Published: October 28, 2023
By: By Sandi Schwartz
It’s the time of year when we gather around the table with family and close friends to enjoy a large, scrumptious meal and think about what we are grateful for in our lives. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and different people coming together to share a joyful moment. Yet, Thanksgiving can also get a bit out of control with all the decorations and trimmings. Here are some tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday a bit more sustainable without having to sacrifice tradition.
There’s no doubt that Thanksgiving is heavily focused on food. Here are some ways to create a feast while still being kind to the planet:
• Choose organic and locally grown foods when you can. It’s now even easier to find organic turkeys this time of year.
• Skip the meat. There are so many options now to create a vegetarian or vegan holiday meal. Consider fish for a pescatarian meal, tofurkey or just going with lots of side dishes.
• Serve organic beverages. Apple cider, juice, wine and beer have several brands to choose from.
• Reduce waste by composting leftovers. Donate them to those in need or creatively reuse the food to make soups, stews, salads and sandwiches.
• Be mindful of which food items you purchase. When at the grocery store, avoid items wrapped in excessive plastic, such as dips and pre-packaged fruit salads.
Everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers. The way you choose to store extra food can have a real impact on the environment. Here are some great alternatives to plastic storage containers that are healthier for both you and the planet.
• Airtight Glass Containers. These are a great option for storing, heating up and transporting all kinds of foods and liquids. Their secure lids keep liquids like sauces from leaking.
• Mason Jars and Leftover Glass Jars. You can purchase some mason jars to store your food in, or instead of just tossing those extra glass jars from pickles, olives, pasta sauce and salsa into your recycle bin, wash them out and use them to store your leftovers.
• Insulated Stainless Steel Containers. These durable, long-lasting containers are double-walled and have a silicone seal for airtightness so they can keep food and liquids warm or cold for hours.
• Reusable Non-Plastic Wraps. One of the most innovative ways to store food without using plastic wrap is to use reusable wraps. They are made from a blend of hemp and organic cotton cloth that contains beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil to create a self-adhesive to stick to itself so you can create sealed packages and pouches. They are water-resistant, easy to handle, soft, pliable, and come in a variety of sizes.
• Fabric Bowl Covers. Use the bowls you already have and slap a fabric bowl cover on top to store leftovers.
Many families tend to create a formal Thanksgiving dinner, bringing out good china, silverware and elegant tablecloths. This is a great way to reduce extra waste. However, some families opt for plates and utensils that they can easily discard after the meal to reduce clean-up time. Fortunately, you can still choose more sustainable options. First of all, avoid using plastic plates and utensils; instead, choose paper (recycled is best), bamboo or even those made from palm leaves. Next, be sure to use real wine glasses — not plastic ones — and don’t serve your drinks with plastic straws or stirrers. If possible, use real cloth tablecloths instead of those cheap plastic throwaway ones.
Thanksgiving begins a festive time of year when families begin to decorate their homes for the holidays. There are many ways to cut back on waste and use natural decorations that showcase the holiday season.
• Go natural. Instead of running to the stores stocked with plastic decorations, consider decorating your home more naturally by using items like plants, berries, gourds, acorns, twigs and branches, cranberry garlands, and colorful flowers and leaves. You can go for an outdoor hike a couple of days before the holiday to collect some of your special nature décor.
• Make your own. Make some of your own decorations out of non-plastic materials you have lying around the house.
• Shop secondhand. Check out local thrift stores, online sites like freecycle.org, and garage sales for some treasures that can add a sparkle to your holiday look.
• Trade with friends and family. Another way to cut back on new decorations is to organize a decoration swap with friends and family. You can even ask your guests to bring their favorite Thanksgiving decorations to display during the meal and share why it is meaningful to them.
5. Give Thanks and Give Back
Another really important way to bring the environment to the forefront of this bountiful holiday is to spend some time giving thanks for what nature provides to us. We can help protect our planet by choosing to get involved in community service projects and sending donations to organizations focused on environmental issues. Giving thanks and giving to others are linked. When we give, we feel a sense of gratitude because it puts things in perspective and helps us feel happier and healthier.
Consider buying extra food when you are shopping for your holiday meal and donate it to a local shelter or food bank. Look for special volunteer opportunities in your community during the week of Thanksgiving that help to provide a holiday meal to those in need. Finally, consider donating to an environmental organization on Giving Tuesday, a global day for sending charitable donations to organizations of your choice that always takes place the Tuesday right after Thanksgiving to kick off the season of giving.