As you get caught up in the holiday cheer and festivities, thinking about how to incorporate less waste or even Zero Waste into your Holiday meals doesn’t have to be overwhelming… Here are a few tips to think about as you plan:
Use whole foods- less packaged ingredients - Instead of cans and packaged ingredients, can you plan ahead and/or make it yourself? Packaged snack foods often fill up the trash can quickly. Think of snacks and treats you can make without packages: Cheese and bread! Roast bulk nuts in brown sugar or spices! Make your own hummus and cut fresh local veggies to dip!
Use local ingredients - Even if you use whole foods, sometimes there’s the hidden waste of transporting products from afar- buying locally consumes less oil.
Use Reuseable or Recyclable - We will all have some packaging even when we work hard at eliminating it; think about if they can be recycled or reused before you make your purchase. .
Dish out smaller portions – The fact is…we all think we can eat A LOT more during holiday meals than any other meal. Serving your holiday meal in courses helps people with better portioning. Consider also using smaller plates.
Dishware and Napkins – Use reusable dinnerware and napkins. If you don’t have enough here’s some options: Check out your local thrift store, post to Front Porch Forum asking for borrowed dinnerware, ask your guests to bring their own plate, bowl, silverware. Also consider local churches and community groups often have spaces they rent out, fully equipped kitchens with everything you need for hosting your Holiday Party.
Have too many leftovers? Freeze it! - Even the best intentions of eating leftover meals for the next week can go sour after the 3rd leftover meal. Leave only 3 meals worth of left-overs in the fridge, then freeze the rest in meal-size portions. Use your leftover holiday meal to get creative. Turn that holiday ham into Pea Soup! Turkey into pot-pie! Check out lovefoodhatewaste.com for hundreds of recipes for leftovers.
Take it home! Invite your guests to come with their own Tupperware or stock up early on yogurt or takeout containers.
Compost - Put your food scraps and plate-scrapings into the compost or look for a food scrap drop-off site near you. All transfer stations in Vermont now accept food scraps along with trash and recycling as well.
Donate - Still have extra cans of sweetened condensed milk or stuffing? You can donate your canned or dried goods to a local food drive or food shelf. Locate your nearby foodshelf.
Other thoughts: Try bringing Zero Waste ideas into the rest of your party: reusable decorations? Yankee Swap for re-gifting presents? Reusable gifts bags? Tell your guests about your Zero Waste ideas so they can help make it more possible with what they bring.
I hope these tips are helpful! For more information on eliminating food waste, visit the EPA website. May your holidays be filled with warmth and cheer!
by Jan Lloyd, Zero Waste Events Coordinator