Thanksgiving is 11 days away, so there’s still plenty of time to plan your menu, start your grocery shopping, and avoid the stress. Plus, planning ahead and staying organized helps to make your Thanksgiving as environmentally-responsible as possible. Here’s how:
- Let’s start with the obvious: Choose your turkey responsibly. There are a few options when it comes to turkeys. You have the conventional supermarket versions (sometimes called “natural”), free-range or pasture-raised, organic, kosher, and heritage. Real Simple has a great explanation of what the various labels mean. Among all the choices, there are a few standouts from an environmental and humane-treatment perspective: Free-range or pasture-raised means that the turkeys were allowed access to the outdoors; organic means the turkeys were raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, were fed pesticide-free, non-GMO feed, and were allowed access to the outdoors. Heritage turkeys are traditional breeds that are typically raised by small farmers in humane methods. The “heritage” moniker is similar to heirloom vegetables, since the farmers are helping to diversify the breeds of turkeys that are raised. You can find sources that will ship turkeys overnight, such as Heritage Foods, or Local Harvest, or find local sources from your local butcher or farmer’s market.
- Make your list (and check it twice). Take a page from Santa and sit down with your menu, recipes, and guest list to make a shopping list that’s as complete as can be. This way, you’ll cut down on last-minute panic, plus you can save fuel and cut down on car-based pollution by avoiding the unnecessary repeat trips to the supermarket. In the coming week, make headway with your list by picking up the groceries you need every time you head to the store.
- Buy local ingredients at farmer’s markets, roadside stands and produce departments. You’ll be supporting small farmers who have a vested interest in being responsible stewards of the land, and your food won’t have to travel hundreds of miles to your dinner table. What’s in season now are all the foods that are perfect for serving alongside your turkey: Green beans, Brussels sprouts, squash, and leafy greens are all at their peak in most parts of the country. Why not make the ubiquitous green bean casserole with fresh green beans and without the gloppy can of condensed soup?
- You can also give the less-processed treatment to desserts for healthier results and the potential for generating less manufacturing and packaging waste. Buy fresh pie pumpkins to make your own pumpkin puree for pumpkin pies, and try a corn syrup-free pecan pie (The recipe on The Kitchn has me drooling!).
- Now that we’ve covered the food, consider your centerpiece. Steer clear of buying cut flowers from the florist or your supermarket’s floral department — not only are they likely grown using copious amounts of toxic chemicals, but resources are wasted transporting and storing them in their climate-controlled environments. Instead, consider a centerpiece made of colorful leaves from the yard, or a bowl of pinecones gathered on a hike in the woods. Or create a centerpiece that will have a longer life, such as herbs potted in upcycled teacups or Mason jars, which you can transfer to your windowsill after the meal is over.