I’m a huge fan of the holidays and I’m guessing you are too! What’s the point of this big old life if not to celebrate and enjoy ourselves? Favorite meals, fun decorations, and big parties mark special times of the year and give us something to look forward to. But before you decide to decorate and cook like it’s the party of the century, take a moment to think about how your choices are affecting the environment.
How the Holidays Impact the Environment
Thanksgiving is the second most celebrated holiday in the United States after Christmas. While this time of year may have you thinking of food, family, and more food, it should also have you thinking about our planet.
During the holiday season, waste increases by 25% as the average American generates almost 30 extra pounds of trash every week. Multiplied by our population of 330 million people and that’s A LOT of extra trash. Most of it comes from decorations, wrapping paper, and food waste. Fortunately, there are simple changes we can make to reduce waste starting with a sustainable Thanksgiving table.
Simple Changes to Make For a More Sustainable Thanksgiving
Almost 90% of Americans will celebrate the fourth Thursday in November with a big feast. If we all make changes for a more sustainable Thanksgiving, it will have a huge impact. Here are a few ways to make positive changes this season.
1. Shop Local and Focus on Green Foods
I like to refer to Thanksgiving as “carbsgiving” because it’s like a mountain of potatoes on top of potatoes topped with gravy. Call me crazy, but I like a nice green salad on the side. Green foods are not only green veggies, but fresh, locally grown foods that have a lower environmental impact. Ultra-processed foods have a longer supply chain creating more carbon emissions. Plus the soil used for large-scale farming is often overused and depleted by chemicals.
Fresh food grown on a smaller scale keeps the soil healthier and contains more nutrients for you. Add enough veggies to your meal and you might not even need your stretchy pants.
When shopping for your favorite ingredients, choose local foods whenever possible. Buying from local growers is healthier and reduces by eliminating transportation to chain stores. It also helps preserve our environment from the overuse of chemicals companies use to mass-produced foods. Find a local farmer’s market or shop at a locally-owned grocery store that works with local farmers. Don’t forget to pack your reusable bamboo shopping bags to avoid the dreaded plastic bag of plastic bags shoved in your closet.
2. Create a Sustainable Holiday Table
No matter if you have 30 guests coming to gather or just a few close friends and family around the table to celebrate, how you set your table makes a difference. If you’re looking to invest in more place settings, choose sustainable dinnerware like bamboo plates, flatware, and utensils. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. It’s the fastest-growing plant in the world and can be used to replace plastic, ceramic, and metal dishes or flatware.
If you are hosting a big crowd, it’s sometimes necessary to use disposable options. Choose items carefully and make sure they’re biodegradable and compostable. Disposable bamboo tableware can be composted in your backyard or at a commercial composting facility. Compared with trees, bamboo yields 20 times more timber and matures 4–7 times more quickly. Sustainable dinnerware will save millions of paper plates and plastic flatware from hitting the landfill.
3. Aim for Zero Waste Leftovers
Leftovers are always the talk of Thanksgiving. If you love enjoying your meal on repeat in the days following your feast, you’ll want to plan carefully to avoid food waste. Your parents weren’t wrong when they told you people are starving and throwing away your dinner is wasteful. In the US, about 34 million people face food insecurity so we need to be thankful for what’s on our plates.
Ask your guests if they’ll want leftovers. Some may have multiple holidays to attend and would rather not bring anything home. This way you can prepare just enough food for the meal plus those few extra plates you’ve been dreaming of all year. Reducing food waste not only saves money but also helps reduce some of the 218 pounds of food each American throws out every year.
Be mindful of food waste during prep and clean up too. Scrape cutting boards and plates into a countertop compost bin. Food tossed into a garbage bag won’t break down as easily and the trash bag itself will sit in landfills for over 500 years. Not only could some of this food have been given to those in need, but food waste creates over 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. That’s as much as what’s produced annually by 42 coal-fired power plants.
Composted food reduces carbon emissions and returns nutrients to the soil. Using a compost bin in your kitchen means you’ll be able to create your own compost for your garden!
4. Plan for Food Storage
We’ve all been to a big family dinner where Grandma wants to send everyone home with leftovers, but doesn’t have enough containers to go around. Out come the gallon Ziplocs to hold the turkey, potatoes, and even gravy. You take the heavy, slightly greasy plastic bag while muttering, “Thanks, Grandma…”
First of all… weird. How are you even supposed to store that in your fridge? Second, as soon as you eat those leftovers, that ziplock will end up in the trash. Plastic bags are one of the top 10 items causing the most pollution.
Prepare for the inevitable Thanksgiving leftovers by asking your guests to bring reusable containers and investing in some reusable bamboo storage containers of your own. At the end of the meal, divide up the remains of your feast and pat yourself on the back for keeping all that plastic out of the landfill.
Give Thanks for a More Sustainable Holiday
Creating a sustainable Thanksgiving table will help protect our environment so you can celebrate for years to come. Simple changes like shopping locally, composting food waste, and switching to sustainable bamboo dinnerware will reduce your impact. The holidays are a perfect time to give thanks for the better choices we can make for the planet.
Now go snuggle up under your favorite bamboo blanket and enjoy those leftovers.
If you’re planning to shop all the Black Friday sales, check out our favorite sustainable bamboo gifts!