Thanksgiving is a holiday near and dear to my heart - full of traditions, food, and family. I have always loved to help my family with preparations, especially while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Fall is also my favorite season - I love the colors, the weather, and most of all, the foods that are in season. With all the preparation that goes into orchestrating the perfect Thanksgiving meal, I’m sure the last thing on everyone’s mind is how to make their meal more sustainable, but it’s really not that hard, and it can make a big difference in the overall impact of your holiday meal. The following list outlines my top five tips for a more eco-friendly Thanksgiving meal.
- Know your Guests: Make sure to keep in mind your guests’ dietary requirements so you can plan a meal that your guests will be able to eat. Be sure to check in with your guests to know what allergies, restrictions, and diets everyone is eating. This will ensure that you create less food waste on the big day and make your grocery shopping and menu planning much easier.
- Plan your Meal: Once you know what you’re working with when it comes to guests, create a shopping list. While doing your prep work, be sure to keep in mind where you will be getting all of your food. Turkey is a Thanksgiving staple, but is there a more sustainable source where you can get your turkey and other staples from? Shopping local and organic as much as possible can make a difference when planning such a large meal and can even be more cost effective. You could also consider going meatless on the big day, but if this is too much for you, you could also go meatless the day before to reduce your planetary impact.
- Cleaning and Décor: everyone likes a festive, well decorated house to spend their Thanksgiving in. This year, try to stick to reusable dinnerware such as cloth napkins. Try to choose décor that is reusable, organic, or secondhand. Instead of your traditional fall wreath, you could get a living succulent wreath and dress it up for each season and holiday. And of course, store reusable items properly for use in the future.
- Be mindful of your leftovers: According to the USDA, Americans waste about 133 billion pounds of food per year! Try to make it your goal this Thanksgiving to lessen your waste by using leftovers, composting, and recycling. You can use your leftovers for future lunches or dinners or even soup from some of the meat and vegetable scraps. You can also compost anything that might not be worth saving, and recycle items that you might otherwise throw away such as broken decorations, boxes or bags used for transporting food, and even non-reusable dinnerware, in some cases.
- Get outside: This is definitely the most fun tip. Take some time this Thanksgiving holiday to reconnect with nature. The beautiful crisp fall weather is perfect for hiking and if there’s snow, even some skiing. Give thanks to Mother Nature for the food she provides during a long walk or hike outside in the fresh air.
I hope these five tips can help you to have a more fun, challenging, and eco-friendly holiday this year!
Addie Snyder was a Naturalist this summer at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. Addie is a Pennsylvania native, nature nerd, and self-proclaimed “foodie”.