When David Attenborough launched his latest series, “Seven Worlds, One Planet” in October of this year, he was asked how we can help save the planet and he replied: “Don’t waste things. Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food – live the way you want to live, but just don’t waste.”
At Vintage Roots we all love a good Christmas but we don’t believe that embracing the festivities means further damaging our planet. So, where and when we can we are adopting the David Attenborough mantra to Christmas: keep waste to a minimum, buy organic where we can and make ethical choices. This is our Christmas gift to planet earth.
Enjoying the Christmas favourites, with our planet in mind
The Christmas Tree: artificial, live or rented… which is best?
The question as to whether it is best to go for a real tree or a fake one when we’re trying to put the environment first can be a tad tricky. Friends of Earth suggest that if you have a fake one you make it last and doing that might be better than buying an imported tree. In an article in the Guardian last year, Sandra Laville wrote that a 6.5 foot artificial tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg whereas a real tree of the same size is closer to 16kg. How to minimise the damage?
- If you have an artificial tree, make it last… for every year it stays away from landfill you are doing the planet a favour.
- When you buy a real tree, look for one that’s got FSC certification and is grown as near to home as possible.
- If your tree isn’t in a pot, ready for replanting, then it’s definitely best to recycle (chip)
- And here’s an idea, these days there an increasing number of companies who will let you rent a tree. Just type in ‘rent a Christmas tree’ into your search engine for an impressive list of results.
They make the house look festive, can support charity and are a nice way to tell people you’re thinking about them. It’s hard not to love a Christmas card.
Most cards and envelopes are recyclable but it is important to avoid any that have glitter, bows or decorations that mean they can’t be. It’s also very easy to upcycle a card; they can be cut up to make gift tags and tree decorations, or even seasonable bookmarks.
Decorations with glitter and tinsel are not the planet’s best friends. If you’ve got them already (as most of us do!), use them for as long as you possibly can. You really don’t need a new ‘look’ to your Christmas every year.
With what’s leftover this year, have a think if any of it can be used to make a home-made decoration for next year?
The Christmas Turkey
The most important thing about the turkey is to buy a sensible size. We all joke about eating turkey for days after the big event but the reality is that a shocking amount of it gets thrown away.
Second of all, try and buy an organically-reared bird or at least one that’s locally-sourced to keep carbon footprint down.
If you are looking for a good reason to make yours a vegetarian Christmas this year then consider this: A typical turkey roast, with roast potatoes cooked in goose fat, pigs in blankets, meat stuffing and meat gravy for a family meal of six emits 23.5 kg CO2e, the carbon dioxide equivalent of driving 78.5 miles in an average UK petrol car. In comparison, a nut roast, also for a family of six, with roast potatoes cooked in vegetable oil, vegan pigs in blankets, sage and onion stuffing and vegetable gravy emits only 9.5 kg CO2e, the equivalent of driving 31.6 miles in an average UK petrol car.
How to have an ethical Christmas: Some thoughts on wrapping and shopping
- As a wine company we are mindful of the impact of glass waste over the Christmas period. Statistics vary but one source suggests that 13,350 tonnes of glass is thrown away in the UK in the months of December and January. If it was all recycled, we would save 4,200 tonnes of CO2!! Wow. Don’t dump it! Always recycle.
- In the UK we use (for one day only!) almost a quarter a million miles of wrapping paper. Scarily the vast majority of it isn’t recyclable because it’s been dyed or contains non-paper additives. As deeply shocking as that is, you can stop being part of the millions of miles of paper mess… Have you considered using fabric? It’s so popular in Japan these days that the skill has its own name: It doesn’t tear, it’s easy to find and you’ll have the most individually wrapped presents to give. Look around for attractive (recyclable) paper, from newspapers to calendars and use this instead. If you’re too wedded to traditional Christmas paper then re-use it at the very least; in our family there’s a bit of a competition to see who can open gifts the most carefully to secure the wrap’s use for another year…
- When we go shopping it is important to stay ethically mindful. Always remember to take your own bags with you. Wherever you can, resist gifts that are excessively and unnecessarily packaged. Sometimes shops want to wrap your purchases in extra paper and plastic – say no, thank you!
