I wasn’t immediately struck with a long list of ways to have a green Thanksgiving but once I thought about it, I came up with a bunch of doable ways to make it a green Thanksgiving celebration.
Off to visit family and friends with millions of other people? 🙂 We are too, and I’m mentally preparing for the 5+ hour car ride with 3 adults, three kids under 12 and an 80 pound dog. Not only will we need all sorts of entertainment (games, crafts and electronics) to keep us busy (sane) but we’ll also need lots of nourishment (junk food) to keep us energized.
Pack crafts and games you already have around the house in reusable bags and containers instead of hitting the store to purchase new items – eliminating packaging waste. Bring used printer paper for coloring, painting and games of hangman. You get the idea, right?
Snacks are essential for a 5 hour+ drive! If you need to stock up, avoid buying individually packaged snacks since they create so much more waste! Instead, buy regular or bulk sizes and pack in a reusable container. Or make individual snack packs for everyone in the car!
The same goes for drinks. Go with reusable bottles and thermoses, instead of individually packaged juice bags, boxes and bottles. Besides, fewer beverages, means fewer bathroom stops!
When you get to your destination you can wash out your snack and drink containers so they will be ready to fill back up for the return trip!
Despite packing lots of reusables you are still likely to produce some trash. Maybe you treated the gang to lollipops to keep ‘em quiet for a while? Maybe you needed that double-shot, grande skim latte to keep you going. Or maybe those 50 masterpiece drawings don’t really need to be saved and displayed on the fridge. To avoid the gas station trash can dump, set up a mini recycling center and hold on to trash and recyclables until you reach your destination. If you’re like us space is limited so even using two (or three) small reusable shopping bags to sort trash while you’re on the go works.
Green Hostess Gifts
It’s nice to show up with a little something for your host, right? Why not make it a green Thanksgiving gift – and no I’m not suggesting you show up with a compost bin or a pack of LED bulbs!
What about arriving with a festive pack of cloth napkins ready to use on Thanksgiving…and beyond?! They can make a table greener by avoiding paper napkins!
Another nice hostess gift is a candle but opt for 100% beeswax. Paraffin candles, the kind you are likely familiar with, are petroleum based which means you could be exposing your family to a number of harmful fumes. Additionally, scented candles may also release toxins from the chemicals used to give them their scent. I’ve seen beeswax candles available in a variety of common stores so no need to race all over trying to track them down.
Lastly, a nice homemade baked treat is always welcome. (100 Days of Real Food is a great recipe resource!) Try to use organic ingredients and, if possible, locally grown, in-season produce. Going organic means no pesticides, which is healthier for you and the environment. Buying local supports area farmers and reduces the amount of fuel needed to transport food to you. Even if your pie crust is pre-made and not from scratch with organic ingredients, can you get the apples for your pie at the local farmers market instead of the grocery store where they may have traveled many miles, using tons of fuel to get there?
Hosting at Home
You’ll have enough to worry about if you’re hosting a Thanksgiving feast at your home! You’ll be cooking, cleaning and decorating but here are a few tips for a green Thanksgiving twist.
Hopefully you’ll be using cloth napkins and real plates and silverware for dinner. If not, consider doing so! A finger licking, all-day feast can mean lots and lots of paper napkins being used… all heading to the landfill! It may mean you have to do an extra load of laundry or dishes but it’s worth it.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful right, but it’s also about the food – and lots of it usually. Consider this, according to a recently published survey, Americans wasted 33.79 million tons of food in 2010. And each year Americans throw away more than 50 million tons of food, which heads straight to a landfill.
Who doesn’t love a cold plate of stuffing for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving…but probably not three days later, right? Do your best to estimate the amount of food you need to buy and prepare for the guests you’ll be serving. I am really bad at this but still try to get close to reduce food waste!
Before your guests arrive, stock up on reusable containers (not plastic baggies!) so you can send them on their way with leftovers to eat (and a container to reuse!). This will hopefully cut down on the amount of food wasted and thrown away.
Also arm yourself with the needed supplies for freezing leftovers right away. Who knows, you may have enough for another Thanksgiving feast on New Year’s Day!
Finally, consider setting up a compost bin in your yard. There’s no better time like the present to get it going with a big batch of vegetable scraps from Thanksgiving! Check out this composter for the backyard and this countertop bin to collect scraps inside. For more details on composting check out this guest post, “Why Compost?”.
I know that we can’t do it all, all the time but even small steps that we take do matter and make a difference. They set an example for our children and give us a moment to think about all we have to be thankful for, including the resources our planet provides. This Thanksgiving give it some thought…as you reach for another spoonful of stuffing! Happy green Thanksgiving!