reindeer

12 days of plastic free Christmas: day 8

The festive period brings with it a huge rise in the amount of single-use plastics. Everything from decorations, to wrapping and even some of the food on your Christmas table.

Here at the University of Hull we are asking everyone to take a pledge about reducing their plastic waste at Christmas by providing simple, easy and affordable ways to help minimise plastic waste in the home. Our 12 Days of Plastic-Free Christmas will run from December 1-12 and include, fun and easy to do swaps this Christmas.

Reindeer food

The making and spreading of ‘reindeer food’ has become a popular craft activity for families at Christmas, and is a great way to add a little more magic into the festive period. Obviously not intended as actual food for reindeer, the mixes are usually made from foodstuffs like porridge oats and given a bit of sparkle using glitter and sequins.

The mixes are made in advance, stored in plastic film, and then spread into front gardens on Christmas Eve, helping guide Santa’s reindeers and providing them a tasty treat as they stop by.

Most glitter is are small fragments of etched aluminium bonded to polyethylene terephthalate (PET), making it a form of microplastic1. In 20162., the RSPCA released an urgent warning via social media, stating how reindeer food may be eaten by small garden mammals and birds, with glitter potentially causing long term damage to their digestive system. This glitter will also find its way into our drainage systems and therefore our waterways, giving the potential to cause harm to numerous marine animals. Shockingly, in 20133, microplastics were found in a third of UK-caught fish, so it is very likely humans are also consuming microplastics, which may have implications for our health.

However, you can’t make magic reindeer food with porridge oats alone and we really wouldn’t want Santa’s crew to miss out on their Christmas treat. That’s why we’ve put together a recipe for plastic free reindeer food, along with a handy origami box to store it in until Christmas Eve.

By swapping out glitter for cake sprinkles and wild flower seeds, which will blossom and grow the following spring (the seeds that is – no magic cake sprinkle trees should be expected), the negative effects of this popular tradition can be prevented. The chilli powder is a little extra to help Rudolph’s nose glow, and to deter any pesky rats from your door too! 

Ingredients

reindeer food ingredients

  • Porridge oats
  • Cake sprinkles/coloured sugar
  • Chilli powder (to help Rudolph’s nose glow)
  • Flower/grass seeds (optional)

No two reindeer foods are the same, the amounts of all these ingredients is up to you! Just place your chosen ingredients in a bowl and give a good mix.

If you are using coloured sugar, then simply add a few drops of food colouring to the sugar and mix with a fork, till it is evenly coloured and there are no lumps.

Once you’ve created your ideal reindeer food, you can keep it in one of our homemade origami boxes, as seen below. 

reindeer food final

Sources:

  • National Geographic
  • RSPCA
  • Lusher, A. L., McHugh, M. & Thompson, R. C. Occurrence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of pelagic and demersal fish from the English Channel. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 67, 94–99 (2013).

Authors: Flo Halstead, Phil Bell-Young and Chris Skinner

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