Thanksgiving dinner is usually a go-big-or-go-home affair, but you can loosen your belt without stretching out the trash bag, too. A few tweaks to your Turkey Day routine will help you kick off the season of excess — did you know that we create 25% more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day?! — a bit less, well, excessively.
Here are our 10 best suggestions for enjoying yummy food and entertaining hungry guests all while reducing waste along the way.
Prepping Your Home
1. Get your house in order before guests arrive. From kitchen to dining room, there’s so much to tidy up before it’s time for turkey. Instead of using store-bought bottles upon bottles of chemical cleaners, make your own package-free DIY cleaners out of vinegar and baking soda for all areas of your home. You can also shine up surfaces with a reusable cloth instead of paper towels.
Read More: 6 Green Cleaning Tips for Before and After Thanksgiving Dinner
2. Set your table with style. Though it might be tempting to go the disposable route for your plates and utensils (especially if you have a lot of guests), resist the temptation! You can also ditch the disposable napkins as well. Opt for cloth ones instead, and choose funky patterns that can help show off your fall flair.
Read More: Intertwined: For Table Settings, Chic Is in the Details
3. Make a DIY centerpiece. When it’s time to decorate, skip the store bought fall staples like fake leaves and fall fruit. Instead, forage your yard for some pretty branches and leaves worthy of stealing the attention away from the turkey! Choosing natural décor also allows for super easy (and waste-free) cleanup... when you're done with them, just add it to the compost, or return your items back to your yard where you found them.
Read More: Greenly: Bring Your Thanksgiving Table to Life
4. Keep your waste separate. Want your guests to follow your recycling rules? Then help 'em out! Create separate, clearly-marked bins to help you and your guests easily separate compostables and recyclables as you're prepping, cooking, and cleaning up.
Read More: 10 Ways To Have A Greener Thanksgiving
Taking Care Of The Food
5. Make sure you’ve got this Thanksgiving in the bag. When shopping, make sure you bring lots of reusable bags so you can carry home all the goods you need for your feast without any unnecessary paper or plastic bags.
Read More: 6 Tips for a Greener Thanksgiving
6. Go less-processed when it comes to desserts. Skip the packaging of store-bought dessert ingredients and make your own sweet treats from scratch. Canned pumpkin spice can be nice but it doesn't compare to fresh pumpkin when it’s pie time.
Read More: 5-Step Thanksgiving Prep
7. Better yet, go can-less for your meal, too! Why stop at dessert? Your meal can also be can-free! Make your own delicious cranberry sauce or green bean casserole using fresh ingredients instead of their canned (or mostly canned) counterparts. Not only will you be reducing waste, but your guests will be impressed. You’ll taste the difference!
Read More: An Organic Journey: Thanksgiving Without The Cans
8. Make your own grocery staples. And now… why stop at just cans? Cooking shortcuts always come with lots of other packaging, like bottles, boxes, and bags. Instead of cutting corners, make your own staples ahead of time — like salad dressing or even chicken stock (to be used in your side dishes) — and after the meal, make turkey stock to keep for future meals.
Read More: The List: 4 More Grocery Staples You Should Make Yourself
9. Create fewer leftovers. If five days of leftovers aren’t your thing, try making less food to start with: If you’re hosting a small get-together, consider buying turkey breasts rather than a whole turkey. If a huge spread (or a whole turkey) is a must, plan to spread the leftovers wealth: Stock up on reusable containers to pack up and send home with your guests (or ask them beforehand to bring their own containers), so everyone can enjoy a more modest amount of turkey sandwiches.
Read More: Proper Green: Happy Non-Awkward Holidays
10. Spice up your leftovers, literally. Kick your leftovers plan up a notch by adding a few simple ingredients to the basic leftovers recipes. We dare you to even throw an after-party on Friday with the same guests as a challenge to transform them into a completely unrecognizable meal. At the very least, if you’ve got too many leftovers and they’re getting boring by day five, you can always get inventive just for yourself.
Read More: Greenly: Not Your Mama’s Turkey Sandwich