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Make Your Turkey Day Fun and Eco-Friendly with This Easy Guide to a Green Thanksgiving

October 31, 2018
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By Lori Melton

There’s nothing like gathering together with family and friends to celebrate everything we’re thankful for on Thanksgiving. From sharing a feast to watching football and the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, there are all sorts of holiday traditions to enjoy. As you’re making plans and preparations, there are several simple things you can do to make your Turkey Day festivities fun and eco-friendly. Check out our guide to going green for Thanksgiving below.

Decorate with Organic Displays

Fall harvest is a festive, food-yielding time of year. Instead of paper, plastic, or synthetic decorations, garden-grown pumpkins, gourds, and corn husks make lovely organic ornaments, knickknacks and centerpieces. You can also bring a little of the outdoors in by filling glass vases or bowls with pinecones or colored leaves. Leaves can also be strung together as garland or placed around a wreath along with small gourds to decorate your front door.

Dress Your Table with Real Dishes

What better occasion than Thanksgiving to pull out your grandma’s china or your favorite stoneware to serve up your holiday meal? Paper plates, napkins, and plastic silverware contribute to overflowing landfill issues. Using real dishes and cloth napkins makes your Thanksgiving table look more elegant and, more importantly, reduces waste created by disposable alternatives. When it’s time to do the dishes, recruit family members and friends to help so that clean up will be a snap.

Shop for Sustainable Menu Items

Sourcing your Thanksgiving menu through a local farm not only supports local agriculture but also helps rural areas grow and thrive. Getting as many items as you can from sustainable, organic farms and local farmers markets carries the dual benefit of protecting and preserving the environment and giving your loved ones healthy, home-grown food. Find your nearest farmers market by searching on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) online listing.

Don’t Make Too Much Food

When planning how much food to buy and cook, avoid unnecessary food waste by making the right amount for the number of people you are hosting. This handy chart outlines how many pounds of turkey you’ll need based on the number of guests you’re expecting.

When serving your guests, dole out smaller portions to avoid plates full of uneaten food that will end up getting thrown away. People can always go back for seconds! If you end up with a ton of leftover food after all is said and done, send your guests home with doggy bags. Delicious leftovers - just another thing to be thankful for!

Utilize Those Leftovers

Who doesn’t love a hot turkey and cranberry sandwich on a fresh roll or some homemade turkey chili made from Thanksgiving leftovers? Food Network has some great food safety tips outlining how long food stays good after being left out on the table, placed in the fridge or set in the freezer. Generally, food should be packed up and refrigerated within two hours of eating and leftovers will last up to four days in the fridge. Anything beyond these guidelines should be tossed. Plan out your post-Thanksgiving meal ideas for the week after Thanksgiving so you can make good use of all that turkey and stuffing before it goes bad.

Store Leftovers in Reusable Containers

When it comes to storing your leftovers, using washable, reusable storage containers is the best eco-friendly option. Plastic baggies, wax and plastic wrap or aluminum foil are disposable storage items which increase waste. You can also ask friends and family members to bring their own containers to take food home if your supply is running low, or if you think you’ll have too many leftovers to eat through yourself.

Compost Food Scraps

Composting food scraps like potato and vegetable peelings, green beans, corn, squash, and fruits are all compostable. Compost not only decreases waste, it also enriches soil, helps curb plant disease, limits greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers in your garden. Check out a helpful infographic on Thanksgiving posting from beginwiththebin.org.