Thanksgiving is a time of getting together with the family, practicing gratitude, and enjoying delicious food. Unfortunately, it’s also a time where our carbon footprint may be at its highest. Here are a few simple ways to enjoy a more sustainable holiday.
Buy Only What You Need
Thanksgiving is a time when we tend to go overboard with food. After all, who doesn’t love piling their plate high with turkey, baked mac and cheese, and other Thanksgiving classics? Unfortunately, a lot of this extra food will end up in the trash and ultimately, in our landfills. It’s estimated that Americans waste 305 million pounds of food during Thanksgiving. Turkeys account for more than half of holiday food wastage, with side dishes like potatoes and casseroles making up another big chunk. All things considered, the average family of four will waste around $1500 in uneaten food.
You don’t need to overindulge just because it’s a holiday. Here are a few ways to reduce food wastage during the holiday season:
Check your fridge and pantry to see if you already have ingredients on hand
Carefully plan your Thanksgiving meals based on the number of guests you’ll be feeding
Use leftovers to prepare lunches and dinners during the days after Thanksgiving
Ensure proper storage of leftovers. Consider that some dishes may need to be frozen.
Compost food scraps such as eggshells, vegetable peels and leftover salads
Veggie scraps can also be frozen and used to make stock or soup later
Find out if guests will be bringing food so you don’t end up duplicating dishes
If you’re experimenting with a new dish and aren’t sure if guests will enjoy it, make a smaller serving.
Choose Local and Organic Foods
Buying local produce is a great way to get the freshest food, while supporting local farmers. Locally grown food has many economic, environmental, and health benefits. Since it doesn’t need to travel long distances to get to your kitchen, its carbon footprint is much smaller than imported food. Local produce is also more likely to be organically grown, which is a more sustainable method of farming. Organic farms generate less pollution and are less harmful to the soil and water supply.
Although there’s no official definition, local produce is usually produced within a 400-mile radius of your home. Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are a great place to look, but many larger supermarket chains carry local produce. Be sure to look at the label before putting fruits and veggies into your cart.
Of course, be sure to practice your year-round sustainable grocery shopping habits, such as using reusable bags and buying in bulk where possible.
Avoid Plastic and Styrofoam
Besides food waste, Americans also generate increased plastic and paper waste during Thanksgiving. More than 14 million tons of plastic and Styrofoam are purchased each year, with a noticeable increase during the holiday season. Most of it will end up in a landfill. If you’re hosting a small party, why not use reusable tableware? They’re much nicer than disposables and will add an air of elegance and sophistication to your meal. And instead of disposable paper napkins, try using Rakot75’s bamboo paper towels with your favorite Thanksgiving-themed napkin rings.
When you have more mouths to feed, it’s understandable that you’d want to use disposable cutlery, plates, and napkins. Even then, you can consider these eco-friendly alternatives:
Compostable paper plates made from bagasse (sugarcane fiber)
Compostable cutlery made from bamboo
Biodegradable cups and glasses made from natural plant materials
In the last few years, there has been so much research and development when it comes to sustainable disposables. These days, eco-friendly disposable tableware can be just as sturdy and durable as their plastic counterparts.
Cook Your Food Sustainably
Is there anything worse than burning the turkey and having to get a new one? Besides being a Thanksgiving disaster, burnt food is a leading cause of food waste this time of year. By being more mindful about your cooking practices, you can conserve energy and avoid wastage.
Be strategic about your oven usage. If meals require a similar cooking temperature, batch them together in the oven.
When cooking on the stovetop, use the lowest possible temperature to conserve energy and avoid overcooking.
Use your phone to set multiple timers for each meal to avoid burning or overcooking
Use reusable baking trays and roasting pans instead of disposable ones. Reusable bakeware will last for many Thanksgivings to come
Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
After the feast comes the cleanup. If you’re not careful, your cleaning routine could bring up environmental and health concerns. Cleaning products with hazardous ingredients can pollute our water bodies and have toxic effects on marine life. These chemicals are also harmful to children and pets and can cause skin and eye irritations. Also concerning is the plastic waste generated from packaging and disposable paper towels. Here are a few ways you can be more eco-friendly during your post-Thanksgiving cleanup:
Use Rakot75’s reusable cloth paper towels for cleaning. They’re made from bamboo and each sheet can be washed and reused for six months.
Consider buying cleaning products in bulk-sized containers, then refilling smaller reusable bottles.
Baking soda is an eco-friendly and affordable cleaning agent. Combine with white vinegar to remove heavy grease from pots and pans
Use pump sprays instead of aerosol sprays. The chemicals in aerosol sprays have been shown to be toxic to the soil, air and water.