As millions of Americans gather on Nov. 22 to give thanks, the environment will not be doing the same. As Thanksgiving approaches, it is worth considering the environmental impact this holiday has on the planet.
Every year, Thanksgiving takes a large toll on natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. Americans throw away about 282 million dollars of uneaten turkey, or about 204 million pounds. This meat requires about 105 billion gallons of water to produce, and is enough food to feed the entirety of New York City for more than 100 days.
Additionally, roughly 39,000,000 families travel every year for Thanksgiving. People traveling by car drive an average of 588 miles, producing 10.8 billion total pounds of carbon dioxide. People traveling by plane fly an average of 500 miles, producing 800 million total pounds of carbon dioxide.
Fossil fuels changed that equation. Furthermore, unlike the first Thanksgiving in 1621, we are not going outside to pick our food or hunt, so food miles add another problem. As you gather next week with your family to give thanks, keep the environment in mind.
What you can do
Here are some ideas you can try this year to have a more eco-friendly Thanksgiving (the environment will thank you!):
Use reusable dinnerware, glasses, and napkins
Scrap the disposable plates, utensils, glasses, and napkins, and opt for the more environmentally friendly (and classy!) option of reusable dinnerware.
Buy locally-grown produce
Purchasing local reduces the emissions produced from transportation and supports local farmers who tend to practice more sustainable farming methods.
Reduce the amount of meat on the table
Although the centerpiece food at a Thanksgiving dinner is turkey, that does not mean that every other dish has to contain meat in it as well. The meat industry is the number one source of methane gas, a major contributor to climate change. Try cooking a vegetarian stuffing this year, or substitute some meat sides with veggies, such as squash or green beans.
Buy a pastured turkey
Turkeys that are raised in open pastures are more environmentally friendly, and their care is more humane.
Black Friday is a day notorious for over-consumption. From the period of Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, humans produce 25 percent more waste than our average rate, resulting in an additional 1 million tons of waste dumped into landfills each week. Try being more mindful of your purchases this year, and recycle the packaging from what you do buy!
Compost your leftovers
Millions of pounds of food waste are produced every Thanksgiving. This year, instead of throwing away your dinner scraps, take them to a composting center or use them in your own backyard as fertilizer for your garden.
Many people travel every Thanksgiving. If you fly every year to visit family, consider taking the trip every other year or, if your family is within reasonable driving distance, consider a road trip rather than a flight. If you must fly, be sure to buy a nonstop plane ticket because fewer take-offs and landings means less carbon emissions.