Celebrate Thanksgiving the sustainable way!

Have a sustainable Thanksgiving!

By Alex Parker

With families and friends coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving – in small, socially distanced groups, hopefully! – it’s time to think about how to make your celebration healthy and sustainable.

While Thanksgiving is a good time to bust out the good china, if you’re using disposable plates and cutlery, consider biodegradable options. Providing smaller plates, especially for kids, will cut down on food waste. Because if there was ever a time when the eyes are bigger than the stomach, it’s Thanksgiving.

A sustainable cooking strategy can also help you save energy. For example, if you have a few dishes that cook in the oven at the same temperature, start them at the same time. This may take some culinary gymnastics, but you can do it!

The star of Thanksgiving is, of course, the turkey. Instead of picking up one of the more than 41 million turkeys sold by Butterball and other mega turkey producers, opt for a turkey grown by a local farmer, preferably an organic one. Not only are these turkeys raised more sustainably, they are slaughtered more humanely. Plus, you’ll also be supporting local farmers.

Ask your local grocer or butcher for a local organic option, or see where Chicago-area turkey farmers are selling this year.

If you want to take it a step further, you can get a vegan “turkey.” Tofurkey sells a roast stuffed with wild rice, while Field Roast’s plant-based turkey option is loaded with flavor. Green Matters lists more options here.

As your gathering is smaller this year, plan ahead to size portions accordingly to avoid creating food waste, an important driver of carbon pollution.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for quantities per person.
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

When you have finished your meal, use reusable containers to store your leftovers. Vegetable scraps – not meat! – can be composted, and consider donating other leftovers to a local food pantry.

As always, use less stuff.

Remember, Thanksgiving is a time for treasuring what’s important to us. For many of us, that includes our families, our friends and our planet. Let’s treat them all well this Thanksgiving.

Alex Parker was trained in Minneapolis in 2019. When he’s not writing professionally about beer, he works with sustainable companies to tell their stories with his PR firm Green Collar Communications. He lives in La Grange with his wife and 3-year-old son.


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