As we all up our environmental efforts post-COP26, you might be wondering how you can make your holiday celebrations a little more sustainable, and one great place to start is your food.

In light of this, catering and hospitality specialists, Alliance Online, have conducted some new research looking into the amount of CO2 emissions generated from cooking up the traditional festive feast and have put together some tips for cooking up a more eco-friendly feast.

While your usual Christmas dinner with all the trimmings looks and tastes amazing, it's not doing much good for the planet.

In fact, if you're a fan of pigs in blankets, some beef dripping on your potatoes, or a rich, meaty gravy, your festive feast could be producing a surprising amount of Co2 emissions.

When you take into account the amount of energy needed to raise and transport livestock, beef and pork are two of the highest polluting meats on the planet.

Just 1kg of beef produces 27kg of CO2e, enough to travel 63 miles by car, according to Greeneatz. Going by the estimation that 1kg could feed four people, that's around 6.75kg per person. And that's not even counting the 12.1kg of CO2e produced by 1kg of pork.

Whilst delicious, a normal Christmas dinner can have a massive carbon footprint
Whilst delicious, a normal Christmas dinner can have a massive carbon footprint

Your roast turkey isn't far behind either, producing around 10.9kg of CO2e per kg. Considering the average turkey is between 2.5–5.4kg, that’s around 27.25–58.86kg of CO2e.

Using these calculations, a high-carbon Christmas dinner, which includes turkey and pigs in blankets produces around 1.56kg of CO2e per plate.

That's 6.24kg of CO2e for a family of four, or 9.36kg of CO2e for a family of six. That's not including the energy used for cooking, or other extras like cooking fat and gravy.

The good news is making just a few swaps could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your Christmas dinner.

Forgoing the pigs in blankets, pork stuffing, beef dripping, and beef gravy and sticking with a traditional turkey could reduce your carbon footprint by 39.1kg of CO2e.

Vegetables are among the most environmentally friendly foods, producing just 2kg of CO2e/kg, so making these the bulk of your dinner can help keep your carbon footprint down.

And switching to a fully plant-based meal can reduce your environmental impact even more.

Nuts and lentils produce just 2.3kg and 0.9kg of CO2e/kg respectively, while an egg produces around 0.25kg.

A homemade nut roast made from nuts, vegetables, and lentils bound together with a few eggs could slash the carbon footprint of your dinner to just over 0.35kg of CO2e per person.

What a low carbon Christmas dinner could look like
What a low carbon Christmas dinner could look like

A low-carbon Christmas dinner produces just 0.99kg of CO2e per plate. That's 37% less than the high-carbon Christmas dinner.

You can reduce the carbon footprint of your meal even further by replacing your pork stuffing with a sage and onion version and use vegetable stock to flavour your gravy instead of meat juices – you can even make your own delicious low-waste stock using scraps of leftover vegetables.

And, instead of using beef dripping or olive oil, consider switching to a rapeseed, vegetable, or sunflower oil that was made in the UK instead.

As Mike Hardman, Marketing Manager at Alliance Online said: "While Christmas is a time to eat and be merry, we all need to do our bit to make our festivities a little more sustainable. Being more mindful of what we're eating and the energy it takes to produce our food can help us realise what impact we're having on the planet."

Five expert energy efficient cooking tips

It's not just your ingredients that can contribute to your Christmas dinner's carbon footprint, but your cooking methods too.

There are a few easy ways you can keep your energy usage down while prepping your festive feast that will not only help save the planet, but can be good for your wallet too.

1. Use the microwave

Some elements of your Christmas dinner, such as your turkey or nut roast, will need to be cooked in the oven.

To make the most of the energy you're using, try to roast as much of your dinner as you can in the oven at the same time as your main dish.

For anything that won't fit or can't be roasted, consider popping it in the microwave instead of cooking it on the hob.

The microwave is one of the most energy-efficient ways of cooking, according to Direct Energy.

You can steam most vegetables in the microwave. Just cut them into small pieces and place them in a microwave-safe dish.

Add 1–2 tbsp of water, place the lid on, and microwave them on high for around seven minutes. Soft vegetables like sprouts may only take four minutes to cook.

Dishes such as roast potatoes can take a long time to cook in the oven.

To reduce the amount of time they take and to save you money, consider steaming them in the microwave first or parboiling them on the hob before transferring them to the oven.

2. Use a steamer

If you'd rather cook your vegetables on the hob, using a steamer is another way to save energy.

This method will only use one cooking ring, rather than separate ones for each ingredient.

If you don't have a steamer, you can place your vegetables in a metal colander over the top of a pan that's already on the boil.

When boiling water, remember to always use lids on your pans to keep the heat in and save energy.

3. Boil water in the kettle

Boiling water in the kettle is a lot quicker than boiling it on a hob, which not only saves you time, but can help conserve energy too.

If you're cooking your veggies on the hob, use the kettle to boil your water quickly then pour it into the pan.

And be sure to only use the amount of water you need to cover your ingredients, otherwise you could waste energy boiling water you don't need.

4. Use glass and ceramic dishes

Oven-safe glass and ceramic dishes are best in the oven, as they retain heat better than metal versions.

This makes them more efficient for cooking. When choosing which dishes to use, try to pick ones that are just the right size for your ingredients.

Dishes with a larger surface area will take longer to heat up, and you could be wasting energy warming a large dish you don't need.

5. Turn your appliances off just before serving

A hot oven or pan will stay warm for a while after cooking, so consider turning your oven and hob off for a couple of minutes before serving your Christmas dinner.

Switching them off for just five minutes before serving means you'll be saving a full five minutes of energy, and the remaining heat will continue to cook your food.

"Even beyond your festive menu, by making a few little changes in the kitchen, you could help conserve energy this Christmas," Mike Hardman said.

"Consider more efficient cooking methods and ways you can conserve energy, and you could help lower your carbon footprint, and your energy bills — ideal at such an expensive time of the year."

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