Thanksgiving is right around the corner and we are all thinking about cooler temps, yummy food, and time with family and friends. But we also need to be thinking about sustainability. Being sustainable doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive but it does take thought and planning.
Before we get to our list of ways to stay sustainable during Thanksgiving, we want to make sure that we recognize that this holiday needs to be celebrated with the understanding that we are on stolen lands. Lands that were taken from people who were gravely mistreated, and still are to this day. As a family, we like to acknowledge whose land we are on and remember that while we can give thanks for all we are blessed with, we also need to bring awareness to the truth behind this holiday.
To learn whose land you are on, head to https://native-land.ca/ and type in your zip code. In the Florida panhandle, we are on Mvskoke (Muscogee) and Pensacola land. We encourage you to learn more about the people that are native to your area. Then take it a step further and get involved in an organization that supports indigenous peoples. Below is just a small list to help you get started. We encourage you to look up local tribes in your area and see how you can support them personally.
Nature Rights Council – Ancestral Guard
Our List of Ideas for a Sustainable Thanksgiving
· Know how much food you actually need to make. Handy calculators like this one: https://savethefood.com/guestimator can help you make the right amount of food for how many people are attending plus leftovers (if you want them). This helps eliminate waste. Each year around 200 million pounds of turkey are thrown away.
· Make a list of ingredients you need and know what you already have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer to eliminate buying more than you need
· Visit farmers’ markets and choose locally-sourced foods
· Plan to serve more veggies and less meat. Meat has a large carbon footprint so the less the better. And if you can, make vegetarian and/or vegan dishes instead of your traditional animal-product-filled ones.
· Make food from scratch and avoid packaged, processed foods. This often lowers your carbon footprint and eliminates too much packaging. 83% of greenhouse gas emissions from food are created during the production of processed food.
· Provide reusable containers to allow guests to take leftovers home. Or ask that each guest bring a container with them from home. This helps eliminate food waste.
· Embrace leftovers. You did so much work to make all that food, now take a few nights off and enjoy the leftovers. Find creative ways to reuse leftovers by making meals like Thanksgiving sandwiches, pizzas, or grain bowls.
· Donate unopened items to your local food bank. If you end up with too many cans of green beans or an extra bag of rolls, donate the items to help those in need. You could even ask guests to bring one canned or pantry item with them to be donated later.
· Take a bus or train when possible. Traveling by plane is the worst way, carbon-wise, to travel. It’s 6x worse than if you traveled by train.
· Stay home every other year to reduce your carbon footprint. This one is probably not a popular option but it is doable if you’re committed to lowering your footprint.
· Buy carbon offsets. A carbon offset is an increase in carbon storage to offset your emissions. This can be done in several ways but one example would be through tree-planting initiatives. Check out companies like Terrapass to learn more.
· For more sustainable travel information and tips, head to our Eco-Travel article.
All the Rest
· Décor should be items you already own and can reuse.
· Have your kids create fun décor items with the craft supplies they already have. Then carefully pack them away after the holiday to reuse for years to come.
· Use outdoor elements like fallen leaves and acorns to make beautiful decorations.
· Skip Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shop on Small Business Saturday to support local. Only buy what you need and consider giving the gift of an experience as compared to a product. For sustainable gift ideas, check out our 15 Sustainable Gift Ideas article.
We hope all of you have a wonderful and sustainable holiday!
“What form of transport has the smallest carbon footprint?” 13 Oct 2020. https://ourworldindata.org/travel-carbon-footprint
“Sustainable Thanksgiving: How to throw an eco-friendly feast.” 17 Aug 2021. https://www.grove.co/blog/sustainable-thanksgiving#:~:text=Make%20a%20green%20Thanksgiving%20a,cut%20down%20on%20wasted%20food.