How Green Will Your Thanksgiving Be?

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It seems like I just put my daughter on the bus for the first day of school, and already Thanksgiving is near. Where did the time go?

My husband and I cook every year, but we usually don’t have any company. This year, my little brother (who’s not so little any more) and a couple of other family members will be spending the holiday with us so I feel challenged to really put on a good show, complete with a wonderful meal and beautiful decor. Of course, there are some things that won’t change, including my intention to make the holiday as eco-friendly as possible.

The Food

This year, we haven’t patronized the farmer’s market as much as we’d like. I’m completely guilty on that one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t. Whether you live in rural Georgia, one of the student housing apartments in West Campus or a luxury apartment in Illinois, there are bound to be people around you who are growing and making food. So whenever possible, buy from local farmers (I say while hiding my head in shame). I totally get why you’d want to buy uncooked, packaged pasta, but the pumpkin in your pie could come from a local patch. You know…assuming you know how to make pie from scratch. Which I don’t. Which is why we probably won’t be having pie 🙂

Plus, you know the other tip. Buy organic whenever you can. I admit that I’m usually a slave to the can on Thanksgiving morning because I’m making so many dishes, but whenever I can find organic canned yams or green beans, I’m all over them. And I recently found out that Martinelli’s makes organic sparkling apple cider. What?! Where can I get a bottle?

The Table

It goes without saying that Thanksgiving is an occasion to pull out the “good dishes,” but just in case, I’ll say it anyway: Pull out your good dishes. Yes, you might have to wash a few more dishes than normal, but that’s much less wasteful than throwing away a bunch of disposable plates. And here’s a tip for keeping your sanity when all those dishes start to pile up: Make sure the dishwasher is empty before you start your meal. That way, you can just ask everyone to put their used dishes inside the dishwasher instead of piling them up in the sink.

Secondly, while you’re at the store, walk right past those disposable napkins. Instead, use cloth napkins — and they don’t have to fancy linen ones with your monogram in silver thread. You can pick up some fat quarters at your neighborhood fabric store, or cut an old tablecloth into 18″ x 18″ squares with a pair of pinking shears. Fold them neatly with your silverware, and voila! A beautiful presentation!

Lastly, your aversion to disposables should extend to your cooking and serving dishes. Opt for glass or metal baking pans rather than disposable aluminum ones. Serve your food in beautiful bowls or glass dishes rather than disposable pieces. If you need a few extras, head to the thrift store. There are always a few good pans to be found if you’re willing to take the time to look. Run them through a nice, hot dishwasher cycle and noone will ever know they were thrifted.

If you’re wondering what to do about your table, next Monday, I’ll share some ideas for eco-friendly and handmade table decor that your guests will love. So be sure to check back!

The Waste

Prevention aside, there bound to be some scraps of waste here or there. That can be compounded when it comes to food. Thanksgiving tends to be synonymous with overeating — which means plates of uneaten food scraps. First, of course, take — or serve — only as much as you can actually eat. But if there is food left on your plate (or your guests’ plates), don’t just toss it in the trash. Compost as much of it as you can. Keep a covered bowl or dish on the counter to contain all the scraps until you’re ready to take them to the main compost bin. You know your compost bin better than anyone, so you’ll know if you compost only veggies and egg shells, or whether you have a worm bin that can handle some cooked food scraps.

And what would a green Thanksgiving be without recycling? You’ve got to do something with all those empty cider and/or wine bottles, so make sure you have a bin nearby so no one is tempted to throw those recyclables in the trash. In my kitchen, my mode recycling bin is a little out of sight, so I plan to create a directional sign so everyone will know where to find it. Plus, I get sick of hearing the question “Can I recycle this?” So above the bin, I’ll post a sign showing what can be recycled and what cannot (ie. #1, 2 and 5 plastic, glass, aluminum, etc.) so guests can figure it out for themselves.

 So what do you plan to do to keep your Turkey Day feast as green as possible? Share your ideas so all of us can benefit!

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2 comments… add one
  • Karen Strong November 18, 2011, 3:14 pm

    In the last couple of years, I’ve really been into recycling. I plan to also recycle everything I can after Thanksgiving. I also need to get more into visiting Farmer’s Markets too. Living near the country, I should do it more often.

    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving. 🙂

  • Kate November 19, 2011, 11:45 am

    Fwiw making a pie from a pumpkin is really easy. All you have to do is cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds (don’t worry about getting all of the stringy stuff, it comes off much easier after it’s cooked) and then lay the two pieces face down on a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-60 min (depending on the size of the pumpkin); basically until you can stick a fork through the skin and the flesh of the pumpkin is soft like a baked potato. After it’s cooked let it cool completely. Then you just scoop out the flesh and use it just like the stuff from the cans.

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