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Trash is Tragic: Guide to a Low-Waste Holiday Feast

By Melanie Bernier for Boston Compass (#130)

December 30, 2020

Season’s greetings, my trashy babies. We’re going to have fun this holiday season, against all the odds. Is it gonna be weird? Hell yea. I made weed butter. Also, there’s a pandemic. You probably heard about that.

Real talk: maybe this turbulent moment affords us an opportunity to create new holiday traditions that align with the environment. The holidays are an incredibly wasteful time of year, especially when it comes to food. Project Drawdown ranks “reducing food waste” as the third most effective solution for limiting climate change. Buying locally-produced food, cutting back on single-use packaging, and reducing food waste are three gifts you can give this holiday season. Give to whom? Every single living thing. Yay.


STEP ONE: Connect with your food source. Use locally-produced food for your holiday feast.

Shop at a Winter Farmers Market:

Covid has thrown a rock-hard wrench into the CBD-oiled gears of our winter markets, resulting in some closures. For a complete list of open winter markets in Massachusetts, visit The following Boston-area markets are open: Boston Public Market, Charles River Farmers Market, Somerville Winter Farmers Market.

Join a CSA:

Split the bounty (and cost) with roommates. Options include: Stillman Farms, Siena Farms, Brookwood Community Farm, New Entry Food Hub, Red Fire Farm, Boston Public Market...

STEP TWO: Connect with your food. Buy unpackaged, unprocessed food wherever possible. Cooking from scratch has many benefits, such as: get your hands dirty, learn about food, and express your humanity. You quite often will save money, too.

Use recipes that call for few (or zero) packaged ingredients:

Zero Waste Chef is an incredible resource for low-waste recipes that are delicious, simple, healthy, and low-budget.

Shop the bulk bins - or what’s left of them:

BYO-container bulk bins were endangered in Boston before Covid. The virus has made it even harder to find unpackaged, by-the-pound pantry staples. Harder. . . but not impossible!

Litterless has compiled a zero waste grocery shopping guide for Massachusetts. Call ahead to see if BYOC policies have changed due to Covid.

Pemberton Farms Cambridge is keepin’ on with the bulk bins. Bless their hearts! Unfortunately, outside containers are not currently permitted. Shoppers can fill up compostable/recyclable paper bags provided by the store.

STEP THREE. Avoid making food waste.

Buy the right amount of food:

Americans throw away 35% of our food. Sucks! To lower your environmental impact (and save dollars), simply buy what you need, and nothing more. Try a food calculator, such as, to estimate your needs for a holiday meal.

Be creative with the leftovers:

Can’t gobble leftovers within a week? They’ll stay good in the freezer for months. Instead of tossing vegetable scraps and bones in the garbage, use them to make stock (you can freeze that, too).

STEP FOUR. Reflect on the meaning of the season.

It can be stressful to witness our already-bloated consumer culture kick into overdrive during the holiday season. This year, I’m looking forward to celebrating My Way (by F. Sinatra). Good food, little garbage, great company (most of it remote), and weed butter. See you in 2021, friends!

—Melanie Bernier


Check out all the art and columns of December's Boston Compass at


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