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8 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Feast More Sustainable

You can go green and host a truly delicious feast, here's how.

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Time all the dishes to be ready when needed, don't burn anything, make sure the pies are where the dog can't steal them -- whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time or the tenth it’s a production. Understandably, hosting a sustainable Thanksgiving probably isn’t top of mind, but it’s never been easier to green your meal. From simple changes such as saving scraps to fun things like selecting a gorgeous new roasting pan, here are 8 practical tips that will allow you to host a delicious Thanksgiving while also helping prevent the emission of greenhouses gases, boosting your local economy, and working to create a fairer food system. Let's all toast to that!

 

1. It Doesn’t Have to Be Local

As dreamy as a 100-mile Thanksgiving, where all the ingredients for your meal are sourced locally, sounds, it’s never going to be a reality for most people, and that’s OK. Shop locally, especially at a farmer’s market when you can and BUT always consider the ingredients you’re buying. 
 

2. Buy Organic When You Can

We’ve all heard it before but buying organic is better for you, the environment, farmworkers, and it almost always tastes better. It can also be expensive. Buy organic when you can, using the Dirty Dozen list as a shopping guide to products you should buy organic. If you’re shopping directly from a farmer ask about their growing practices, many may not be certified organic but still follow organic growing procedures. 

 

Get Our Tips for Savvy Organic Shopping
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Photography by: Julia Gartland

3. Use Those Leftovers!

One of the best parts about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. To make sure that edible food doesn’t end up in the trash, shop carefully for Thanksgiving ingredients -- don't over buy, know the portion sizes you need. Of course you want leftovers but not so much you can't use them. Also think about what you’ll turn your leftovers into -- turkey sandwiches or Thanksgiving Leftovers Pie?

 

Get our Latest, Most Delicious Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes

4. Save Your Scraps

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council up to 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes to waste each year. And when organic matter becomes trash. it releases methane gas and contributes to global warming. Compost your scraps and create a designated compost bin with signage for your guests to be able to easily distinguish it from trash and/or recycling.

 

Learn How to Start a Compost Pile
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Photography by: Louise Hagger

5. Go Meatless

For many Americans Thanksgiving is turkey, but going meat free is one of the most effective ways to green your Thanksgiving. According to the Food and Agriculture Program of the United Nations, livestock farming is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gases. If you decide to host a meatless feast, be sure to let your guests ahead of time!

If you really can’t imagine Thanksgiving without meat, opt for a heritage breed, organic or cage-free turkey from a local farmer and try to make the meat a smaller part of the meal by the letting the sides steal the show.

 

Watch how to make Acorn Squash with Mixed Grain Stuffing for a Meatless Main
 

Get our Meatless Thanksgiving Mains Recipes
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6. Use a Roasting Pan


Give yourself a reason to shop by doing away with disposable roasting pans and buying a sturdy, reusable one. Invest in a roasting pan that can go on the stovetop for making gravy and that also is handsome enough for photos -- you know your guests will be Instagramming the meal. 

 

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

7. Help the Birds

Even if you are eating turkey on Thanksgiving, for $35 you can adopt a turkey from The Farm Sanctuary. The money goes towards rescuing animals and every year the Farm Sanctuary hosts a Thanksgiving meal for their turkeys -- complete with pumpkin pie. 

 

 

8. Mind the Water 

We spend an estimated 16 billion dollars on bottled every year. Water that is often just local tap water in bottles that end up clogging the oceans. If tap water isn’t practical because you’re concerned about its quality, opt for filtered water or look to buy water that comes in 100 percent recyclable packaging such as JUST Water or Boxed Water.