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.
A Green Feast
Make your holiday a little more Earth friendly with any one of these four tips.
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. Localharvest.org has a searchable map so you can hone in on foods sustainably grown and raised near you, including the turkey.
- 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.
- The benefits to your health might not be proven, 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.
- Try 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).
- Eating vegetarian has been touted as one of the best ways to help save the planet. Conventional meat production is a major cause of deforestation and global greenhouse gas emissions — more so than the transportation sector, according to a 2006 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- The feast usually has so many vegetable-based sides — mashed potatoes, caramelized brussel sprouts, roasted carrots, pumpkin soup, cranberry sauce and more — that you could easily go without a main course and feel completely satisfied. And have room left for dessert! Check out these veggie menu ideas.
- If you want to try out a turkey alternative, there are plenty of companies making tofurkey (described by Wikipedia as "a loaf of vegetarian protein"). See some of the options, plus recipes for preparing your fake bird.
Eat Local, Organic AND Vegetarian
The real way to make a difference, though, is to remember there isn't a silver bullet when it comes to conservation; there are many "buckshot" ways to make a difference. Think about it: organic food may have traveled far to reach your plate, and local food may not necessarily be organic. So combine the best parts of all three, as you see fit.
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:
- 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.
- 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. The Nature Conservancy's own carbon calculator can 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.