Thanksgiving: a time honored tradition of feasting and football. While it’s well-known that this is the day where we all stuff our faces, there is a lot more to the 4th Thursday in November. It’s a day to give thanks, to give back, to appreciate a great meal and great company. Unfortunately, the aftermath of this treasured holiday has detrimental effects on the environment. This year, we encourage you to combat these effects by doing your best to take part in a sustainable Thanksgiving holiday. Below we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you make your Thanksgiving a healthy and eco-friendly day for all the important people in your life:
BYO shopping bags: Shopping for the big meal requires a lot of bags. Bring reusable shopping bags (many grocery stores have them available for purchase), or simply bring used plastic bags with you to reduce unnecessary waste.
Think local, think natural: When shopping for the items off your list, check your local farmers markets first. Not only is the produce fresher, you are also helping to support local agriculture and cut down on food miles. If you do have to go to a supermarket, choose organic foods! By selecting organic foods you are doing your part to reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, while simultaneously providing you and your guests with a safer and tastier meal.
Get more of the food you buy: If you are cooking pumpkins or squash, roast the seeds for a snack or garnish for soups. Use leftover bits of turkey and vegetables as additions to stews or salads—get creative with using up all the parts of the food you have purchased to reduce waste!
Double check what you already have: Before heading out to the store, double check what ingredients you already have on hand. We often forget about canned goods, pastas, herbs, and spices that can save us time and money, as well as inspire us to try new and exciting recipes.
Eat less meat: While we know the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving Day meal is usually a bird, consider adding more green options as sides to help offset the environmental effect. What effect, you ask? The meat industry is the number one source of methane gas, which is a major contributor to climate change. Supplement your plates with a variety of healthy sides like squash, carrots, green beans, and Brussel sprouts.
Reconsider the turkey: The only way we can produce 46 million turkeys for consumption on one day is to factory farm turkeys, a process widely considered to be inhumane. Add the fact that livestock is responsible for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions, and it becomes clear that turkey day is not very environmentally friendly. If you can’t stomach the idea of having Thanksgiving without a turkey, try to choose one that is humanely raised vs. factory farmed. Or, if you can do without the turkey but not without any meat, consider using venison steaks.
Grow your own veggies: If you have the room, the will, and the time, start growing some of your own herbs and produce! You can start simple with some herbs: all you need are some seeds, fertilizer, an area with sunshine, and a reminder to water them from time to time to get started.
Keep it moving: We all have experienced the after-dinner food coma. Combat this effect by taking part in a Turkey Trot 5K the morning of, tossing around the pigskin with some of your family members, or going for a walk at the local park.
Use reusable: Use reusable dinnerware, glasses, and napkins to reduce the amount of items that will wind up in landfills — a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Nature-fy your centerpiece: Instead of buying a centerpiece for the table, collect leaves or other natural items to color the table with. Make a homemade wreath. Create a new decoration by using some old candles and surrounding them with acorns and pinecones. Get creative — and if you aren’t creative, use Pinterest!
Drink tap: Americans spend around $18 billion each year on bottled water, much of which is actually tap water mixed with toxins from their plastic containers, which will sit in a landfill for years to come. If you’re concerned about the quality of your drinking water, opt for a filter on your tap. If you are feeling adventurous, try infusing your water with cranberry and mint in the spirit of the holiday!
Give thanks: Don’t forget about the point of Thanksgiving! This is a day to be mindful of the blessings we have, but also to give back to others that don’t. Make a donation to support a cause you care about. Companies like Meals on Wheels and Feeding America deliver meals to millions of people every day and work to end hunger in America. Some of your favorite organizations, such as Hello Fresh, have Thanksgiving-specific initiatives that allow you to give back as well–look up ways to donate or places to volunteer before your meal.
Save your scraps: Stats indicate the average US family wastes $600 in food annually. Rather than throwing out your uneaten fruits and vegetables, compost them. Many major cities offer compost bins, if yours does not, purchase your own bin and transform your Thanksgiving scraps into fertilizer for your garden.
Avoid any Black Friday shopping: In 2014, 133 million Americans took part in Black Friday. Instead of waiting indoors and in long lines all day — GET OUTSIDE! It’s a great day to go for a hike, connect with friends, read, paint, and relax. Make it a tradition to use this time off to connect with the things that are important in your life.
Hopefully these tips help make your Thanksgiving holiday a bit more special AND sustainable. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and be sure to check back in with our blog each week for new tips on how you can live a more sustainable lifestyle.