Eco-chef Tom Hunt (above) has declared he is having a “zero-waste Christmas” for the whole of December.
Hunt will not be buying any food wrapped in packaging, let alone Christmas cards or wrapping paper, and he will be continuing with his ‘root-to-fruit’ eating philosophy (the veggie version of nose-to-tail – ensuring no wastage) for the festive feasts he cooks.
The zero-waste movement is seemingly the antithesis of Christmas – a time of huge consumption and over-indulgence. But far from being the Seasonal Scrooge, buying more consciously at Christmas means all of the joy of the feast without the guilts of chucking huge amounts of leftovers in the (compost) bin and adding to the mountains of rubbish once celebrations are over.
“Bin collections go up by 30 per cent over Christmas. It’s a time of remarkable waste, so I’m not going to buy anything,” Hunt, owner of Poco, says.
The restriction sounds extreme, but the food-waste campaigner insists this period of time allows him to reset and learn new habits.
“You’re limited because you have to plan a bit more. But then your options improve because it forces you to seek out the better producers – at a farmers market, via vegetable box schemes or health food shops,” he says.
“You start connecting with the people who are growing your food and become part of a community, which is what Christmas is all about.”
Douglas McMaster, head chef of Brighton’s acclaimed zero-waste restaurant, Silo, acknowledges this is a big shift in approach and perspective for many people.
“We see creating the Christmas spirit as a beautiful challenge – how can we do everything we want without any compromise?”
A more considered Christmas does not necessarily require going cold turkey, as Hunt is doing. If we all make small changes each year it creates a big impact. We’ve collected some tips from the zero-waste experts to get started, starting with the all important Christmas meal…
Of course, the secret to minimal food waste is to eat EVERYTHING. But ensuring there is zero waste really starts with a more conscious approaching to buying…
Packaging is one of the biggest problems when it comes to food waste, so try to buy loose fruit and vegetables where possible. Zero-waste lifestyle guru Kate Arnell takes tins to the butchers to fill them with meat. Food box schemes often use less packaging and are usually open to requests to take back boxes. You could even give wonky veg a try by ordering from Oddbox, which sells produce 30 per cent cheaper because it’s not perfect.
There is also a growing number of ‘bulk buy’ shops across the UK where you can take your own refillable containers, from The Zero Waste Shop in Totnes to Bulk Market in Hackney. Arnell recommends the Bulk locator to find stores near you that sell produce and dry goods as well as oils, wine, beer and coffee loose or in refill form – these can make lovely gifts, too.
Reyouzable is a new company that delivers dried goods such as pasta and tea bags, and cleaning products, in refillable containers to your door. It’s only operating certain London postcodes at the moment.
When it comes to cooking, Hunt’s root-to-fruit philosophy is key. “A lot of people don’t consider peeling their vegetables a waste,” says the chef. “But a lot of the nutrients are in the skin.”
So brush carrots and potatoes rather than peel them – and if you do peel, save the skins to make vegetable crisps. For cauliflower cheese treat the leaves as you would the cauliflower – slice them finely, steam or boil them – and make them part of the dish.
MORE FROM THE ULTIMATE CONSIDERED CHRISTMAS GUIDE:
The best Christmas Day food boxes
Stylish & ethical gifts for him
Stylish & ethical gifts for her
Six of the best Christmas & NYE party outfits for her
The best Christmas trees
Christmas decoration inspiration
Chic & cheerful gift wrap
Three of the best Christmas crackers
Main image: Tom Hunt, Tomsfeast.com