I had a Twitter conversation with @GreenTXMom about a Food Network show featuring something called “Turducken.” Lara said it’s not uncommon where she lives to hear about someone roasting three birds – turkey, duck, and chicken – all stuffed inside each other for their Thanksgiving meal.
After we got over the horror of three animals giving their lives for one meal, we slap-happily agreed that any food with the word “turd” in it doesn’t belong on our Thanksgiving table.
Joking aside, I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m already planning several meatless meals for our family in the next few weeks because Thanksgiving has such a huge impact on the planet. In addition to having the dubious distinction of being the holiday to produce the most waste throughout the entire year, it also is implicated in travel eco-ills.
Here are a few tips to help you celebrate a greener Thanksgiving this year.
Serve an eco-friendly Thanksgiving meal
Think further than just the turkey and try to reduce excess and waste for the whole meal.
- Serve with real dishes and glasses. Disposables are expensive and after being used once represent an incredible waste of resources. If you worry about needing help with clean up, don’t share the best family gossip at the dining table, save it for the kitchen
- Choose a vegetarian menu! Sure, this may run counter to your traditions, but it can be a great way to break out and try something new. Meat can really add to your carbon footprint, and many turkeys live inhumane lives, so choosing to go meat-free is great for them, too.
- Go organic and fair trade. Look for things like coffee, tea, fruits, baking ingredients, chocolate, and even your wine to come with certified organic and fair trade labels. These foods are better for the planet and better for the communities producing them, too.
- Choose heritage, free range. If you can’t live without the turkey, at least go for one that’s had a humane, healthy life. Look for a heritage turkey that’s been pasture-raised and free-range. Your local farmer is the best bet for finding such birds.
- Compost. Got leftovers and table scrapings? Compost food waste of all varieties to further reduce the carbon footprint of your meal. If you don’t have a compost of your own, either start one or donate your food waste to a local farmer who can turn it into black gold.
Green travel to and from your Thanksgiving event
More than 65 million people travel for Thanksgiving celebrations in the US, and that adds up to a lot of greenhouse gas emissions pushed into the atmosphere. You can reduce your Thanksgiving travel carbon footprint by taking some steps to make your holiday even more climate-friendly.
- Choose a central location. If you’re bringing family together from far and wide, try to choose a location that’s central to everyone so that you minimize travel as much as possible. This is easiest if everyone is within driving distance but can also be done over long distances.
- Go public transit. If you live within the same city as the celebrations, go by public transit rather than driving. Not only can this be safer (winter driving conditions and drunk drivers are both hazards), it is cheaper, too. Plus, if you’ve had a bit too much to drink, you’ll protect others, too.
- Choose rail over air. Traveling by motor coach or rail, especially if the distance is short, is usually less expensive and much better for the planet. Plus it can be a fun experience, too!
- Carbon neutralize. Regardless of your travel choice, you may want to consider buying carbon offsets for the travel you’ve done. Choose ones that are certified by a third-party, such as those through Carbonfund, 3Degrees, or TerraPass.
Celebrate an Alternative Thanksgiving
If it all seems too much, you might want to follow some excellent advice over at Seventh Generation’s blog and consider one of these alternatives to Thanksgiving:
- Donate food to local organizations that feed the hungry.
- Help cook and serve a meal at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
- Invite to dinner someone who otherwise would be alone that day.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter.
- Remember your elderly neighbors, and visit a senior center or nursing home.
- Go hiking. If the weather is right where you live, pack some turkey (or Tofurky) sandwiches and head into the great outdoors to give thanks for nature’s life-sustaining wonder.
- Plant some trees. The dormant, leafless state they assume in autumn marks an ideal time for successful transplanting.
- Spend the day assembling care packages for U.S. troops overseas. One organization facilitating such care packages is Any Soldier, but the internet abounds with organizations that can help.
Do you have Thanksgiving traditions that give back, or are eco-friendly? Tell us about it in the comments!