Credit: Hepzi Rattray (

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for sustainable solutions

By Rothery Sullivan

Why not try a good piece of Tofurky this Thanksgiving?

Every year, the holiday season results in large amounts of waste; from food waste to single-use plastic decorations to gift wrapping supplies. A major holiday for food waste during this season is Thanksgiving. For those who don’t know much about the American festival, it’s a holiday that was created to celebrate a bountiful harvest with a feast; in today’s world, it is a day when families gather together for a large meal and express their gratitude for the blessings in their life. Like most holidays, Thanksgiving is accompanied by a lot of food, including (but not limited to) turkey, potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, gravy, brussels sprouts, green beans, rolls, wine, and pumpkin and apple pie. The anticipation of the holiday through the entire month of November usually leads to a lot of fall-themed decorations being put up inside and outside of people’s homes in an attempt to show their Thanksgiving spirit. Children also often make their own turkey decorations in schools, and people usually purchase Thanksgiving-themed centerpieces (the most common one is the cornucopia). Thanksgiving is one of the most gluttonous holidays of the year which leads to it being a very wasteful day; however, there are some ways we, as consumers, can make this holiday more sustainable. 

For starters, although this may seem commonsensical, you should avoid all single-use plastics on this day; this includes eating utensils, food containers, cups, tablecloths and decorations. Avoid all unnecessary decorations, and make sure you use reusable dishware. The reluctance to replace single use dishes with reusable ones probably comes from not wanting to clean the huge mess after the meal is over; however, 30 minutes of clean up from every family in the United States will save thousands of pounds of waste. 

Another easy way to have a more sustainable Thanksgiving is to only prepare foods that you know everyone will enjoy – there is no need for ten different side dishes that only one or two people will eat (yes, I’m talking about the rolls that your grandmother always bakes, and then forgets to put out, and end up getting tossed in the bin). By taking a poll in your family to find out the most popular foods, you can eliminate a large amount of food waste along with saving money and time. 

Although not everyone can afford to, when it comes to purchasing the food for the big meal you should try to stick to locally grown vegetables and farm raised animals. After all, the holiday was created to celebrate the harvest season, so supporting a local farm is always in the Thanksgiving spirit. Even better, you could enjoy a vegan holiday and with a great Tofurky instead! Making small adjustments to ensure that your food is sustainably sourced will do a lot to help local businesses and to put less pressure on the large poultry corporations to mass produce products during the holiday season (which is already a lot of pressure, as an average of 46 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving). 

Lastly, one more fun way to be sustainable this Thanksgiving is to make sure that you save your leftovers! One of the best parts of the week following Thanksgiving is the turkey sandwiches, turkey pie and the leftover turkey plates that can be reheated in the microwave and ready to eat within minutes. Enjoy a week without cooking and make sure you don’t waste any of the delicious food you made for the holiday. While Thanksgiving can be wasteful, there are ways to ensure that we do not let the holiday contribute to the climate crisis. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving this year, make sure you are mindful of where you are getting your food from and how you choose to dispose of your waste:  recycling is key! If you do these things, you can enjoy a guilt-free turkey day.


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