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How to Have a Sustainable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Although the holidays are often periods of heightened waste and consumption, transforming your Thanksgiving celebration into a sustainable holiday can be easier than you think. Keep reading for some of our tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving! 

How to Have a Sustainable Thanksgiving

Sustainable Menu 

While turkey and other poultry products do have a much lower carbon footprint than red meat, consider swapping the bird for a meat-less option. Substituting turkey can be surprisingly easy given the number of creative recipes for turkey alternatives as well as the popular Tofurky replacement available in most grocery stores. If you and your guests aren’t ready to go turkey-free just yet, try to reduce the size of turkey you purchase and supplement with plant-based sides.  

Either way, a traditional Thanksgiving menu can be achieved more sustainable by sourcing local ingredients. Since typical Thanksgiving food is seasonal, an autumnal and authentic menu should be easy to find. However, if there are no local options, look for organic options. If possible, buying from local indigenous farmers is a great way to recognize the history of the holiday. 

Approximately one-third of the US food supply is never eaten, and an excessive Thanksgiving feast can often contribute to food waste. Luckily, there are many ways to minimize your food imprint before, during and after your holiday meal. 

Plan your menu beforehand and coordinate which guests about what to bring to avoid any repeat dishes or surplus food. Double-check your shopping cart before checking out to ensure you only buy what is needed. While you’re coordinating with your friends and family, remind them to bring reusable containers to take home leftovers. You can reduce food waste during the cooking process as well. For example, turn carrot and potato peels, onion and garlic skins, celery fronds, and any other veggie scraps into a zero-waste vegetable broth. 

Delicious Thanksgiving leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving. Use your leftovers as an excuse to get together once more with loved ones to polish off the remaining mashed potatoes and pumpkin pies. Or, get creative and test out different recipes for repurposing and reinvigorating Thanksgiving leftovers. If you have more food than you or your guests can handle, consider donating extra non-perishables like boxed stuffing, canned vegetables, or cranberry sauce to a local food bank. 

Sustainable Decor 

Think twice about single-use tableware: those plastic plates, cups and cutlery generate millions of tons of waste each year. If you’re in need of new dishware, your local thrift store or online marketplace is sure to have a number of options for an affordable price. Alternatively, ask guests to bring some of their own utensils or dishes to avoid buying unneeded supplies.  

Disposable decor can easily contribute to holiday waste: instead of purchasing cheap, plastic decorations, source your ornamentation from the outdoors. Squashes, pumpkins, chestnuts, and gourds are a cheery seasonal touch that can easily be used for later meals. Dried flowers and foliage from your backyard or neighborhood can be another lovely addition to the festive cheer. Finish it off with eco-friendly candles, reusable napkins and a tablecloth for the ultimate sustainable tablescape.