Household waste increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's. And food is a very large part of that, especially on Thanksgiving Day. 200 million pounds of turkey is thrown out (the equivalent of six million turkeys!) and only 6.3% of Thanksgiving food waste is composted. The NRDC found that Thanksgiving waste in the US has a carbon footprint equivalent of 800,000 cars driving from Los Angeles to Florida. Yikes!
We know our community is already thinking proactively about how to have a more sustainable and thoughtful Thanksgiving celebration. Here we share a few more tips to help you feel proud AND thankful on Thursday.
Meal Planning to Minimize Food Waste: The food waste created on Thanksgiving is tragic. This step isn't rocket science, but is often overlooked by the folks organizing their Thanksgiving dinners. Taking the time to count how many people are coming, estimate portions that would be consumed by each person, and then scaling your recipes up or down accordingly will not only minimize food waste, it will also save you a lot of money.
Skip Those Meals That Never Sell: Whether it's green beans or cranberries or sweet potatoes, consider that meal or side dish that sits there on your Thanksgiving table. Maybe guests take an obligatory spoonful, but the majority of the dish is left behind. Skip them altogether this year! Save your money, save your cooking time, save your table space, and save your cleaning time. And yes...save the planet the food waste!
Recognize the True History of Thanksgiving: For many families, Thanksgiving is a day of coming together and giving thanks. This is a pretty special thing. But we also recognize the dark roots of the holiday, and the fact that day makes light of the long and bloody history between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. Take the time on Thanksgiving (or Native American Heritage Day - recognized on Friday), to read about the history of the Wampanoag people. And then...
Honor and Support Native American Communities: Consider donating to (or supporting in other ways) organizations that empower Native Americans. There are many wonderful organizations out there. One we love is AIBL, Ancient Indigenous Business Leaders.
Plan Your Food Storage In Advance: There is something special about Thanksgiving leftovers. But leftovers only happen if you have the right storage containers and enough storage containers - for yourself and your guests.
Plan Ahead for Creative Leftover Meals: As delicious as leftovers are, they get old by Saturday or Sunday. Find some creative recipes to repurpose your turkey into chili, repurpose your mashed potatoes into pancakes, repurpose your cranberry sauce into baked goods.
Skip Disposable Dishware: This is probably obvious but skip disposable dishware, disposable silverware and disposable napkins. Clean up can definitely be a pain, but see if your guests can come together and help clean up after your feast!
Skip Store Bought Decorations and Imported Flowers: Pine cones, leaves, or kids crafts are all wonderful ways to decorate your table and home. If flowers are important to you, seek out sustainably grown and (where possible) locally grown flowers.
Volunteer or Give Back: Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a food bank, purchase gifts for kids in your community in need, deliver for Meals on Wheels, or do a kindness for a neighbor by grocery shopping or preparing a meal. The opportunities to pay it forward are endless.
Take The Time For Gratitude: We love that this day has become one of gratitude. Don't let this opportunity for collective thank you's pass you by. Whether it is at a large group around the dinner table or in your journal on Thanksgiving morning, share what you are grateful for on this special day.
Finally, if you end your Thanksgiving proud of the eco progress you've made compared to years past, celebrate! Share your wins with your guests and encourage the family to do even better for the next holiday you come together for.