Sustainable Thanksgiving

November 19th, 2007 BY Susan Reed | 2 Comments

As we begin to plan that lovely day of gorging ourselves silly, we can be green conscious in our Thanksgiving Menu. There are many levels of environmentally friendly ways to ‘do’ Thanksgiving, the most friendly being an all-vegetarian meal. Whether you choose to eat meat or go all vegetarian, there are some basic things you can do to lower your environmental impact:

1) Buy Local Products – Cutting the distance your food travels to your table is the easiest way to cut down on the impact that your meal has on unsightly environmental gasses. That and Beano. If you don’t happen to know a farmer, pull open your local yellow pages and look for a butcher. If you have a selection, choose one who specializes in Kosher or Halal preparations. These butchers will most frequently have access to turkeys raised less than 100 miles from where you live, frequently slaughtered on site. If you can’t find a butcher, the next best option is to choose a corn-fed organic turkey. Best would be to be able to get both, which you might be able to do at a farmer’s market. Speaking of which, the fall farmer’s markets in your area are the perfect place to get your all-natural local produce as well. Remember to always look for organic options and avoid any plastic or Styrofoam packaging.

2) Recycle – I know it goes without saying, but sometimes when family and friends are over recycling takes an extra effort. Make sure your recycling bins are clearly labeled and consider putting a threatening message on your trash can for anyone who chooses to not recycle. This is often a great time to share with less-informed family members why you choose to recycle and how they can easily help you to do so. Remind them, it’s more than just soda cans that can be recycled!

3) Compost – Fall is a great time to start if you don’t already, and composting will cut down on your waste by drastic amounts. Between composting and recycling it IS possible to make only 5 lbs of trash PER YEAR. Even if you’re not there yet, consider composting the leftovers from your dinner. For apartment and condo dwellers, consider an indoor composting trashcan like NatureMill ( or if you’ve the room an indoor compost pile. Any well-kept compost pile WILL NOT smell or attract vermin. This can frequently be a great way of surprising guests as well.

4) Don’t travel – Avoid the airport headaches, the traffic jams, the whining in the back seat. Stay home and celebrate with friends, neighbors or just immediate family. Getting in an airplane adds acres to your carbon footprint over your lifetime. If you must travel consider using the train- no traffic and the kids can run around.

5) By all means, us the good china – Many of us have ‘good’ china that stays tucked away in the cabinet because it might get broken or scratched. Instead we entertain our dearest friends and family on plastic-ware and paper plates. Pull out the good china that Grandma used to use every Thanksgiving and introduce it to your own grandkids. Tell them how special it is and teach them how to use it carefully. Not only will this help the environment it will create wonderful memories for everyone and your table will look extra-lovely.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

  1. Sunya Kjolhede

    Thank you, Susan, for your sustainable Thanksgiving tips! We actually do all these things at our annual Zen center community dinner, but it helps to have them affirmed and nicely put together, so that we can send something out to people to remind them of these points, in preparation for our vegetarian Thanksgiving potluck.

  2. Carolyn

    This fabulous post would be a perfect fit for the Mastering the Art of Sustainable Cooking contest! You can cross-post over at the contest site and help advance the discussion about ways to reduce your impact in the kitchen. Our judging panel includes Alice Waters, Gary Hirshberg and Bill McKibben, and top entries win prizes like eco-friendly kitchenware and Amazon Kindle DXs (to load with cookbooks, of course!) ;-)

    Thanks for sharing these tips, Susan!

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