Next week many families will be gathering around the table to feast on a fabulous meal and give thanks for friends, family, and loved ones.  Amidst the holiday hustle that comes before Thanksgiving it can be hard to think about going green.  But fortunately, making your holiday a little more environmentally friendly is easy, and it doesn’t make your holiday any less festive!  Check out our six tips for making your upcoming Thanksgiving a bit greener.

  1. Purchase an organic bird – Avoid unnecessary chemicals and hormones by picking an organic turkey.  While Heritage turkeys (ones bred by turkey loving farmers who have been breeding for generations, learn more here.) are a great choice, they can be pricey.  So if you’re looking for a more planet-friendly bird that won’t break the bank, look for organic, free-range, or pastured turkeys.  If you can, purchase from a local farmer, farmer’s market, or store with an eco-conscious like Whole Foods.  Need help decoding the labels?  Check out this handy guide from Slow Food USA:
    • Certified Organic/Certified Naturally-Grown: A turkey that has been fed organic feed for its whole life and has never been treated with antibiotics.
    • Pastured: Turkeys that have been raised outdoors with ample space to move around.
    • Free-Range: A turkey that was free of confinement for its whole life but may have been kept in a barn.
  2. Use real silverware, china, and napkins – Not only does it feel good to use Grandma’s heirloom china, it’s good for the environment.  Pair your place settings with cloth napkins instead of paper and do the same for snacks and appetizers.  Washing cloth napkins takes far less water than the water required during manufacturing of paper napkins.  Although paper is easy to use, taking the extra few minutes to pop dishes in the dishwasher afterwards will save tons of natural resources like water and trees.
  3. Use leftovers wisely – Americans send over 230 million pounds of turkey to the land fill each year.  Don’t toss extra turkey; find ways to use it up!  There are tons of great leftover turkey recipes online, so bookmark a few this weekend.  Also check out Earth 911’s “What to do with your leftover turkey” blog here for more ideas.  If you think you’ll have more leftovers than you can use or freeze, ask dinner guests to bring an empty container and let them take home their own leftovers.  Everyone loves day after Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches and you’ll come off a more than gracious host if you share your leftovers with everyone.
  4. Recycle – Think back to last year’s holiday: did you recycle all you could?  If you remember tossing cranberry tins, soda bottles, and sauce jars, make an extra effort this year to recycle.  Designate a special trash can or bag for recyclables and place it in an easy to find spot.  Put it next to the trash can while you’re cooking so recycling is only a small wrist flick away from the trash.  Recycling can be a hassle if you don’t have curbside recycling, but most cities have drop off recycling centers.  Not sure where to go?  Check out Earth911.com for a recycling location near you.  Just remember to check the website before you go to find out if you have to pre-sort your recycling.  If so, set up multiple bins to take the hassle out of sorting later.
  5. Save energy – Thinking about energy consumption isn’t always at the top of a hostess’s mind, but there are a few things you can do to cut down on your energy usage for the big day.   If a couple dishes have to bake at the same temperature, put them all in the oven at the same time.  Start with ingredients at room temperature, like butter, to cut down on stove melting time.  Keep the lights a little lower with a dimmer switch in your dining room and use candles down the center of your table.  Flickering candlelight is flattering for faces and will keep your electricity bill low.  Don’t forget to turn off lights in rooms you’re not using too!
  6. Decorate responsibly – Use reusable décor instead of buying one-time centerpieces.  Gather leaves from the yard and strew them down the center of the table with beeswax candles, reuse your pumpkins and gourds from Halloween, or decorate with food.  Put cranberries in different size vases that you can wash and use later.  Need to label place settings?  Use old wine corks with a slit in them to prop up a card or wrap twine around an apple (like in the photo shown above).  After the meal is over you can collect the apples and use them later!

How will you celebrating Thanksgiving?  How do you make Thanksgiving greener?