Canadian Thanksgiving is a couple days away, and American Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Traditionally, Thanksgiving was a time to celebrate the bounties of the harvest – gathering together family and friends to appreciate the food that was fresh from the fields. In that spirit, we should celebrate Thanksgiving as an occasion to be thankful for our environment and the natural world, and there is no better way to observe this occasion than using it as an opportunity to practice environmental responsibility.
Here are 7 ways you can make your Thanksgiving more environmentally friendly.
- Reusable or Biodegradable Dishes
Got a crowd coming? It can be tempting to switch to disposable plates and cutlery to simplify clean up. Unfortunately, plastic single-use dishes are horrible for the environment. Styrofoam – the lightweight plastic used to make many many disposable plates and cups – takes 500 years to decompose!
Take this opportunity to use your good dishware. Clean-up will be a bit of extra work, but it is a huge help for the environment! If you really don’t have the time, consider grabbing some biodegradable single-use dishes instead.
- Limit Carbon Footprint of Transit
Think about your transit plans – is it possible to limit your carbon footprint? Is there someone you can (safely) carpool with? Can you participate in Thanksgiving “virtually”? Given the global situation, this is an especially good year to hold smaller family gatherings in your area, rather than travelling across the country to bring everybody together. This will keep everybody safe and lower their carbon footprint.
Most of all, avoid planes! Airplanes have almost 10x the emissions of taking the train, and pose a safety risk due to the coronavirus. Sometimes planes are necessary, but you should think carefully about whether now is a good time to travel by air.
- Don’t Use Disposable Plastic Decorations
It’s fun to cover the house in festive decorations, but this can be wasteful. Single-use decorations are often made with a combination of cheap plastic and wax-coated paper cardboard, making them impossible to recycle. If you can afford it, spend the extra money to buy higher quality decorations that can be reused year-after-year. For an inexpensive alternative, try finding decorations in nature, like colorful leaves and pine cones. As a bonus, this is a great activity for kids!
- Stick With Turkey over Roast Beef
Turkey is the traditional main course served at Thanksgiving, but some families prefer to serve a different meat, and others might add a second protein to the meal. If your family likes to mix things up, consider skipping the beef and lamb – these meats have a massive environmental impact! One kilogram of beef leads to an equivalent of 27 kilograms of CO2, while a kilogram of turkey is responsible for just under 11 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Better yet, consider going full vegetarian for the occasion! Pound-for-pound, tofu has 20% of the emissions from turkey, and less than 10% of the emissions from beef.
- Environmentally Conscious Menu Planning and Food Prep
Cooking for a crowd can lead to a lot of food waste, but you can limit this with a bit of forethought. Planning is the key – make sure you have all the ingredients in the amounts you need. Buying in bulk can seem like a bargain, but often the extra just goes in the trash.
Thanksgiving is also a great opportunity to cook with produce grown in your region. Local food has a lower environmental impact due to reduced travel distances, and has the benefit of supporting local farmers, and tastes fresh! Do some research to find what is produced in your area, and use it as inspiration for your menu.
Still got food “waste”? Try saving it to make stock! The bones from the turkey, the skins from onions, or the stems from your herbs can all go in your stock or broth. After you are done, be sure to throw your vegetable waste or unfinished food into the compost. You can learn more about setting up your own compost bin here.
- Good Tupperware is Good for the Environment
Which is better, Thanksgiving dinner, or Thanksgiving leftovers? There is something magical about reheated turkey with gravy – it just seems to pick up more flavor. If you want to get the most mileage out of your leftovers, invest in good tupperware! Cheap plastic containers do a bad job of protecting your food, meaning it spoils more quickly. Not only that, the tupperware is less durable, meaning it will not last as long. Buy some high quality containers to extend the shelf-life of your food and reduce the waste of your containers.
The only thing worse than bad food containers is single-use containers! Aluminum or styrofoam take-away boxes may be convenient, but they almost always end up in a landfill. If you want to send leftovers home with your guests, consider asking them to bring their own tupperware from home.
- Level-Up Your Leftovers!
Thanksgiving leftovers are great, but there is only so much reheated turkey and mashed potatoes one person can eat. Luckily, there are lots of tricks to level-up your leftovers! Soups, sandwiches, and pies are all wonderful ways to get extra mileage out of your extra food. Here is one video that may give you some fun ideas:
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to practice environmental responsibility, and with these tips you can make your gathering as eco-conscious as possible. Not only will these tricks reduce the footprint of your family today, but these can become the first steps in building better eco-friendly habits around the house.
Do you have any more ideas on how to celebrate a greener Thanksgiving? Leave them in the comments section!