Thanksgiving: a time for family, delicious food and giving thanks for what you have.
Unfortunately, the holiday can be quite wasteful, with Americans throwing away 204 million pounds of turkey meat each holiday season. As Thanksgiving is a holiday commemorating bountiful harvests and an abundance of food, waste is a sad, if somewhat expected, consequence of the annual celebration.
Here at Planet Forward, we have mentioned the high water footprint of meat and the importance of reducing our consumption to be more sustainable. For some, having a meatless feast on the holiday so often referred to as “turkey day” is a solid option. It's certainly one way to increase sustainability during the holidays, but there are other things you can be doing, too. Here are some tips:
1. Spread out the leftovers. Be honest; how much leftover food can you really eat before it spoils? Call up your guests and tell them to bring their reusable food containers and distribute excess food evenly. Freezing leftovers is another option, as well. But by estimating carefully, the less food that is leftover, the less is wasted. A general rule of thumb is to supply one pound of food per person, not including dessert or drinks.
2. Have a plan. So maybe your guests don't take home the biggest doggie bags. That shouldn't stop you from upcycling what you have left. Re-purposing turkey and other Thanksgiving dishes is honestly my favorite way to celebrate the holiday because I always have a plan for what I want to make in the days following the feast. Turkey soup anyone?
3. Serve yourself smaller portions. You can always go back for seconds, but are you really likely to save the food you didn't eat from your plate? I've never scraped my plate into a container to take home after the holiday. Leftovers usually come from what wasn't served.
4. Use reusable dishware and utensils whenever possible. Paper plates and plastic flatware are expensive and wasteful, but keep in mind that metal pie tin and the disposable turkey pan as well. If you can, invest in one you can use again, but if you must go with disposable, remember that the aluminum tin can go to the recycling bin after a good wash. If you happen to use canned goods like cranberry sauce, green beans and or pumpkin puree, recycle those too.
5. Try a meatless Thanksgiving. No, you don't have to eat a Tofurky or mystery Thanksgiving loaf. All you really need to do is find a main dish that is hearty and filling enough to replace the meat. Perhaps walnut stuffed portobello mushrooms or a hearty shepherd's pie. There are countless recipes to try.
(Image at top by Vxla/Creative Commons)