Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the winter holiday season, and it’s when people gather together to give thanks before they start shopping for gifts for parents, kids, and friends. It’s a holiday that commemorates appreciating all that you have, and going green for Thanksgiving is a great way to show some appreciation for the earth.
There are plenty of ways to adapt your family holiday traditions for a sustainable Thanksgiving. With these tips for a green Thanksgiving, you’ll be able to reduce, reuse, and recycle for a healthier planet and happier holiday.
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Plan Ahead For a Sustainable Thanksgiving
The first step to a successful green Thanksgiving is having a good plan in place. If you’re in charge of the holiday meal, this means making a list of all the foods on the menu and all of the necessary ingredients for each dish. Then, look for the greenest ways to procure, store, and make use of these ingredients.
While you’re planning the Thanksgiving menu, be honest. Are there dishes that are always leftover because people don’t really like them? Are there recipes that use just a pinch of a rare ingredient that always ends up either in the garbage or the back of the pantry?
You should cut these dishes out of your menu as a proactive way to support a more sustainable Thanksgiving.
Before you go shopping for all of the ingredients for a huge Thanksgiving meal, you should check your fridge, pantry, and spice cabinet to see what you already have. Oftentimes, people forget to use up what they already have around the house.
If you have a good idea of what’s already available to you — especially in terms of spices, canned goods, and other non-perishable items — you can cut down on food waste and have a more sustainable Thanksgiving before you even start cooking.
Shop Locally and in Season
When it comes time to go shopping for all of the necessities, you should opt for locally-sourced ingredients that are in season. This is especially true for any fruits and vegetables you’re planning to buy.
When you buy local, in-season products, you’re not only supporting your local economy: you’re also cutting down on the fuel needed to ship fruits and veggies from far away, as well as the water and energy resources needed to grow to produce out-of-season.
Go For Reusables For a Sustainable Thanksgiving
Insist on reusable everything, from start to finish. Cook with reusable pans instead of disposable aluminum ones. Serve food on reusable dishes, even if it isn’t the finest china in the cabinet.
Store extra food in reusable containers, or reuse empty packaging from the ingredients to send everyone home with some Thanksgiving leftovers.
Eat Less Meat
Perhaps one of the easiest and most effective ways to have a sustainable Thanksgiving is to simply serve and/or eat less meat. There’s almost always leftover turkey at the end of the meal; make sure that none of it gets thrown out, and plan ahead for ways to incorporate those leftovers into meals after the holiday.
Serve only one type of meat (if you decide to serve meat at all), and reduce the portion size per person. This helps bring the total carbon footprint of the meal down drastically, with just a few adjustments.
Reduce Food Waste
The spirit of a sustainable Thanksgiving doesn’t start with buying the ingredients, and it doesn’t end with a nap after the big meal. Instead, the whole process should be geared towards reducing food waste, from the planning to the leftovers.
The first step is to shop according to the portions you expect people to eat. It’s pretty straightforward: don’t buy more food than you know your group will eat.
Reducing food waste for a sustainable Thanksgiving also means that you should be thinking ahead for each ingredient: How can you use it in the future? What will you do with the leftovers? If the leftovers are going to end up in the garbage, simply don’t make that dish.
Involve the Whole Group
To have a truly sustainable Thanksgiving takes teamwork and buy-in from the whole group. Remember, when you make green thinking and living a part of your lifestyle, your traditions and views change, too.
You can carry these changes into more sustainable Thanksgiving traditions so that you can celebrate this holiday sustainably every year!
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Erin is the mother of identical twin girls and their slightly older brother. She is a domestic engineer, and previously had a career leading customer service teams for a major HVAC company. Cleaning without harsh chemicals, and cooking easy and usually healthy meals are part of Erin's daily life. She volunteers with youth leaders, and genuinely wants to help others win. Erin has a degree in Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism.