How to lower your Christmas dinner’s carbon footprint

Christmas should be a time of celebration for everyone to be able to enjoy without worry. However, with the environmental and financial challenges that we face currently, and will likely continue to face in the future, adapting our behaviour may well help save the planet and the money in our pockets.

Over the past couple of years, around Christmas, the Castlefield team have written about ways in which we can try to reduce our waste and make our gift giving greener. Often these tips also have a positive financial impact too.

This year we look at the Christmas dinner and how we can cut down its carbon footprint as well as its financial cost.


What do people eat for Christmas dinner?

According to a study by YouGov in 2020, the most eaten ‘meat’ portion of a Christmas dinner is turkey. 54% of those asked eat turkey, whilst 10% have chicken, and 8% have a vegetarian alternative. As for sides, roast potatoes are at the top of the chart with 88% of people including them on their plate. This was followed closely by gravy (80%), carrots (74%) and stuffing (71%).[1]

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can see YouGov’s full blog here: What do people have for their Christmas dinner? | YouGov


What’s the carbon impact of a Christmas dinner?

In a video by Technology Networks, Professor Sarah Bridle, currently professor of Food, Climate and Society at the University of York, informs us that around a quarter of all climate change is down to the food we eat.[2] According to the article accompanying the video, a typical turkey Christmas dinner for six people equates to almost 30kg of CO2.[3]

Bridle later shows how changing ingredients can affect the carbon footprint of the meal. A vegetarian Christmas dinner would have a significantly lower impact, while a beef dinner would have over double the impact of the turkey dinner.[4]


How to reduce your Christmas dinner's carbon footprint


Change your ingredients

Firstly, even before cooking, some of the ingredients are higher carbon options. This is particularly the case for meat, as evidenced in Bridle’s work referenced above. The turkey, pork stuffing and pigs in blankets will likely have a bigger impact than vegetarian alternatives. This is due to various parts of the production process, from feed production to land-use, and the fact that livestock produce large quantities of methane. The Guardian states that “The use of cows, pigs and other animals for food, as well as livestock feed, is responsible for 57% of all food production emissions.”[5]

But it’s not all bad! Vegetables make up a large chunk of the average Christmas dinner. Particularly in-season vegetables, for example, Brussel sprouts, cabbages and parsnips. Using local, seasonal ingredients, or ingredients that have travelled by boat rather than plane, is a good way to reduce your footprint. According to Mike Berners-Lee in his book ‘How Bad are Bananas?’, avoiding airfreighted foods can knock 20% off the carbon footprint of any diet.[6]

If you want to have meat, turkey is a better option than other meats like beef. However using less (or no) meat or animal products would be a great step. You could choose to have a vegetarian or vegan option as the main feature of your meal or you could even simply have less meat and more vegetables on your plate. You could even become ‘Feastarian’, meaning you enjoy meat only on special occasions like Christmas, an idea I came across in Professor Sarah Bridles book ‘Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air’.[7]


Change your cooking methods

In addition to the carbon inherent in producing and obtaining the ingredients themselves, the cooking methods traditionally used to make Christmas dinner are often energy intensive. Ovens and hobs use more energy than other kitchen appliances, like microwaves and air-fryers. In fact, Professor Sarah Bridle states that “up to 60 per cent of the climate impact of foods can come from cooking - particularly for the most climate-friendly foods like vegetables, when baked in the oven.”[8]

Uswitch estimated that a traditional Christmas dinner for 4 people would cost £8.14 in energy when cooked using an electric oven and hob, but when the same exact meal is cooked in an air-fryer and microwave the energy would cost £1.94.[9] Practically, you may not be able to cook your whole meal in an air-fryer, but certain elements of the meal could be cooked in different low-energy ways. For example, this article by the BBC suggests a few low-energy cooking methods, from slow-cooking to pressure-cooking.

When cooking vegetables, choosing to use a vegetable steamer, either an electric or stove-top version, is a good option as it means you are cooking multiple layers of vegetables in one go. Finally, to make your cooking more efficient, always put the lids on pans. Cooking with lids on uses 10% less energy than cooking without.[10] Every little bit helps.


Buy and cook appropriate amounts

Limiting the amount of food you are cooking, or gauging this better, will help too, as this MoneyHelper article touches upon. If you know you won’t use leftovers, by cooking less you will waste less, pay less for the fewer ingredients and your meal will likely need less time cooking. Being mindful of your food waste is of vital importance as most food waste goes to landfill, and it releases methane as it breaks down.[11] Shockingly, the UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste annually.[12] Giki, a company with the mission of informing people how to live in a more sustainable way, states that “At Christmas in the UK, 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings, and 74 million mince pies get disposed of while still edible, causing almost 270,000 tons of food waste.”[13]

BBC Good Food have created a helpful portion planner which you can use to work out how much food you need to buy.


I hope that there are one or two ideas here that you can use at Christmas or even every day. Just committing to one may reduce the environmental and financial impact of your food choices.  


All information quoted is obtained from sources which we believe to be accurate at the time of publication, but may be subject to change. We therefore cannot be held responsible for the implications of relying on this information.


[1] What do people have for their Christmas dinner? | YouGov

[2] Teach Me in 10 – How Different Foods Contribute to Climate Change With Professor Sarah Bridle Video | Technology Networks

[3] Teach Me in 10 – How Different Foods Contribute to Climate Change With Professor Sarah Bridle Video | Technology Networks

[4] Teach Me in 10 – How Different Foods Contribute to Climate Change With Professor Sarah Bridle Video | Technology Networks

[5] Meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production, study finds | Meat industry | The Guardian

[6] ‘How Bad are Bananas?’ Mike Berners-Lee, pg113

[7] ‘Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air’ Sarah Bridle, pg327

[8] Can your Christmas dinner help save the planet? (

[9] Energy-efficient cooking (


[11] Food waste facts 2022 (

[12] The Spooky and Scary Facts about Food Waste – Sustainable Cheshire

[13] How to have a greener festive season - Giki