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7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the time of pumpkin pie, a hearty meal, apple cider, and fall foliage. It’s the time for gathering with loved-ones and drinking red wine. In short, Thanksgiving is the time for indulgence. But there’s a difference between being indulgent and being wasteful.

An indulgent Thanksgiving can also be a sustainable Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, a lot of wastage happens around this time of year. With tons of desserts, the emphasis on a giant turkey, and packaged goods, there’s a lot of room for error. Thankfully, a lot of this waste is totally preventable. 

Sustainable Thanksgiving is totally possible, and just as indulgent. Before we get into our top tips for preventing waste, let’s take a look at what an unsustainable Thanksgiving looks like.

How is Thanksgiving wasteful?

There are a few main things that cause waste around Thanksgiving. We’ve broken them down into 4 categories.

  • Plastic packaging

When you’re entertaining lots of company, it can be tempting to make the whole process easier by cutting corners and buying packaged goods. Things like crackers, chips, cookies, and bread all come in plastic packaging. Plastic barely gets recycled, and likely goes straight into the landfill. Waste can also come from the overuse of plastic wrap, tin foil, and parchment paper when cooking at home.

  • Poor planning

Communicate to your guests what they should and shouldn't bring to the party. If not, you run the risk of having too much food (and packaging, too). The last thing you want is 4 pumpkin pies when you only needed 1!  

  • Stress

Thanksgiving can be a stressful event, causing us to cut corners and grab packaged goods. The supermarket is mayhem around this time of the year. Avoid stress by doing your grocery shopping ahead of time, and delegate tasks to other people in your household. 

Perhaps you’re already starting to see a few of your own behaviours in here! Not to worry. Here are our top tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving.

7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving

  1. Support local farmers. Try to source a local turkey or whole chicken from a local butcher instead of the chain supermarket. Head to the farmers’ market for seasonal produce, like squash, fresh cranberries, carrots, and beets. If you don’t have any farmers’ markets or sustainable butchers near you, order them online. There are lots of local sustainable produce companies and butchers that ship right to your door.

Opt for a smaller, higher quality whole chicken or turkey. You won’t get as much meat, but it’ll cook faster, taste much better, and be more nutritious. 

  1. Make vegetables the star of the show. You don’t need a massive turkey to impress your guests. There are plenty of delicious, satisfying vegetable side dishes to please everyone. Think about what’s in season right now, and work from there. Roasted butternut squash, green beans topped with vinaigrette and roasted nuts, and candycane beet salads are all show-stoppers. 

The possibilities for delicious vegetable side dishes are endless. Get some inspiration!

You can stay on the veggie train by offering a vegan dessert, like a vegan cashew cheesecake or a vegan pumpkin pie. Apple crumble is another great fall dessert, and can be made vegan with coconut oil instead of butter.

  1. Don’t let guests bring just anything. When guests offer to bring things, tell them to bring only what you really need. Be strategic. If you have all the food you need, ask one person to bring a bottle of wine, and ask another to bring a case of beer. 
  1. Avoid plastic packaging. Most plastic can be avoided by making things from scratch. Planning on putting out a snack platter? Don’t buy pre-made hummus in plastic containers. Make hummus from scratch with a few simple ingredients. Instead of buying crackers, make them yourself (they’re surprisingly easy to make!). Take advantage of canned and jarred goods. Buy pickles and olives in glass jars instead of plastic ones.

Plastic waste applies to cooking at home, too. Instead of using plastic wrap, use beeswax wraps  or bowl covers to cover bowls while they rest in the fridge. If you want to make it an extra sustainable Thanksgiving, substitute disposable napkins with Cheeks Ahoy Unpaper Towels!

  1. Spend time in nature. Planning a day-after-Thanksgiving group walk or hike in a natural setting is key to a sustainable Thanksgiving. Having a chance to burn off some of those calories, look at the beautiful fall foliage, and appreciate nature puts you in a sustainable mindset. Head to a nearby conservation area or a park with a walking trail. 

If you plan on packing a lunch, make sure it’s not a source of waste. Instead of bringing packed granola bars and plastic-wrapped sandwiches, pack a litterless lunch or snack.

  • Start a gratitude journal. Practising gratitude can also put you in a sustainable mindset. Just listing 3 things that you’re grateful for everyday, no matter how mundane, has physical and mental health benefits. Studies show that people who practise gratitude have better sleep, lower stress levels, and better relationships. 

  • To get started, grab a pen and notebook, pick 3 things that you’re thankful for, and spend 30 minutes elaborating.

    1. Divide the labour. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your home this year, you know there’s a lot of work ahead of you. Don’t let all the work fall on you. Delegate specific tasks to your spouse, kids, or roommates. Have one person clean the washroom, set the table festively, tidy the living room, and arrange the snack board. 

    Conserving our energy is key to a sustainable Thanksgiving. When we’re burnt out and full of resentment, that’s when we resort to easy fixes, like packaged goods and plastic wrap.

    No cold turkey

    If all of these changes sound overwhelming to you, don’t panic. It might not be realistic for you to flip Thanksgiving on its head, especially if you’re entertaining a large crowd. But if you can implement even one of these changes, you are one step closer to a sustainable Thanksgiving. Never underestimate the power of a baby step. 

    From the Roots Refillery team, we wish you a happy, sustainable Thanksgiving!

    Looking for more ways to reduce your waste this Thanksgiving? Check out our article on reducing kitchen waste!