Ideas for a Green Thanksgiving Meal

Nov 22, 2010 | Archive

This week each year we express gratitude for what we’ve been given. What better way to do that than to make sure we’re celebrating in ways that honor Creation? Here are some ideas for a Thanksgiving that will keep your family healthy and your carbon footprint low.

  1. Reduce waste. Thanksgiving has become a day of culinary excess, almost overshadowing the holiday’s original spirit of gratitude. Almost one-half of all food produced in the US is thrown out, a staggering contribution to the country’s carbon footprint. Why not show your thanks for the bounty of Creation this year by making only as much as you and your guests are going to eat?
  2. Make it organic. Most synthetic pesticides are petroleum-based, and require lots more fossil fuel energy in production and distribution. Look for the USDA Organic label. This ensures that the foods were not produced with pesticides, irradiation, hormones, antibiotics, or bioengineering. Organic methods are far more effective at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and fixing it as beneficial organic matter in the soil. If one organic farm stays in business, the impact is the equivalent of taking 117 cars off the road each year.
  3. Emphasize local ingredients. Almost anywhere you live, fall is a great time to feature local produce, such apples, cranberries, and pecans. Thanksgiving is traditionally a seasonal meal, too. Use the opportunity to showcase the bounty of the local harvest. Find fresh local options near you at www.localharvest.org.
  4. Pardon the turkey? Meat production uses more energy and water, and creates far more waste than growing vegetables. Factory farms are especially egregious. Consider an alternative to turkey or buy an organic and/or heritage variety. Find a purchase location near you. Visit Tofurky.com for a soy-based turkey alternative, or you can adopt a turkey and save it from the chopping block.
  5. Use fresh produce, rather than frozen. Frozen foods often travel in excess of 1500 miles between farm and the plate. Refrigerated transportation uses by far the most fossil fuels and emits the most greenhouse gases of all transport. Packaging plants also add to the carbon footprint of your food.
  6. Share with others. Make a plan for the leftovers! Organize a potluck with your congregation on Thanksgiving weekend, or deliver leftovers to a local soup kitchen.
  7. Consider transportation. Carpool or take transit to your destination. Walk or bike if you can – these activities burn no fossil fuels, but plenty of calories! If you’re visiting someone out of town, another option is to purchase carbon offsets for your trip. One resource where you can do this is www.carbonfund.org.
  8. Try some sustainable Thanksgiving recipes this year. Check out Mark Bittman’s suggestions in the New York Times.
  9. Don’t add to the landfill. Landfills give off methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Avoid using paper plates, cups and utensils, and compost your food scraps.
  10. Start a garden. Save some of those pumpkin seeds and plant them for next year. Even if you only have room for a windowsill herb box, you can plant rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, and have your herbs ready for Thanksgiving 2011!

For more on the connection between food and global warming, visit our Food and Faith page.

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