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Green Living

Gobble Green this Thanksgiving

By Darci Palmquist

Thanksgiving is generally about three things: tradition, food and family (in no particular order). All of which can make it seem like a tough time to go green.

But look at it another way: new traditions need to start sometime, so what better day than Thanksgiving? Try going green (or greener) this year by incorporating some eco-friendly changes to your holiday shopping, food, decorations and travel with our easy — and fun — tips.

Yum…Turkey, Sweet Potatoes, Stuffing and More

First up: the meal. Make your holiday a little more Earth friendly by choosing an eco-theme for your feast, like one of our four outlined below — it's a fun way to start a new tradition with an environmental impact.

  • The Locavore: Eat Local and in Season

    This means doing as much of your Thanksgiving Day shopping as possible at local farmers markets and farms — for food items like eggs, milk, veggies, turkey, potatoes, pie fillings and more.

    The eco-benefits of eating locally? Food grown or raised in your region has fewer food miles: The carbon emissions associated with local foods are smaller. The plus for you is that local fruits and veggies usually taste better because they've been picked at the peak of freshness, rather than produce shipped from thousands of miles away that had to be picked before ripening.

    What about the turkey, you say? There's a growing number of small farms that sell turkeys directly to the public. has a searchable map so you can hone in on foods sustainably grown and raised near you.

  • The Tree-Hugger: Shop Organic

    The benefits to your health might not be proven yet, but there's no doubt that organic agriculture is better for the landscape — fewer pesticides and other toxic chemicals seeping into soil and running off into rivers and lakes.

    If you take on this eco-theme, remember to go organic from start to finish — and don't forget to include organic wines and other beverages on your menu!

    When it comes to turkey, pasture-raised, organic turkeys are the way to go. Or consider buying a heritage turkey this year, defined as centuries-old breeds of turkeys that need to be raised over longer periods of time (unlike the sped-up rearing process of today's breeds).

  • The Full Monty: Eat Local, Organic AND Vegetarian

    It's true, just one eco-theme above won't achieve maximum sustainability benefits. For instance, all local food is not necessarily organic, while organic food can be high in those food miles we mentioned earlier. What to do? Go whole hog (um, turkey) and do it all! It's the ultimate challenge for your new holiday tradition.

Now that you've chosen your theme, there's one more thing you need to decide: whether to use this as an opportunity to educate your dinner guests or not.

You could easily serve local food without saying a word to Aunt Flo and Uncle Jack. Or you could let them in on your secret and hopefully inspire others to adopt some greener habits. You don't have to preach — a subtle and fun way is to create labels for your dishes that indicate where the food came from.

It's Not Just About the Feast

What else is there to consider besides the delectables you'll be eating? Oh, just decorations, recycling, composting and travel. Here are a few quick tips to round out your big day:

  • Decorating: Use the beauty of nature instead of man-made plastic. Step outside and gather some pretty oak leaves and acorns to arrange on the table. Clip some branches and put them in a vase. Use squashes or gourds as centerpieces. Here are a few more ideas for nature decorations.

    Make sure you burn candles made from soy or beeswax rather than paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum and produce more soot than these alternatives.

  • Composting and Recycling: Do it! There's not much more to say on the subject matter — it helps reduce the amount of waste going to landfills every holiday. If you don't know how to compost, here are some easy tips for getting started.
  • Travel: Thanksgiving is often the biggest holiday for travel. And it's often something we won't compromise on just for eco-reasons. (Skip the family get-together because of climate change? That would never fly with my relatives.)

    So offset the carbon emissions of your holiday travel. Websites like TerraPass, and The Nature Conservancy's own carbon calculator help you calculate the amount of carbon you emit and offer ways of offsetting those emissions.

    If you're driving, check your air filter and make sure your tires are fully inflated; you'll reduce your carbon emissions and get better gas mileage.

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