If you had the chance to make this year’s Thanksgiving celebration more sustainable, would you? When Thanksgiving comes around, many run to the store to stock up on plastic plates, turkeys, pre-packaged mashed potatoes, and even plastic wrapped pies for dessert. What if this year you swapped at least one thing to be more sustainable during your day of celebration? Here’s some eco friendly tips for you to implement in your home this Thanksgiving season.
Make a Homemade Feast
While planning your Thanksgiving feast, think of ways you can make your favorite entrees, side dishes, and desserts at home from scratch. Instead of buying premade mashed potatoes, purchase russet potatoes in the bulk produce section at the store. This allows you to eliminate waste such as plastic trays, plastic wrap, and even a paper box. After preparing your dish you will only be left with the potato peels. The best part is, these peels can be placed in your compost bin at home! Composting your food scraps is so easy and will help create nutrient rich compost for your garden!
Another part of your holiday meal you can swap out is your vegetable sides. Instead of buying canned green beans, purchase the loose green beans in the bulk produce section. Remember to bring a reusable produce bag, to transport your veggies home plastic-free.
Lastly, instead of purchasing a premade pie crust, or pie from the grocery store, make your own at home. You will eliminate all the plastic and paper packaging plus you’ll get to feel the pride when everyone is swooning over how delicious it is! If you aren’t sure how to make homemade items for this Thanksgiving, check out The Zero Waste Vegan Cookbook or head over to Pinterest to find tons of recipes!
Eating plant-based meals is more sustainable than eating animal-based items. A plant-based diet requires fewer natural resources and has a smaller environmental impact. Plant-based eating can be so fun and delicious for the entire family!
A great way to begin is, swapping out at least one animal-based item of your Thanksgiving feast to a plant-based option. Something really simple would be to swap out cow’s milk for an almond or cashew milk to make your homemade mashed potatoes. Another simple swap is using mushroom broth instead of beef beef broth for homemade gravy.
If you’re looking to make your Thanksgiving meal plant-based this year, you could even swap your turkey. Instead you could make a lentil meatloaf or a mushroom stroganoff. The Zero Waste Vegan Cookbook has tons of delicious recipes to give you inspiration for this year’s Thanksgiving sustainable meal.
Considering purchasing locally grown organic foods as well. This will reduce the food miles required for your Thanksgiving feast, which reduces the carbon emissions of your meal. Of course, it’s great to support family farms, your local farmer’s market and local economy as well!
Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Also, seasonal local produce often has a lower environmental impact due to reduced energy requirements for storage and transportation.
Say Yes to Essential Oils
During the holiday season, having a nice smelling house is always nice. Many opt to burn candles for that pumpkin spice or cozy fall scent that are full of toxins. Instead of burning a candle this year during your Thanksgiving celebration, diffuse essential oils. These oils not only are sustainable because of their natural, non-toxic ingredients but also because you can use your diffuser time and time again. You can mix cinnamon bark, nutmeg, orange, and clove for a pumpkin pie scent or cinnamon roll with cinnamon bark, vanilla, orange, and nutmeg. The possibilities are endless and the benefits of diffusing oils over burning candles are rewarding.
Serve Thanksgiving Dinner With Reusables
When hosting a large gathering for Thanksgiving it seems easier to serve the meal on plastic throw-aways or paper plates. This year opt to serve your Thanksgiving feast on reusable dinnerware. Not only is it more eco friendly, but it makes the holiday feel extra special to take the time to get out nice dinner ware to share with family members. You could also purchase a set of reusable bamboo plates and silverware to use each year during gatherings. This will save you the hassle of getting your ceramic plates out but still eliminating all the waste of plastic or paper.
The best thing about bamboo dinnerware is that kids can’t break them, they’re reusable, and they look really nice at a table.
If disposables is what you need, be sure to use eco friendly disposable utensils if you can!
Offer Fresh Purified Water Without Plastic
When guests arrive they usually want something cool to drink before eating the large Thanksgiving meal. Instead of buying a case of plastic water bottles, purchase some active charcoal to place in a pitcher of water. This active charcoal purifies your water without plastic purifiers, plastic bottles, or additives. You can serve this freshly purified water in reusable drinking cups for every guest to enjoy. This is a simple sustainable swap that allows you to not have multiple bags of trash to take out at the end of the party.
Set Out Reusable Napkins and Dish Towels
Instead of setting out throw-away napkins and paper towels, place a stack of reusable cloth napkins and dish towels on the counter for everyone to use. The reusable dish towels and napkins help keep the trash can empty and your Thanksgiving sustainable. These reusable cloths can be used while eating the grand meal, wiping up spills, drying hands after doing dishes, wiping the kids trays after eating, and so much more.
Store Thanksgiving Leftovers Sustainably
After everyone’s stomachs are stuffed, it’s time to put the leftovers in the fridge or send them home in reusable containers with the guests. Let’s prevent food waste by eating all our leftovers! Most people use aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and plastic bowls to store the leftovers.
A more sustainable way to keep your food fresh is to use vegan wax wraps, metal storage containers, or glass storage containers. You can reuse all three of these options over and over again without any stains, tears, or micro-plastics being released. This will not only help you have a more sustainable Thanksgiving but it will also save you money in the long run. You can purchase these sustainable food storage items once but you’ll have to keep rebuying tin foil and saran wrap as well as replace the plastic bowls.
Another option for reducing food waste with your leftover Thanksgiving meal is to donate excess food to your local food bank or shelter. Many organizations accept donations of freshly prepared, perishable foods to help those in need during the holiday season.
Whether you want to make your entire Thanksgiving celebration sustainable or just swap out one item, you’ll make a difference at eliminating waste. It can be as simple as setting out reusable cloths or as large as replacing the turkey. Creating a sustainable Thanksgiving, big or small changes, allows you to reduce waste, toxins, and your carbon footprint. Having a more eco-friendly Thanksgiving can be one of many new traditions for your future family gatherings!
(Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Co-owner of Tyler + Molly)