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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are You Having A Sustainable Thanksgiving?

As we get ready for Thanksgiving, it’s very easy to forget about living sustainably. But it’s actually a great time to remind ourselves to be thankful for all the Earth has given us while we enjoy our time with our friends and family. Using eco-friendly practices helps to protect our environmental and usually helps to simplify things by reducing cost, saving time and reducing stress.

Getting Ready

The best place to start being earth conscious is during shopping. During your shopping trip we can reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, and support local business. Here are a few ways to do that:

Shop Local: When shopping, consider going to your local farmer’s market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get fresh, locally grown foods.

Foods from a local source are fresher, create less waste and reduce carbon emissions. Foods from large farms typically travel hundreds, or even over a thousand, miles before they are put on store shelves. This also requires packaging to ensure longer shelf lives. Locally grown foods don’t have to travel far and do not need the plastics and Styrofoam. Locally grown food also contributes to your local economy, supporting local farmers and merchants. If you are not sure where to go in the area for locally harvested food, visit Local Harvest’s website.

Selecting the food: It’s not a secret that the most eco-friendly way to have a meal is vegan. However, it is the not most traditional way to spend Thanksgiving. If you want to have an eco-friendly traditional Thanksgiving, consider buying organic, ensuring the food is chemical-free and making sure it’s sustainably harvested (reducing its impact on the Earth), which is the healthiest option for the Earth and your guests.

Purchase a turkey that is free-range, free of hormones and free of antibiotics. Select produce that has not been exposed to pesticides and synthesized fertilizers. If you choose not to buy organic, again, buy local. Small farms use fewer chemicals than large industrial farms. They are also more likely to grow a variety of foods, promoting biodiversity, which is important to long term food security.

Portioning: A great way to reduce waste this Thanksgiving is to practice portion control when planning the meal. Try to buy just enough food for each of your guests. Here is an example list of approximate per person food and drink portions for Thanksgiving from Use Less Stuff:

           – Turkey: 1 pound
           – Stuffing: ¼ pound
           – Sweet potato casserole: ¼ pound
           – Green beans: ¼ pound
           – Cranberry relish: 3 tablespoons
           – Pumpkin pie: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie

Bring your own bags: This is a great practice any time of year, but Thanksgiving is a great time to start. Bringing reusable bags to the grocery store helps keep plastic out of landfills and our waterways. Unfortunately, plastic never completely decomposes – it just breaks down. Reducing the amount of plastic we use essential to preserving our ecosystems.

Reduce packaging: Try to buy products that require little to no packaging. If there is something that is packaged, be sure the packaging is recyclable.

Decorate with Nature

There are some beautiful, eco-friendly options out there for making your house festive for Thanksgiving. They are also a fun way to get your family involved in the decorating. Here are a few ideas:

Pumpkins: Use Pumpkins, gourds and squash around the house and as center pieces. Hollow out a pumpkin as a candle holder or for fresh flowers.

Pinecones: You can create pinecone name-tag holders to place at each setting. Maybe you could scent them with cinnamon or have the children create turkeys out of them. Pinecones also look great in a glass vase.

Acorns: Use acorns with strings tied around them as napkin holders. Or fill a glass vase with them, and they will serve as an anchor for tall autumn branches.

Fall Leaves: Fall leaves can be used in a garland or to surround a candle. You can also put them in a glass bowl with water and use floating candles for a beautiful center piece.
During the meal

Keep it real: Try to use real plates, cloth napkins and silverware. Avoid the disposable ones.

Have a clearly marked recycling bin: Have your guests help you with the reducing by clearly labeling the recycle bin and trash so your guests know where to put their waste.

Drink tap water: Try to avoid drinking bottled water. Chill some tap water in the refrigerator instead. It’s cheaper, and you don’t have all the plastic waste. And you will know where your water came from.
Clean Up

After dinner is over, Thanksgiving is not done. There is often quite a bit to clean up and put away. If you are like the rest of us. you have leftovers, food scraps and other trash to deal with. Here are a few eco-friendly ideas for your “after Thanksgiving” clean up:

Share your leftovers: You can always give your leftovers to your guests to take home. Remember to put them in reusable containers as opposed to foil, plastic wrap or baggies. Those items just create more waste. Another option is to donate the food to a local shelter. Call ahead to see if they are accepting already prepared food donations.

Composting: Instead of throwing out your potato peels and other veggie scraps, start a compost bin or put them in your garden to be turned back into nutrient-rich soil.

Yummy soups: Eating left overs is definitely a great part of Thanksgiving. You can always heat up your stuffing, turkey and potatoes, but did you know that you can also make delicious soup from your leftover scraps? You can add your turkey carcass to a large pot of boiling water, along with your celery and carrot tops. There are many great recipes out there, but here are a few from Carbon Footprint Defined.

The 3 R’s: Reduce, reuse, recycle. I’m sure it’s not the first time you have heard this. But why not have a friendly reminder of ways to give back to our planet by reducing waste and natural resources used?

We hope these green Thanksgiving tips are useful and help to make for a very simple and fun holiday for you and your family. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

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