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10 Ways To Have A Greener Thanksgiving

By Sebrina Zerkus Smith |
Here are 10 ways to have a lighter impact on our most indulgent holiday.


With Christmas decorations and holiday sales already in full swing, Thanksgiving is quickly turning into what we like to call "The Forgotten Holiday."

But it shouldn't be. Thanksgiving should be the perfect time to reflect on how very blessed we are... as a nation, as individuals, and simply as humans, allowed to be here and enjoy all the bounty that Mother Nature gives to us each day.

Whether you're planning a big family gathering, an intimate celebration for two, or being quarantined with the flu, as Mr. Lite Green and I were last Thanksgiving, you can still do your part to reduce, reuse and recycle.

These ideas will help you have a happy, and greener, Thanksgiving.

1. Make a master list. If you take the time to make out a grocery list of all the ingredients you'll need for the entire holiday weekend, you can conserve resources by making only one trip to the market. Try to plan out all the stops you'll need to make; the liquor store, the farmer's market, the grocery store; and plan your route to make the most of the fuel you'll need to use. Taking the extra minute to research and plan will cut down on transportation time, gas and subsequent shopping trips. Try to combine stops when you can and park your car and walk between shops if possible. Carry an ice chest or cooler bag in your car to store items that need refrigeration. Remember to bring your reusable shopping bags to carry your purchases.

2. Shop for local meat and produce. It's better for the environment because less fuel is needed to bring to your market and less packaging is needed to keep it fresh. It also helps promote and encourage locally sustainable farming practices. Plus, you'll be helping your local economy by supporting local businesses. Buy in bulk when possible. Nuts and grains are good choices for bulk items.

3. Use your prettiest dishes and skip disposable anything. It can be a hassle to iron napkins and table cloths. And there is an argument to be made, I guess, that using recyclable/disposable plates and napkins saves water, but I like using my "good" dishes and napkins. Why do you have that beautiful china if you don't use it? Or those beautiful cloth napkins? Believe me, if they could talk, they'd say, "Let me outta here! I want to serve!"

If you don't have enough table settings, hit your local thrift store and pick pieces that will blend with what you already have. A mix and match look is so chic right now. And a table set with different glasses and plates looks interesting and can help move sagging conversations along. Just think how smart you'll sound when you talk about what a great find those vintage Flintstone's jelly glasses are.

4. Make use of an already hot oven. If you're already roasting a turkey at 350 degrees, choose side dishes that can go into the oven alongside the turkey at the same temperature. Slide the sides in at the appropriate time alongside the bird. Plus, by doing this, you impress everyone with your Martha-like skill of having all the dishes ready at the same time!

5. Let nature be your centerpiece. Go out into your own back yard or for a hike in the woods and look for fallen oak and maple leaves, acorns, pine cones and berry sprigs to adorn your table. Almost anything will work. Magnolia leaves, boxwood branches, and twigs look so pretty when nestled together on a pretty tablecloth. For color, use organic fruits that can be eaten later, or gourds that can be recycled into a beautiful birdhouse after Thanksgiving.

6. Add eco-friendly candles for a warm glow that won't hurt the planet. Candles add a lot to the atmosphere of any gathering. And it may seem like a small thing, but the type of candles you choose can make a big eco-difference. This year, choose soy candles, which emit no carcinogens when they burn. Or choose beeswax candles. Beeswax is a completely renewable resource and your candles will burn longer than traditional paraffin candles.

7. Serve individual drinks from recyclable aluminum cans and wine from a box. Use glasses you have on hand, not plastic cups for beverages—and never, never, styrofoam (some areas are now recycling styrofoam, but I still think regular old glasses are a better choice.)

8. Start a leftover tradition. Have everyone on your guest list bring their own reusable container and fill it with leftovers for them to take home.

9. Keep it separate. Ask guests to help you separate compostables and recyclables as you're cooking and cleaning up.

10. Carpool to your holiday party destination. Instead of taking three or four or five cars to Grandma's this year, why not go together. Go pick up your cousin and aunt. Give your brother and his family a ride. What better time to sing "O'er the river and through the woods..." than together on the way to your holiday celebration. You'll save resources and time, which means you get to eat turkey (or tofu, if you wish) that much sooner.

This year, say thanks to the Planet by doing your part to have a Greener Turkey Day. Gobble, gobble!
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