Feast more, waste less this Thanksgiving.

THE IDEA

  • Nothing ruins Thanksgiving pumpkin/pecan/apple/sweet potato pie like a big of pile of garbage sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be cleaned up.
  • Here are some FuturePlanet-endorsed ideas for making your family meal a little easier on the planet.
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WHY IT MATTERS

  • Americans throw out $165-billion in food every year. A little less turkey and mashed potatoes can make a dent in that number.
  • Even if you're not cooking this year, you can spread the eco-mentality by being a mindful guest.

WHAT’S NEXT

  • Tell us your waste-reducing ideas for Thanksgiving.
  • Let's share them and change the way we do the holiday.

So you’ve called up the family, set aside the date, and hauled out the roasting pan from the back of the cupboard. Yup, you’re ready for a world-class Thanksgiving dinner. There’s only one problem: the waste.

As problems go, it’s a big one. In fact, Harvard University and the Natural Resources Defense Council (a U.S. government agency) estimated that Americans threw out $165-billion in food every year. The NRDC expects us to throw out 200 million pounds of turkey over the holiday.

At a time when millions of people around the globe are going hungry—and the planet is strained for resources—this kind of waste strikes us as . . . well, obscene.

What can we do about it? Here are some quick ideas on how to make your Thanksgiving dinner a little easier on the planet.


Groceries

  • Use reusable. If you’re a regular FuturePlanet reader, you’re probably not surprised at how many of those plastic grocery bags end up in the landfill (spoiler alert: a lot). Grab some reusable bags to hold your haul and the planet will be better off.
  • Avoid plastic packaging. Not always possible, we know. But when you can, look for loose or bulk items—or ones in glass jars that can be reused.
  • Think local. Buy from your local turkey farmer. Visit the farmer’s market for ideas on sides and veggies.
  • Don’t have a farmer’s market in town? Check out grocery delivery services that give food waste a second life. Companies like Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest deliver "ugly" produce that would have otherwise been tossed from the grocery stores because it doesn’t look good.


Table decor

  • Go natural. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate autumn—in all its cheap, renewable, planet-loving glory. Think dried leaves, ornamental squash and corn, and other items.
  • Ask for decorations or dishware. Challenge yourself: I will not buy anything new for the big day. Instead, I will ask my guests to lend anything I might be missing. They will be happy to help out. I know they will.  
     

Cooking

  • Use an online portion estimator. Take a rough guess of how much food you’ll actually need by checking out this online tool. Doing this one thing can go a long way to ensuring less of it ends up in the garbage. 
  • Think about a smaller bird. We all love turkey. But do we really love it *that* much? Can you cut down the bird by a pound or two, and add a veggie instead?
  • Be strategic with asking for contributions. We get it: everyone wants to help out and bring something over. But do you really need 6 or 7 side dishes? Be strategic, do some planning, and ask for what everybody can actually finish off.  


After dinner

  • Ask guests to bring over their reusable containers to take home some leftovers. The less you have to eat, the more likely the food won’t go to waste.
  • It’s time to brush off those leftover recipes. There are literally tons of websites for turkey casseroles. Check ‘em out—your taste buds will thank you. And so with the earth.
  • You say turkey bones, we say turkey stock. Just add water to those bones, boil them off for a few hours, and freeze the proceeds. Even better, toss in some of those leftover Thanksgiving veggies too.
  • Compost, compost, compost. C’mon people, it’s the right thing to do. Putting your leftovers into the compost results in a massive reduction of methane emissions from landfills. It helps the soil generate beneficial flora (fungi) and fauna (bacteria). Win for the earth.


GO DEEPER

Here are some gourmet-quality leftover ideas
A list of bloggers writing about the zero-waste movement


WHAT DO YOU THINK?