Here are a few tips to help you say ‘no’ to plastic and food waste for a sustainable Thanksgiving.
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As an Australian expatriate living in the U.S. for the past seven years, I have mostly spent the Thanksgiving Holidays with different friends and their families. One year I felt lucky to be able to enjoy it with my own family, as I hosted my sister and her fiance for a Thanksgiving dinner. In honor of that new tradition, I’m determined to begin a new one of my own; a sustainable Thanksgiving dinner. I won’t simply celebrate overindulging in turkey, pies, and all the delicious stuffings. It will also be about minimizing food waste, avoiding plastic, and giving thanks to our planet for its abundance of resources. If I play my card right, it might just be a 100% zero waste and sustainable holiday and that’s something that I will feel thankful for.
Part of my inspiration lies in my desire to change the statistics. America is a world leader in food waste. Approximately 200 lbs of food per person goes to waste each year, making food the single largest contributor to landfills. So, it’s no surprise that our Thanksgiving dinners have a significant impact on the amount of waste we accumulate each year. Around 200 million pounds of turkey goes to waste in the aftermath of our Thanksgiving feasts and more than 150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans, and other sides are thrown away country-wide. Most of this food is perfectly edible, but we are wasting so much more than the tangible food that we throw away like the water, land, and fossil fuel resources that go into the production and transportation of produce.
As I work towards minimizing my waste, I’ll be mindful of how I can reduce my food waste as I cook dinner for my family and friends. I’ve researched a few ways to have a sustainable Thanksgiving and here are my top tips that I’ll be using to go waste-free this Holiday season.
Reduce food waste and have groceries delivered straight to your door. They’ve partnered with Imperfect Foods to rescue organic non-GMO produce that is ‘imperfect’ looking, but perfect to eat. Plus, leave packaging out for your driver to recycle for you.
To avoid unnecessary food waste I’ve learned that it is important to make conscious decisions in each stage of cooking. And, that begins with a little bit of planning.
After confirming your Thanksgiving guest list it is important to make a plan of the different dishes and their quantities that you will make for the dinner table. This can be a really simple way to avoid any excess food waste at the end of the feast. Once you have confirmed the menu, the next step is to purchase the ingredients you will need. Your first stop should be your fridge. Take count of any items you already have stocked up in your kitchen to ensure that you will avoid over-buying.
Now, before you head out to your local grocery store chain, there are other options that are more sustainable that you can try first.
- Support your local farmers by buying produce from local markets. This will also limit any excess plastic packaging.
- Another option for your grocery purchases is to shop for ugly produce. I enjoy receiving mine from Imperfect Foods. As an online grocery delivery service, Imperfect prides itself on providing a solution to America’s food waste problem. Large grocery stores often reject perfectly edible products just because of a bruise, or an unconventional shape. Imperfect Foods has been able to save up to 139 million pounds of these ‘imperfect’ foods from landfills.
This year swap the disposable foil baking tins for your desserts and sides for reusable sheet pans and pie dishes. You will achieve a flakier crust on your pies and have enough oven-friendly pans to cook all your desserts and sides on for many Thanksgivings to come.
Kitchen twine is a staple in the kitchen. Whether you are using it to truss a turkey or in your presentation of place settings, your choice of twine has the potential to impact the earth. Linen twine is made from flax plants and is extremely strong with antibacterial properties. Linen is also one of the most biodegradable materials.
Timing is everything in the kitchen. But with only one oven and a small microwave, it can be hard to perfect the timing needed to ensure a full table of hot food. While it might be easy to use aluminum foil to cover your ready food as you wait for your other dishes to finish cooking and heating, try instead using linen reusable food covers.
After a big day of entertaining, cooking, and eating it can be tempting to try and get through the Thanksgiving clean-up as quickly as possible, hastily throwing out items that could be saved. This year, I’m making a conscious effort to find a second life for the scraps and leftover food from our Thanksgiving meal.
Firstly, save ALL of your vegetable scraps to make your vegetable stock. As you will have a lot on your plate on Thanksgiving Day, simply transfer all your scraps into a sustainable container and store them in the freezer until you are ready to make your stock. Once your stock is made you can compost those leftover veggie scraps.
Simply reheating a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers can get old quickly. While there are so many recipes online for you to get inspired by, here are some of our favorite recipes to re-imagine any leftovers you have this year.
- Turkey Waldorf Salad
- Turkey Dumpling Stew
- Turkey Hash with Country Gravy
- Deep Fried Green Beans
- Cranberry-Carrot Muffins
Lastly, if your fridge is full of stacked leftover containers and you’ve exhausted your craving for Thanksgiving food, consider making a fancy feast for your furry pet. I’m sure they will love you even more for it. Before serving it up to your pet give it a quick smell test, and make sure there are no turkey/meat skin, bones, stuffing, or gravy, as that may be harmful to dogs.