Guest Blog - Nadja Uebach
The days are getting longer and brighter, which is always the year’s first promise of spring. A promise that prompts high street and grocery shops everywhere to fill their aisles with all things Easter as soon as the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate for Valentine’s Day have disappeared. Chocolate eggs wrapped in plastic, colourful plastic eggs and baskets designed for single-use; as well as little plastic toys in the shape of rabbits and chicks might look cute but will sooner or later create a problem in our already overflowing landfills. However, in order to mark Easter as a family occasion, you don’t have to give up the traditions of chocolate, egg hunts, and cute decorations. Enjoy an (eco) guilt-free Easter with your family with these simple ideas for a more sustainable Easter!
Sustainable Easter Ideas for Guilt-Free Family Traditions
1. Choose Organic Eggs
In many households, Easter season is egg season. In fact, it is estimated that per household we buy between 10% and 60% more eggs or egg-related products around Easter time than during the rest of the year. While supermarkets offer a wide selection of eggs in different sizes and for very affordable prices; choosing organic or at the very least free range eggs produced in Ireland is not just the most sustainable choice, but will also send a message to producers who will eventually follow the consumer demand of sustainability. When choosing your eggs by origin, there are a few differences between the free-range and organic certificates that are worth considering.
Organic Eggs Vs. Free Range EggsWhile at first glance free range eggs and organic eggs seem to be produced under almost the same circumstances, there are slightly different rules and regulations that make all the difference. While free range stipulates that the hens are having time outdoors to roam free, the organic label covers a more wholesome approach in terms of sustainability.
- Free Range Eggs: Eggs produced on a free range farm originate from hens that have to have access to outside space and have to be free to roam this space. The use of pesticides on that land, the type of feed for the birds, and the treatment of the animals are not regulated under the free range certificate.
- Organic Eggs: The label organic doesn’t just regulate the outside roaming of a hen. It also has clear rules regarding flock size (about half the size of free range flocks), stocking rates (how much room is needed for each hen), the type of feed (the use of preventative antibiotics is not allowed), the treatment of the hens (claw clipping and beak trimming is prohibited) and the type of land to roam (pesticide-free and organic land).
2. Colour Your Eggs with Natural Dye
Eggs are an essential part of Easter, but not just plain white or brown eggs like we eat for most of the year. The tradition of coloured eggs goes back to the origins of Easter in Christianity, but has long been used by families of all or no faiths as a fun way of marking the occasion and welcoming spring! Instead of buying pre-dyed boiled eggs from the supermarket, you can opt to dye your eggs yourself. To keep your waste to a minimum choose different types of locally produced foods to colour your eggs instead of Easter egg dye tablets, which are usually produced outside of Ireland and have to travel quite a bit to get to the shop around the corner.
How to Dye Easter Eggs using Food
In order to make your all-natural low carbon dye, you simply mix your desired dyeing agent with two cups of water and two tablespoons of white wine vinegar, bring to the boil, and let it simmer for at least half an hour. Strain your dye and let it cool before adding your hard-boiled eggs. Let the eggs sit in the dye for half an hour or until your eggs are as vibrant as you like. You can also experiment with quantities to get deeper or lighter colours. Making natural egg dye is also a great way to use foods that are just gone past their use-by date and might not be suitable for consumption anymore (just make sure to remove any mouldy bits!)
Natural egg dye agents:
- Red/Dark Purple: 1 1/2 cups of chopped beetroot (add more for darker shades)
- Pale Green: 2 cups of spinach
- Dark Green: 2-3 cups of stinging nettles
- Dark Yellow/Orange: 4 cups of yellow onion skins
- Light Blue: 3 cups of chopped red cabbage
- Dark Blue: 4 cups of blueberries
3. Natural & Reusable Egg Hunt Supplies
Easter egg hunts are not just popular with the youngest family members, but even adults love to get competitive about finding coloured eggs in the garden, a park, or indoors over the Easter Holidays! In recent years the tradition of hidden hard-boiled eggs has been replaced by brightly coloured eggs made from plastic. Instead of little wicker baskets or jute sacks, many people now use little plastic bags with seasonal prints. While the idea of durability and reusability of plastic certainly has its advantages, natural materials are still preferable. That said, if you already have a box of plastic eggs in the attic that is being used every year, there is no need to replace them – The most sustainable thing to use is ALWAYS the thing you already have! If you are looking to get new egg hunt supplies, here are a few natural and still reusable options:
- Plastic Egg Alternatives For indoor egg hunts, paper or wooden eggs are a great option. You can even paint them using natural paint in the lead-up to Easter as a family activity. If wood is not an option, painted rocks might be the perfect alternatives. Other options also included eggs made from felt or decorated jam jars filled with little treats.
