Thanksgiving is known as the season for golden yellows, burnt oranges and deep reds, but, this year, you can make yours a little bit greener. And you can do so without sacrificing any bit of the year’s biggest feast — one that tends to be super wasteful, which means your efforts could actually make a difference to the earth at-large.
To have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving this year, here are five green Thanksgiving food preparation tips.
1. Don’t Use Disposable Dinnerware
With a large party to feed, it may seem easier to forego traditional table settings for paper and plastic ones. And, while this certainly aids with cleanup, it does nothing to help reduce your footprint. Instead, use the holiday as an excuse to pull out all the reusable stops. Arm your guests not only with reusable flatware but with washable, reusable napkins, too. In every place that you can use a washable tool, do so — you’ll cut down on post-holiday waste that way.
If your party is simply too big, there’s one compromise: you can use disposable napkins, plates, cups and flatware so long as it’s all made from 100 percent recycled materials.
2. Plan a Plant-Centric Menu
In 2012, Americans consumed a whopping 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving. Turkey isn’t one of the biggest offenders when it comes to the carbon footprint created by cultivating livestock, but the transport of meat requires lots of fuel, especially on high-demand holidays like Thanksgiving.
As such, you should try and build your menu around plant-based dishes that require fewer resources to cultivate and harvest. You get bonus points if you use fruits and vegetables that are in-season. Chances are, your favorite Thanksgiving recipes already contain those flavors anyway, but make sure you’re shopping for the season to stay green and potentially save money, to boot.
3. Order Smart, Too
Your Thanksgiving plans could potentially bring you to a restaurant, or you may have Friendsgiving celebrations at your favorite local eatery. Either way, you know you’ll be out to eat this holiday season, and it’s worth learning the ways you can be eco-friendly while you’re at a restaurant, too.
There are so many ways to do it. For one, you can order tap water instead of bottled beverages so that you don’t have to worry about staffers throwing your finished plastic bottle into the trash instead of the recycling. You can take your leftovers to go to cut down on waste or choose a restaurant with a farm-to-table menu so that you know the ingredients are from nearby and not shipped over large distances, thus wasting fuel.
With a few steps in mind, your Thanksgiving dinner parties — and Christmas dinner parties, and New Year’s dinner parties — will all be eco-friendlier.
4. Buy Fresh, Local and Organic
We’ve already touched on the importance of local produce, but it’s worth reiterating, especially when you’re planning a huge shop for your Thanksgiving feast. If you buy from local shops and farmers, you know your products have traveled less of a distance and therefore required less fuel to make their way to your table. This makes your menu instantly greener.
Fresh foods cut down on the energy required to preserve and store canned and bottled foodstuffs. And organic products help preserve the ecosystem and boost soil quality in a way that traditional farming cannot. In the long term, organic farming can stall soil erosion, reduce nutrient loss and hold onto water in a drought. All of these are benefits to the earth that you can help facilitate.
5. Compost What You Can
If you don’t have a compost bin already, make your own before Thanksgiving rolls around so that you can use your leftovers in an earth-friendly way. Rather than contributing to the huge quantity of food that’s wasted post-Thanksgiving, you can reuse your scraps and leftovers to fertilize your garden. It’s a pretty simple process, too, once you get the hang of composting: toss your leftovers in and wait until they make rich, natural fertilizer for your flowers and produce.
Have a Green Thanksgiving
With these tips in mind — and the many other ways you can make your holiday eco-friendlier — you’ll find your holiday even more blissful as you protect the earth and serve a delicious meal to your loved ones. There’s no better feeling than that; in fact, it’s what the holidays are all about.