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 together. 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 to create a vegetarian or vegan holiday meal. Consider fish for a pescatarian meal, tofurky, or just going with lots of side dishes.
- Serve organic beverages like apple cider, juice, wine, and beer.
- Reduce food waste. You can compost the leftovers or donate them to those in need. Or, get creative reusing the food to make soups, stews, salads, and sandwiches.
- Be mindful of your purchases at the grocery store and avoid those wrapped in excessive plastic, such as dips and pre-packaged fruit salads.
Everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers. The way you choose to store all of that extra food after the big meal 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: Store your leftover food in mason jars. Even better, instead of 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. These sustainable products can be made from cotton cloth with bee’s wax, vegan plant-based candelilla wax, or non-GMO Soy wax. You can purchase them or make your own! They are water-resistant, easy to handle, soft, pliable, come in a variety of sizes, and smell fabulous.
- 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 pretty formal Thanksgiving dinner, bringing out the good china, silverware, and eloquent 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 options that are more sustainable. 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 the waste and go natural with decorations that still showcase the comforting colors and themes of this holiday.
- Go natural: Instead of running to the stores stocked with plastic decorations, consider decorating your home more naturally. Use items like plants, berries, gourds, acorns, twigs and branches, cranberry garlands, and colorful flowers and leaves. You can go for a lovely hike outdoors a couple of days before the holiday to collect 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 second hand: 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 decoration to display during the meal and share why it is meaningful to them.
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 to what nature provides to us. This is also the time of year in which giving back becomes a focus. We can help protect our planet by choosing to get involved in community service projects and sending donations to organizations focused on environmental issues. In fact, 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 volunteer opportunities in your community during the week of Thanksgiving that help to provide a holiday meal to those in need. Finally, consider sending a donation to an environmental organization on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a global day for sending charitable donations to organizations of your choice that takes place the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving to kick off the season of giving.