: You could choose to go one of two ways, poultry or veggie. If I go with a turkey, the bonus of living outside a major city is that I do live near a number of farms, which allows me to buy my meat and poultry from a known source. The downside is that the turkey will be wrapped in plastic. Or, I could go the way of a nutloaf, tourtière or other vegetarian meal option. Most of the ingredients for the vegetarian option can be purchased at a bulk store and there are so many creative flavours and variations out there. If you are able to reuse your bags/containers this could be a waste-free alternative to buying meat.
- Bread & Stuffing: I have been making my own bread for years, and it is much easier than you think. Do an internet search for an almost no-knead recipe, you will need time to let the dough rise but other than time, the bread is easy to make and tastes great. By making your own bread you skip the single use plastic bread bag and a bonus – the flour you bought should last you well past this meal. While you’re at it, might as well prepare enough bread to make your stuffing; simply throw in some herbs and voilà!
- Cranberry Sauce: It can be hard to find cranberries not packaged in plastic, so I thought, “does it have to be cranberry sauce?” How about pear chutney? All you need is a couple pears and the rest you may already have at home. I like the look of this recipe, just note that many of these recipes should be made ahead of time to allow the flavours to blend.
- Vegetables: Buying produce that is in season is always a good choice, chances are those seasonal vegetables were grown locally (check the tags at your grocery store or ask at your market to find out) and root vegetables can often be purchased loose. Think beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and others like garlic, leeks, and onions.
- Pie Crust: Make a crust yourself instead of buying pre-made shells that come in a tray, with a lid, and in a wax coated box. You already bought flour for the homemade bread and stuffing – now you can use it for the pie crust. After you mix the ingredients you typically chill the dough in the fridge, try storing it in a reusable container instead of plastic wrap.
- Pie Filling: Keep it local and simple; pumpkin, squash, and apple are in season right now, skip the canned filling and cook the produce yourself. The benefit of choosing local produce is that it didn’t have to travel as far to reach your plate, and like the root vegetables these fruits are typically found without packaging (sometimes they have stickers).
- Drinks: Depending on where you are in Canada many wine and beer bottles can be returned for deposit, which makes the drinking part easy. Look for wines with screw tops and avoid the plastic cork. You could also look for Canadian wineries and microbreweries and keep it local. If you want to keep it alcohol free, think homemade apple juice, or lemonade.
- Substitutions: When looking at any recipe, if there are ingredients that are hard to come by, can’t be purchased plastic free, or you simple don’t enjoy them; you may be able to substitute the ingredient with another or omit it altogether. For example, I will probably pass on the currents when making the pear chutney.
If you are willing to spend some time in the kitchen, you can be rewarded with a delicious dinner that has minimal waste. Personally, I can’t wait to try it out. I’m looking forward to trying a few new recipes, like the pear chutney, in the next couple of weeks. Now, I just have to invite some friends over to enjoy the fruits of my labour with me.
Aquablog by Sarah Odell, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup recruitment coordinator.