- Plastic Bag Alternatives Instead of handing out little plastic bags to be filled during this year’s egg hunt, why not go back to the roots and opt for reusable wicker baskets or for more durability opt for little metal buckets. If you are organising an egg hunt on a bigger scale, little bags made from jute or fabric might be perfect as they are similar to plastic bags when it comes to storage space and affordability but can be reused and are made from natural materials!
- Easter Grass Alternatives Easter grass is the lining of choice for Easter baskets but is often made from plastic and is not recyclable. However, it is easily replaced by its counterpart made from tissue paper or even better natural wool. Both can be reused every year, but won’t cause a problem if bits of it are lost in nature during an Easter egg hunt. For a very natural (but not reusable) look, you could always go foraging for moss, leaves, or actual grass all of which can be composted after use!
4. Choose Organic Fairtrade Chocolate
Chocolate is undoubtedly a huge part of Easter for many. In Ireland, we eat a staggering 17.7 million chocolate eggs every Easter, which averages out at about 3.5 eggs per person! That is a lot of chocolate and even more packaging. In order to make your chocolate feast more sustainable this Easter look out for organic fairtrade chocolate ! While the organic part ensures that your chocolate originates on organic farms without any additives, the fairtrade label takes care of the workers on the farm and within the supply chain. In order to keep your carbon footprint as low as possible opt for locally produced chocolate. There are many small chocolate businesses after popping up in all parts of the country that can supply you with the most delicious handmade Easter chocolates which are often packaged plastic-free! It helps when you think outside the egg-shaped box for sourcing sustainable Easter chocolate. Why not get a box of locally made high-quality chocolates; or to add more fun for little ones the entirely plastic-free and vegan-friendly PLAYin CHOC Boxes which combine chocolate with the excitement of a little toy but without the plastic!
Gifts or Experiences instead of ChocolateAnother option is to move away from chocolate entirely. Instead of sweet treats why not choose to gift experiences, like a nice day out together as a family or alternative non-edible gifts:
5. Choose a Sustainable Easter Roast
After chocolate, a big Easter roast is another long-standing holiday tradition in many households. To have all the family together around the table and enjoy a lovely homemade meal is a favourite part of Easter for many. While lamb is the roast of choice for Easter Sunday, ham has been proven popular as well. In order to serve up a more sustainable roast this year source your meat from local farmers or butchers, even better if the origin of the meat is a certified organic farm. If you are aiming for maximum sustainability, you can go the meat-free route and create a delicious vegetarian or vegan meal using home-grown or local produce. Cooking meat-free doesn’t mean using dozens of ingredients anymore. On the contrary, many supermarkets and specialised shops offer pre-made nut and vegetable roasts or vegan pies which are often packaged plastic-free!
6. Be Mindful about Easter Waste
Similar to Christmas the overindulgence at Easter leads to an increase in waste. This includes recycling, food waste, and general waste. Since it is hard to avoid waste completely, especially if a holiday involves gifts from outside your household, knowing how to manage packaging & co. is key!
Easter Waste for Your Recycling BinAny waste that is to go into the recycling bin needs to be clean, dry, and loose. Ensure that any non-recyclable material is removed eg. soft plastics which is attached to cardboard or paper.
- Paper packaging & cardboard boxes
- Metal wrapping foil (scrunched up into a ball)
- Hard plastics
- Tins & cans
- Tetrapak packaging
Easter Waste for Your Compost BinKeeping check on your quantities and using up leftovers will keep your food waste to a minimum this Easter. Any other food waste can either be disposed of in your own compost heap or in your compost bin, which is available free of charge from bin providers in many areas of the country.
- Egg shells (even if dyed)
- Cooked & raw food
- Vegetables & fruit
- Paper/cardboard covered in food/grease (kitchen paper, unlined food containers)
- Baked goods
- Coffee grounds & plastic-free teabags
- Compostable packaging (watch out for the seedling logo and instructions on the packaging)
Greener Easter = Greener Planet
Choosing to celebrate a greener Easter this year with your family, regardless of what that might look like for you will always have a positive impact on our environment. Whether you are opting for a vegetarian roast, stick to eco-friendly gifts or just reuse whatever it is you already have – all these things will help to reduce our waste and carbon issues and are a step into a more sustainable and healthier future for you, your family and the planet!
What are your plans this Easter? We would love to hear your sustainable ideas for the holiday!
For more great blog posts, check out Nadja's website www.labellessmum.com