How to Have a Sustainable Thanksgiving
September 29, 2017 • 3 min read
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Thanksgiving and sustainability might seem like misnomers – the tradition of one is overindulgence and the meaning of the other is “to maintain at a certain level”. While it might seem a wild thought, there are small changes you can implement that will maintain your Thanksgiving traditions, and at the same time, let the Earth sigh a breath of relief. After all, we are celebrating our gratitude towards abundance and harvest, as well as the sustenance of this tradition, so it only seems fair we should be respectful of the place that has provided this feast for us so that we may continue to celebrate for years to come. Now, without further ado, here’s how to have a sustainable Thanksgiving.
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Without a doubt, this is the biggest (and historical) reason we all gather around on Thanksgiving. A delicious meal of our traditional favourites is hard to pass up, but here are the changes you can make to ensure it is consciously prepared.
We don’t recommend trying to convince your poultry-loving friends that the soy-based bird on the table is the real deal, unless you’re a group of vegetarians! While we won’t go into the problems many soy-based alternative meats possess (GMOs, glyphosate, etc.), we encourage you to be discerning when it comes to your main course. If you are vegan/vegetarian, consider a nourishing meal that leaves out meat alternatives, and if you do consume meat, try to be more conscious in the turkey you do select. Try hitting up a local farm and buying “farm fresh” rather than the factory-farmed and hormone-induced options available at chain stores. These birds are mostly always raised in humane conditions, and are fed food meant for their diets. Some grocery chains do offer a selection of farm fresh meats, but be aware of what the labels mean. You might see labels such as “grass-fed”, which sounds awesome, but it doesn’t apply to poultry since birds don’t graze. You can look for labels such as non-GMO fed, local, pasture-raised and organic.
Almost as exciting as the main course, side dishes are usually plentiful and varied. To cut down on excess, try having fewer varieties of the same or similar dish on the table – maybe just one potato dish rather than a few cooked in different ways? A wonderful way to have a sustainable Thanksgiving meal is to source locally. Buy your produce from a local farmer’s market. This will inspire you to cook what’s in season, and support a small-business. Since thanksgiving is all about celebrating the harvest, allow your bounty to be an array of delicious local autumnal varieties. Get ideas for seasonal dishes here, and to find what’s in season in the Northern Hemisphere, click here.
This year, try cracking open a bottle of some locally-brewed beer, or wine that was made in a nearby wine region. Once again, you’ll be supporting the local economy, and it might be a fun experiment to try with your guests. I’m sure everyone would be up for a taste test!
The Décor and Utensils
Thanksgiving décor is probably the easiest when it comes to sourcing things directly from the great outdoors. Rather than putting up cheap dollar-store leaves and wreaths, go outside! Decorate your table with the flora of nature – leaves in all different colours on a long table are beautiful on their own. To make things more personal, use leaves as place settings by writing guest’s names directly on the leaf. Add in some locally-harvested pumpkins and gourds, and you’re good to go!
Plates and Utensils:
It’s probably a no-brainer, but use reusable plates and cutlery. It can be a lot to wash up after hosting a huge party, but the environment will thank you. Also, when you have a large pile of dishes, using the dishwasher is far more economical and environmental than hand-washing. If using real china is just not feasible, go for biodegradable and home-compostable options, or disposable bamboo plates and utensils.
After the last bite has been taken, as a host, we know what you’re thinking – there’s still so much food! You have some options when it comes to excess food, and none of them include wastage. 35 billion tons of excess food ends up in landfills every year, so to help combat that horrifying stat, here’s what you can do.
Yes, this seems obvious, doesn’t it? However, each year, somehow it looks like no one ate anything, and you still have mountains of food leftover. Rather than making an excess amount “just in case”, try to rationally guesstimate how much you think each individual will eat, and make just a tiny bit more than that. Trust us, it’ll still be a lot.
Repurpose the leftover food into new meals (so you don’t feel like you’re eating plain turkey for a week). Turkey bones can be made into stock, the stuffing can be remade into breakfast hash, turkey can be made into soup, salads and sandwiches, cranberry sauce can be used as a jelly for crackers and cheese, or a spread on muffins, and mashed potatoes can be made into breakfast potato cakes. The options are endless – how creative can you get?
Send Leftovers Home:
Encourage your guests to bring reusable containers so that they can pack a doggy bag with them. They’ll be thrilled to have a yummy lunch to look forward to the next day.
This sounds pretty doable, doesn’t it? Follow these easy changes, and you’ll be on the right path towards making sustainable holidays a habit!
Seeing as this is a holiday rooted in colonialism, extend your thanks further by donating to an organization that supports Indigenous communities in Canada, for full reciprocity. Some wonderful organizations that we like are Clan Mothers, Water First and the Landback Movement. You can also consider stocking a local community fridge in downtown Toronto, (or check to see if your city has community fridges set up), helping to ensure that those living in food deserts have access to healthy food for their own celebrations.
Deep reverential gratitude is a practice too many of us are forgetting. Use this day of giving thanks to uplift yourself, your loved ones, your community and the earth, remembering that we are all intrinsically connected.
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