Christmas: how to make your meal more eco-responsible?


 By dint of quantified assessments and recommendations that contradict each other in a multitude of studies, we no longer really know what rules to follow to eat without impacting the planet too much. A few days before Christmas dinner, we decided to take a step back from all these injunctions in order to bring nuance and compose a festive menu with common sense.

Ecological Christmas: choose local food

Prefer a turkey raised a few kilometers from home or buy a liter of milk harvested from the nearest farm... Choosing local is an act of solidarity and support for French producers, less an ecological gesture. Seeking a solution to reduce the carbon footprint of human activity on the planet, this advice needs to be followed with nuance. The environmental cost of transporting food goods is a reality: buying an avocado produced in Peru when you live in Paris is more impactful for the planet than preferring Corsican clementines when you live in Ajaccio. In the journal Nature, Food, a team of researchers from the universities of Sydney and Beijing indicated last June that the kilometers swallowed by transporting food accounted for nearly 20% of total emissions from food production chains. "To mitigate the environmental impact of food, a transition to plant-based foods must be coupled with more local products, mainly in rich countries," the study concludes.

Everything is said: more than local production, it is the choice of food that changes the game. We must take into account the greenhouse gas emissions of various food products to determine the impact that our preferences may have. This is what a study by the global platform Our world in data did by comparing the impact of land conversion for livestock or cultivation, but also all that can emit a farm, whether it is manure or fuel needed for the tractor, as well as food to support livestock,  transport or packaging and sales. In this scheme, beef, lamb, cheese and dairy cows successively constitute the food productions that emit the most greenhouse gases and the carbon footprint of the transport of goods is minimal. In other words, composing a Christmas menu by including a steak of beef, even produced in a department close to home, has a considerable environmental impact. An exception must be made, and the Our World of Data study makes it clear: food transported by air generates fifty times more CO2 than a boat per tonne-kilometer. In food production chains, however, this type of transport is rarely used, representing only 0.16% of 'food kilometers'.

Cooking other than with a gas stove

In these times of sobriety, the use of the sacrosanct gas stove is questioned by more and more chefs who see a way to save money, but also to better preserve the well-being of their brigade which must otherwise deal with the heat of this type of energy. If we take into account the environmental aspect, the abandonment of the gas stove can also be an argument. Cows are often blamed for emitting methane when digesting their meal. Yet the cooking appliance deeply rooted in French gastronomic culture also produces some. The annual methane emissions of all U.S. fireplace gas stoves would have a climate impact similar to that of the CO2 emitted by 500,000 cars each year, according to research published by the American Chemical Society. And we're not just talking about the timing of cooking. It is estimated that gas cookers can emit up to 1.3% of the gas as unburned methane.

Alcohol: choose responsible containers

When it comes to pairings with wines and spirits, it is complicated to recommend one beverage over another. We could mention the use of pesticides for the cultivation of grapes, corn, barley, etc. But, we could also highlight a large amount of water required for the elaboration of various alcoholic beverages. According to the Water Footprint Network, 109 litres of water would be needed to produce just one glass of wine. Depending on the source, it takes between 40 and 100 liters of water to produce one liter of whisky. On the beer side, four to six liters of water are used, knowing that the Brasseurs de France were enthusiastic in 2019 about the 30% decrease in average water consumption for the manufacture and cleaning of tanks over the last thirty years.