Photo by Skyler Ewing:

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in America is just a few days away, and it’s no secret that this holiday usually comes with a lot of waste. So today I’ll be sharing some tips for lowering waste at parties this holiday season.

Before the Event (For Hosts)

For hosts, I would recommend asking your guests ahead of time if they have any allergies to be aware of. No one wants to have a party end by rushing guests off to the emergency room. After that’s taken care of you can plan the menu. In the absence of nut allergies, you could consider making some interesting vegan sides like a cashew cheese ball or coconut whipped cream. If celiac disease isn’t a concern, you might opt to make a homemade loaf of bread, some rolls, or your own pie crusts. Whatever allergies may or may not be present, you will be able to plan the meal best when you’re aware of any dietary restrictions there will be.

Decide and communicate with guests about whether you’ll be making all the food or if the meal will be more of a potluck-style affair. If it’s going to be a potluck, assign each guest a type of dish so there isn’t overlap. For instance, ask one guest to bring a green salad, another to bring a creamy soup, and a third to bring some mashed potatoes. Whichever method you choose, try to keep food options and sizes to a reasonable amount. It will save time, hassle, money, and waste.

Encourage guests to bring a few food storage containers to take leftovers home in. You can also offer recyclable containers (empty and clean yogurt tubs, glass jars, etc) to your guests to use as food storage if they forget to bring their own containers.

Decorate the table with natural elements: beautiful tree branches, dried bundles of long grasses, and pumpkins, gourds, and dried corn of various sizes and colors. Other fun decor items might include candles already in your home, fresh fruit, decorative serving dishes found at a thrift store, or a bouquet of dried flowers. Get creative!

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative:

The Food

If you choose to serve alcohol, opt for locally brewed beers and wines. You might also choose to infuse tap water with lemon or cucumbers for a refreshing beverage, or have a variety of sparkling water or sodas. For store-bought drinks, choose those packaged in metal cans, since metal is infinitely recyclable.

For the food, let the veggie dishes shine and try to keep meat to a minimum. Local vegetables taste better than store bought, so if you have local produce available plan some dishes using those items. If you plan on having a turkey and have the means to do so, see if you can find one that’s been pasture raised. Not only will the meat taste better, but you’ll be supporting smaller farms and using your dollar to contribute to a more humane and just food system.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

During the Event

If you compost, have a clearly marked compost bin available for guests to add to throughout the night. If you don’t have access to a compost bin, see if one of your guests composts or has chickens that could use the food scraps. Also make sure your recycling container is clearly marked and easy to find. The easier it is for your guests to access these bins, the more likely it will be that they get used.

Use reusable items such as cloth napkins, reusable cutlery, sturdy plates, etc. If you don’t have enough dishes or cutlery ask to borrow some from a guest who will be attending the event. If you are a guest, offer to help clean up afterwards to better ensure reusable items get used.

Photo by Tim Douglas :

After the Event

Prioritize eating what won’t freeze well and freeze whatever you won’t use in the next few days. You could use silicone bags, upcycled glass jars, or even disposable bags to do this.

Get creative with what’s left over. Freeze extra meat in small quantities, and use it in future chilis and soups throughout the winter. Use extra mashed potatoes to make pierogis, vegan shepherd’s pie, or homemade gnocchi. Freeze gravy in ice cube trays for single serving amounts. Use the turkey bones to make homemade turkey broth, and freeze it for later.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

I hope some of these suggestions benefit you. I wish you all a lovely holiday full of gratitude.