When you buy a case of wine or drinks from Vintage Roots, you can rest assured that all of our own sturdy cardboard boxes are made from 70% recycled material and are fully recyclable too. Experience means we have developed some of the best wine packaging around.
Food Waste: Ethical solutions to make your Christmas more planet-friendly
In a truly shocking piece of research in 2014, Unilever revealed that over four million Christmas dinners are thrown away every year. That is simply appalling. In hard cash that’s a waste of £64 million pounds (ouch), over 260,000 turkeys, well in excess of 11 million roast potatoes and 17.2 million Brussels sprouts. Shame on us.
The Vintage Roots team are all going to be asking ourselves, “do we really need that many …?” when we are doing our food shop this year. That has to be the first rule of cutting your food waste. Here though are some other ideas to consider this Christmas:
- Don’t buy food you don’t like just because it is supposed to be ‘traditional’! If you never eat sprouts the rest of the year, it’s unlikely you and yours are going to demolish the kilo you buy on Christmas Eve.
- Love your freezer! So much food can be effectively frozen. Pop it in reusable containers, label it and try not to forget about it!
- There’s a great website for creative recipes using leftovers: lovefoodhatewaste.com
- Have a quick think about people who might struggle to make themselves a meal this Christmas… They might enjoy a serving or two of turkey casserole or some pea and ham soup. Minimal effort and perhaps hugely life enhancing for someone living alone. The food waste app, Olio, is a great way to help you share.
Christmas wine choices that will help reduce carbon footprint
Buying organic wine this Christmas is a sure-fire way to do your best for the environment whilst enjoying the festivities. Lots of factors from vineyard tractors and their maintenance, fermentation, transport and packaging all have an impact on carbon footprint and estates with an organic focus are hugely mindful of these factors when they make their wines.
We could argue a case for including every producer we work with in your ethical Christmas but in the spirit of this blog, why don’t we focus on a home-grown (as local as we can get!), selection. If English wine is really not to your taste, the next best option is to buy European. Vintage Roots have gone the extra mile in carbon offsetting all their wine imports (and never by air) from around the world since 2005. Offset money gets invested in reliable schemes to reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent amounts.
Laverstoke Park Farm is just 16 miles from our HQ (Hampshire) and their two wines are biodynamically certified. New to the list, this award-winning rosé and white sparkling duo are a top Christmas choice.
Oxney are based in East Sussex. Their range includes a still rosé and two sparkling white wines – one non-vintage and the other from 2016. We think these wines are excellent value for money.
If you’re looking for a top English tip for a stylish dry white for the Christmas lunch then look no further than the Horsmonden Dry White 2018 that has been described as, “the holy grail of English still white wine”.
Stunning new release of this benchmark wine, from the superlative 2018 vintage. ‘The holy grail of English still white wine‘ JancisRobinson.com
Also, critically-acclaimed is the “glorious” Limney Estate Diamond Fields Pinot Noir. Made in Sussex, this is a treat of wine for Christmas lunch.
Leftover wine… Really?!
Okay, hands-up, we cannot claim to have too many problems with leftover wine but it does happen and you don’t need to throw it down the sink! First off, if you don’t have one already, invest in a wine stopper. They’re more effective than a stuck-back-in-cork because they pump oxygen out of the opened bottle – crucial to preserving the wine. We like the Vacu Vin best of all: https://vacuvin.com/products/wine-saver
Still got a few free fluid ounces to use up?
- Freeze it! Yes, really… and when you next have a recipe that calls for a glass of wine, you can just pop in a wine cube (or six!). Just don’t add it to the gin!
- Poach a pear or two – in either red or white wine. If you’ve a glass of white or two, maybe it is time for a spelt risotto and if it is the red that hasn’t all gone, add it to a Bolognese.
- Consider making your own wine vinegar… much easier than you think and if you managed to create a ‘mother vinegar’ then you’ll have a steady supply of your own vinegar… The ultimate planet-friendly Christmas gift for 2020?
However you enjoy your Christmas this year we hope it’s a lovely one!