Everyone loves Thanksgiving. It’s a time to gather with loved ones and reflect on the blessings and bounty of the year. But with bounty, unfortunately all to often, comes waste. The EPA reports that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the average American household increases their waste output by 25%. Every year, the average American wastes over 100 pounds of food! That translates to higher food and energy bills for you, but also more pollution in our local landfills, our air and our water.
By following these simple, common sense steps, you can help reduce waste this Thanksgiving while saving time and money in the process.
Step 1: Shopping
Use reusable bags! Most reusable, cloth bags are made from recycled materials, making them an even better investment. It’s also important when shopping to remember to buy items with limited packaging. Buy loose vegetables, grains and nuts instead of those that are covered in Saran wrap or packaged individually. Buying local and organic can also help reduce the carbon footprint involved in food transportation. Look for food packaging with recycled content.
Step 2: The Table
It can be tempting to stop off at the store and pick up a bunch of paper plates and napkins for Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you’re having a lot of guests over. But one-use, disposable items creates unnecessary waste that clogs our landfills. It’s much better (and cheaper!) to use cloth napkins, silverware, glasses and plates for Thanksgiving dinner. If you must use plastic utensils, wash them and reuse them next year. Also, opting for a fabric tablecloth instead of a paper or plastic one is not only environmentally conscious, it’s also just looks nicer!
Thanksgiving dinner usually involves more guests at your home than normal. Make sure you provide guests recycling containers for bottles, cans, glass, and paper. Consider setting up a reusable container where they can clean their plates, to use later for composting (see Step 4).
Step 3: Clean-Up
Believe it or not, using a dishwasher instead of hand-washing your dishes actually uses less water. If you have an Energy Star appliance, you may only be using 4 gallons of water per load. It’s especially important to remember on Thanksgiving to only start the dishwasher with a totally full load of dishes. Also: remember to scrape leftover food scraps instead of rinsing them; this saves water. (Leftover food scraps can be composted! See Step 4.)
Step 4: Leftovers
Everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers. They’re kind of the best part. But storing them can sometimes be a hassle, especially if you don’t have the right containers. If you’re having guests for dinner, ask them beforehand to bring their own reusable containers for leftovers. Don’t get stuck resorting to paper plates or Styrofoam containers. Styrofoam takes more than 500 years to decompose! Unfortunately, even though some paper is recyclable, grease stains from food can disqualify paper containers from being recycled. Reusable plastic, metal and glass storage containers are sturdy, won’t contaminate your leftovers and can be used over and over again.
The final step in having a Green Thanksgiving is composting. Pealing potatoes, chopping vegetables and cleaning out the Thanksgiving turkey leaves a lot of leftover scrapes that can be transformed into fodder for your yard or garden. If you don’t already have a compost heap, here are guidelines on how to start one. Composting is easy, reduces waste and contributes rich nutrients to the soil.
By following these simple tips, you can dramatically decrease your waste this Thanksgiving. For more environmental facts and tips for the holiday season, visit this site.