In my family, Thanksgiving was always the most stressful of holidays. Would there be enough food? Would so-and-so come? Would the house be clean enough? Rarely among those concerns was, how sustainable is this holiday? Well, times they are a changing and this Thanksgiving we’ll have a local turkey, relatives arriving via carpools and organic wine. You can join the green Thanksgiving festivities with these easy tips.
Really, Thanksgiving is all about the food, but you don’t have to skimp on the stuffing to make this Thanksgiving more sustainable than last. Most families will not be convinced to give up the turkey this Thanksgiving. If you can go vegetarian or turkey free, more power to you; if not here are some alternatives:
- Make a shopping list before you go out. Trying to think on the fly will cause unnecessary purchases. Making the list well in advance will allow you to look for the best local options, rather than making frantic last minute decisions. Try to minimize car mileage by planning your route precisely.
- Buy local and/or organic. Thanksgiving is all about using your local resources to make delicious food. Get your turkey from you local farmer’s market or local producers. You can look for a turkey provider near you, here.
It’s not just about the turkey!
- Take the 100-Mile Thanksgiving Challenge, and keep all your Thanksgiving foods close to home. If you’re in Albany, Seattle, Washington, Kansas City, Flagstaff, or Montgomery, The Daily Green has prepared 100 Mile Challenge recipes to use.
- Drink green. Only buy wines with real cork stoppers, rather than plastic. Trees are not cut down for cork, and it is a crucial part of the forestry industry. Look for organic wines and liquors, and freshen tap water with a filter and some lemons.
- As the food coma starts to set in, think about your leftovers before you take that oh so alluring nap.
- Avoid plastic wrap. Most plastic wraps contain PVC which quickly winds up in landfills and has been linked to harmful environmental consequences. Use aluminum foil or, even better, send family home with glass or ceramic storage containers that they can return to you after. (The really conscientious may bring their own reusable leftover container, just in case…)
- Keep your hands dry! A new study from the University of Bonn in Germany found that your dishwasher uses less soap, half the energy and 1/6 of the water you might during hand washing. Air dry the dishes rather than heat drying them.
- Donate your fat. If you’re in Texas, call up Plano and see if they’re still collecting turkey fat and turning it into biofuel.
- Donate leftover food to a shelter or food bank.
Thanksgiving is also about getting connected with family. For some, it’s the one time in the year where everyone is in the same room. Go green together!
- Know your guests. Does Aunt Susan only eat white meat? Is Danny a vegetarian? Knowing who’s coming and what they’re expecting will help you shop efficiently and maximize your green options for each person.
- Pick a location that’s easy for everyone to get to. The less air travel the better, and if you do fly consider carbon-reducing efforts to make up for it.
- Carpool. Pick each other up on the way.
- Try to avoid sitting around the television on Thanksgiving Day. Many towns have live parades, and your childrens’ school friends might be playing in football games in the area. If you have diehard fans in the mix, make sure they’re all watching the same television, and aren’t scattered throughout the house. Take the football out of the closet and see if anyone’s apt to want to throw the ball around, or organize an informal game of touch.
Home made decorations can be both fun and green.
- Send online invitations or organic ones.
- Thanksgiving is an earthy time. Use your creativity with sticks, stones, leaves, flowers and branches from your backyard or neighborhood.
- If you can’t get sticks or don’t want to get crafty, look for organic floral arrangements at your local farmers market or online.
- Use non-toxic cleaners to get that mom-level-clean before she actually shows up.