The holidays are a time of family, warmth, joy—and waste. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 5 million extra tons of trash are created each week. It’s easy to reduce your contribution to all that waste—and greening your Thanksgiving is a great place to start. Here are eight ideas to get you on your way.
1. Buy organic, local produce.
Support the local economy and the environment by purchasing organic produce for your Thanksgiving feast from a local farmers’ market. Better yet, participate in the 100-mile Thanksgiving Challenge. Make a meal for your family and friends using only ingredients sourced within 100 miles of your home.
2. Eat natural turkey.
Although turkeys are native to North America, today’s turkeys have little in common with their ancestors. More than 99 percent of turkeys raised in the United States today are broad-breasted white turkeys. This version is renowned for its large, meaty breast, which has become so big that these turkeys can’t reproduce on their own and must rely on human intervention to keep their species alive.
Buy a natural turkey this year. Order your family a certified organic heritage turkey, which is raised outdoors, eats a varied diet and has a more succulent flavor than turkeys raised on factory farms. Find a heritage turkey near you using Local Harvest.
3. Make just enough food.
Although Thanksgiving is a holiday renowned for its leftovers, you should still take extra care not to prepare more food than your family can eat. To help you plan your Thanksgiving feast, Use Less Stuff came up with this list of the amount of food you should make for each person:
Turkey – 1 pound
Stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes – 1/4 pound
Cranberry salad – 3 tablespoons
Pie – 1/8 of a 9-inch pie
After the meal, look at the number of guests versus the amount of leftover food and evaluate how much food was consumed. Keep track of your calculations for next year!
4. Manage leftovers.
Divide up the leftovers between your guests and send them home in reusable containers. If you have more leftovers than your family can manage, donate them to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
5. Clean house with nontoxic, green cleaners.
If you’re hosting the Thanksgiving celebration (and therefore must clean your house beforehand), be sure to use green cleaning products. Natural homemade cleaners will also get the job done, and most use basic ingredients already in your cupboard.
6. Use reusable dishes and napkins.
A horde of guests and a kitchen full of dirty pots and pans can make it tempting to set your Thanksgiving table with disposable dishes. Don’t give in! If you don’t have enough dishes or china for a crowd, pick up inexpensive used plates, which can be found in thrift stores for $1 or less. You can set a pretty—and interesting—table by selecting mismatched dishes with similar color themes.
If you must use disposable dishes, buy biodegradable and compostable dishes and utensils. Along the same lines, use cloth napkins instead of disposable ones.
7. Make your own centerpiece.
If there’s still room at your table after all the food and dishes have been set, create a homemade centerpiece. Avoid store-bought bouquets and gather items from nature. In most areas of the country, not much is in bloom, but cutting bare branches or branches with seasonal berries adds sculptural interest and connects your table to the season. You can put your hand-picked bouquet in this 60-second vase or this wood chip vase.
8. Drink organic wine.
If wine is part of your Thanksgiving feast, buy organic. Check out Natural Home’s guide to organic wine to get started.