Ah Thanksgiving. The turkey, the cranberries, the potatoes mashed with rich cream and garlic and the endless deserts and pies. Yum. Is there any holiday that calls to our gluttonous souls like Thanksgiving? Like everyone else, I love the holiday. I love the foods, the festivities and all those things that make Thanksgiving the holiday that it is. What I don’t like is gluttony that the holiday inspires. I don’t like the waste or the fact that many of us forget about our urge to protect the planet as we set about to celebrate the holiday. There are ways to stay green while celebrating Thanksgiving in style. Here are few tips for staying green and eco-friendly during the holiday.
Overabundance versus not enough. Having traveled to places like Haiti, Brazil, Mexico and other places where poverty is glaringly vivid, our family keeps in mind that while we celebrate and eat in abundance, others often go without. Even in the United States, a country where some of us throw away more food in a day than others eat in a week, millions of children are at risk of malnutrition and starvation. Some adults and seniors who live on the edge also live with the risk of malnutrition and starvation. This knowledge can make it difficult to enjoy a holiday dedicated to a large spread of food but these ideas can help balance the overabundance of food with the fact that some have too little.
1. Donate a turkey, food box or money to organizations that helps feed the poor and homeless on the holiday or provides food boxes to the poor. Many organizations rely on donations during the holidays and happily accept any donations.
2. Volunteer with a soup kitchen or volunteer mass feeding program on the holiday. Some organizations deliver holiday meals to shut-ins, others serve a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless. All can use as much help as they can on the holiday.
3. Organize a food drive at your church or community group.
4. Share. If you have too much food to squeeze into your refrigerator, make a plate or two of Thanksgiving favorites and hand it to a homeless person. We’ve done this several times and have never had a homeless person refuse our food. Sharing is good for the soul, both the giver and the receiver benefit. And sharing is one of those acts that we never regret.
Produce.. In Arizona, where we can garden throughout the year, we plant our own carrots, tomatoes, spinach, onions, garlic and green beans which are harvested close to Thanksgiving. Other mainstays, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples and some other ingredients we do need to purchase but organic is readily available in most grocery stores. We also like to visit our local farmers market a few weeks before Thanksgiving to talk with local farmers to find out what they will have available. Incorporating as much local produce into the feast helps support local farms and goes a long way in making the holiday more eco-friendly..
Turkey. Few of us celebrate Thanksgiving without the turkey, yet unfortunately, turkey is one of the most non-eco-friendly items that end up on our tables. Most turkeys are raised on massive factory turkey farms which are well-known for their pollution. To fatten these birds up for Thanksgiving day, the birds are rarely allowed to wander freely and exercise and some never see the light of day or breath fresh air. We can overcome this drawback by purchasing ethically raised birds that have been allowed to run free-range. In some cases, people can coordinate with a local farm who will raise a turkey for them for Thanksgiving day. Doing this allows the consumer a turkey that was raised in a proper environment, feed healthy foods and treated ethically.
Baking. With all the baking that goes into preparing a Thanksgiving feast, using a grill and a solar oven when possible can help cut electricity costs and it’s fun. Try grilling some of the vegetables rather than baking them. Try baking cookies in a solar oven or simply experiment.