5 tips for greening Thanksgiving

If you'd like to offer a guest post for this blog, contact me at nicolabaird.com

Let me introduce you to my blog’s first guest poster, Emily Matthews. Emily is currently applying to masters degree programs across the US, and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington, and this is her bloghttp://www.mastersdegree.net/blog/. As Thanksgiving – that American marriage of harvest celebration and native traditions – is coming up onThursday 24 November (2011), Emily asked to share her tips about how to make Thanksgiving less of a wasteful time.

I think Emily’s post is a good reminder about how much, or how little, most of us know about other people’s shopping habits – even our own families. Hopefully you’ll pick up some tips too for planning Christmas, comments welcome… And if you are visiting Homemade Kids for the first time, it is a book and blog written by London writer Nicola Baird which focuses on thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.

Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving: we return home to our extended families and enjoy mounds of great food and conversation. In the midst of celebration, it doesn’t take a mastersdegree to know that the green elements we’ve cultivated through the years are going to take a backseat to the holiday rush; however, that doesn’t mean we can’t still cut our carbon footprint. If we make small substitutes during Thanksgiving, it could be one of the greenest Thanksgiving holidays yet, writes guest blogger Emily Matthews (from Seattle).

1 When Grocery Shopping for Thanksgiving, Use Reusable Bags
Every year, Americans use billions of plastic shopping bags. In turn, they end up in landfills, damaging our delicate eco-system. Take cloth or canvas bags when you go to pick up with to do all the grocery shopping needing for the Thanksgiving meal. It’s a small and easy step, but it is effective.

2 Buy Ingredients in Bulk Needed for the Thanksgiving Meal and Beyond
Buy your standard ingredients in bulk: flour, sugar, and etc. Although the extra won’t be needed right away, you can store it for further use. Avoid purchasing overly packaged items. When buying in bulk, it reduces the plastic waste. In 2007, trash generated from packaging made up the largest amount in landfills, almost 78 milliontonsofwaste! It’s a great way to save money as well – buying in bulk can be cheaper than buying individually packaged items every time.

3 Even With a Large Family, Ceramic and Silverware is best
Skip the disposable paper plates and cups. Even though plates made out of paper are supposedly recyclable, it is a difficult process as most are coatedinplastic. Disposable cutlery might be convenient, but it’s also wasteful. Reducing trash is simple – just bring out all the plates, the nice silverware, and the cloth napkins for a maximized eco-friendly holiday. Set the table with sustainability, and teach the kids a lesson about responsibility by asking them to help clean up after the meal.

4 Don’t Overbuy Food
Americans throw away an astounding amount of food. The EPA estimates that 30 milliontonsoffoodwaste are generated in the United States a year – that’s enough to feed a small country! When shopping for Thanksgiving, be sure to know how many are coming. If you overestimate, make sure that you share the leftovers with your guests, to ensure that as much is eaten as possible. Of course, it’s always best to cook and consume only what is needed.

5 Use Thanksgiving Decorations Next Year
When buying decorations, consider their ability to be used next year. If you’re worried about guests with long memories, perhaps use them in a different way, or position them differently so they don’t seem like last year’s party. Ask your kids to set the table – you never know what kind of configuration they can come up with that would’ve slipped your mind!

Adding these simple tips to your Thanksgiving routine can go a long way with the environment. Every year, focus on doing something more than the year previous. Saving the environment is something everybody can be thankful for.

Here’s to a happy Thanksgiving. Now, if you are in the mood to travel with or without the kids, have a look at ways to roam around the world without leaving your own country (or even taking a plane) at Nicola Baird’s other blog, aroundbritainnoplane.

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11 Comments on “5 tips for greening Thanksgiving”

  1. a Says:

    When I think of the green issues around Thanksgiving, it’s probably the mass travel, much by air, and also those associated with poultry production.

    • homemadekids Says:

      Yes A, I rather agree. Your choice of food makes a huge difference. I’m thinking about serving the meat eaters pheasant at Christmas. What would be a similarly eco choice in the US for Thanksgiving? Nicola

      • a Says:

        I don’t think there is a turkey substitute in the US as such, so symbolic and associated with the holiday that bird is. But– it would be possible to either not have a turkey (as a gesture of awareness even with meat-
        eaters) or arrange a meal that had turkey just not as an overwhelming centerpiece. (The meat as an accent rather than a focus must be a little better….?) (PS not everyone thinks pheasants are not necessarily an eco choice– i read an article years ago about how the chicks are reared in crowded conditions…[Hey,have you read Danny Champion of the World?)

      • homemadekids Says:

        Ah Annie, I thought this post was going to hit a raw nerve. But perhaps pumpkin is a turkey substitute, and a very tasty one too. I need to find out more about Danny Champion of the World as it’s not quite clear what you mean. We do have a copy though. Nicola x

    • a Says:

      whoops i need to correct myself– it’s quails for their eggs i read about, not pheasants.

  2. I’m going to weigh in here…the thanksgiving post was typical of the ‘easy things you can do’ tips approach to environment which can be great and give people a sense of possibility (good) but come at a price of losing and sense of proportion, or, even worse, providing a strategy for denying the real impacts- and there’s plenty of social research to support this.

    A is quite right, if it was a permanent move, each Thanksgiving would be one of greatest mass migrations in history. This is the big deal …even if we skip the real answer (stay at home), surely the vital thing is to choose a location with minimum total travel, shift to lower emission forms of travel- esp train and bus, share cars – or not do it every year?

    The other issue- not even touched on- is the food and where it comes from- though Emily is right that wastage is a big issue.

    However the other suggestions Emily makes are miniscule by comparison . I hate plastic bags and disposable plates, but they are tiny in their impacts and a distraction. And saving ornaments is almost a zero sum- the resources you save are partly balanced by the space in your (heated?) house taken up with storing them. You could make your own anyway…

    So a question for Emily: does she (or other members of her family) travel for Thanksgiving and, if so, how?

    • homemadekids Says:

      Guest poster Emily, George has done a lot of research in these areas re climate change (he’s also sent you another message, obviously posted when a little calmer pointing out he’s on your side, honest). Without political change, and some radical changes in our own lives there is no way that an individual can green Thanksgiving – just think about the sheer numbers of people involved in eating/travelling/ making a day or more of excess. Your suggestions show a willingness to start, perhaps what was needed was a list of 10 things which included some radical changes too? Nicola

  3. Oh- sorry, this sounds more aggressive than I meant it!

    Hey Emily- we’re on the same side….just wanted to raise some points

  4. a Says:

    Funny, as a cook-aholic and eco-thrifty gal myself, and also wanting to remember gratitude aspects to Thanksgiving, I am this year planning a big feast. And I am contemplating how / what to cook that feels celebratory but not excessive– trying to create a new aesthetic to the food where there’s a bounty but also a simplicity and an honoring of the food itself. There’s so much one could say about the “traditional” food of the holiday, how it’s a funny mishmash of old New-World foods (Native corn/ beans/ squash, oysters, wild turkey itself) and big-corporation-processed foods like marshmallows and canned french-fried onions and mass-produced turkeys that come with extra fat dripping inside, to be self-basted. All very fascinating.

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