Updated: Nov 12
Each year, Americans waste millions of pounds of food on Thanksgiving. Experts estimate around 200 million pounds of turkey will go to waste this Thanksgiving. According to the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes and 30 million pounds of stuffing will head into trash cans as well (News Channel 5). As we approach the wonderful holiday filled with delicious food, football, and laughter, there are a few things to be mindful of that not only will give you a memorable Thanksgiving, but also one that has a minimal impact on the environment. Below are 8 sustainable ways to revamp your Thanksgiving traditions and even start some new ones.
1. Buy Local
First, start by planning out all the ingredients you need to make your dish. Making a list (and remembering to take it with you) will ensure that you only need to head out once, reducing your carbon emissions and saving you time during the busy season. Once you make your list, head over to your local farmers market or community market. From there you can pick up the other ingredients at your supermarket. If you can, make sure to shop organic if that fits within your budget.
Perhaps the greatest gift of all is the gift of service. Thanksgiving is a day of being thankful and why not channel that energy into helping your community? Many cities have programs where you can help during the holidays. Donating to your local food bank, sending care packages to service members, and serving warm meals at the food kitchen are just a few of the many ways you can help. Check your city website for more information on ways to help.
3. Get Outside
Making time around the preparations and the feasting to get outside is a fun way to connect and play with loved ones. Let the kids throw around the football, go on a walk and admire the fall leaves, or even make snow angels (if snow is available to you).
4. Rethink Black Friday
Avoid purchasing things that you don't need. The lure of Black Friday and Cyber Monday brings millions to the stores in the wee hours of the night. Stores stocked full of your favorite electronics, appliances, and apparel. But first you must complete the challenge of climbing over people who want it as bad as you. Not to mention we set out on this voyage of greed only hours after being thankful for the things we already have. So be mindful of the things you want to buy and ask yourself if you actually need it.
5. Travel Responsibly
During the holidays, we travel more. Visiting Grandma and Grandpa, cousins, and old friends. Reconsider traveling by car and instead opt for bus or train if that is an option for you. More than 55 million travelers are making plans for the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving (Newsroom AAA).
6. Repurposing Scraps & Leftovers
Because there is such an astronomical expectancy for food waste on Thanksgiving, it is important to be mindful of the food you are eating. Take a smaller portion for your first helping and if you decide you want more after, then go back for seconds. This will help eliminate waste right off the bat.
Next, if you end up with more leftovers than you can eat within a day or so, freezing it is a great option to enjoy that tasty meal when you’re craving it. There are also lots of recipes you can make with Thanksgiving leftovers. Check them out here!
Lastly, if you find yourself with lots of food scraps such as peels, shells, and rinds…compost them! Check out this list to find out which foods you can compost, and recycle. You will find out that there are a lot of better places for scrap items to end up than the landfill.
7. Table Settings
Rethink the way you set your table this Thanksgiving. There is no better holiday than Thanksgiving to start being less wasteful. Go for reusable cutlery instead of single use paper and plastics. Don’t forget a reusable tablecloth as well, these add lots of character to a dining room. You can add potted plants to the table to bring in some color. Use pinecones, colored leaves, and branches to make for a rustic yet classy table setting. For more inspiration on this, visit this article.
8. Eat Your Veggies
For many of us, Turkey is a staple on Thanksgiving. Also, for many of us, we tend to over-indulge in foods that aren’t good for us. Consider adding more vegetables to your plate (they can be tasty, I promise). Sautéing carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms make for a colorful addition to the table buffet. Roasting squash and beets adds seasonal flare as well. There are so many wonderful veggie recipes to incorporate into your traditional plates. Head on over to the Food Network to discover some uniquely delicious recipes for Thanksgiving veggies. If you aren’t ready to go full-vegetarian, be mindful with your meat portions and fill up on an array of veggies.
Whether you choose to adopt one or all of these sustainable tips, know that you are doing something good for the environment, which in turn, is also doing something good for you. Let’s go back to basics on this holiday and remember what it is all about, being thankful. Thanking the Earth we live on for providing us with beautiful landscapes and natural resources that it so freely gives. Thanking our friends and family for being there to support us and laugh with us. Lastly, thanking ourselves for being resilient, intelligent, and willing to learn.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and let me know in the comments which tips you will be adopting this holiday season.