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How to Green Your Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving turkey

If you're grateful for the natural world this Thanksgiving, you're likely to appreciate these tips, which aim to help you preserve the planet while planning your holiday festivities.

1. Consider Vegetarian Options: In years past, I've suggested skipping the bird -- but if you're not there yet, or know you never will be, you might consider choosing to forgo livestock for the rest of your holiday spread; the New York Times just published a beautiful online compilation of vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving recipes. Those for whom Tofurky just doesn't cut it can also think about sticking it to the factory farms by buying from free-range family operations, or by "offsetting" your main course by adopting one of Farm Sanctuary's gregarious turkeys.

2. Cook Cleaner: There's plenty you can do while preparing that massive meal to save energy and prevent waste. For one thing, when using the stove top, you don't have to keep the burners on as long as you think (you also don't need to use as much water). Even before the holiday ingredients arrive at your kitchen, though, make sure they're local, seasonal (requisite for Thanksgiving staples anyhow), and organic.

3. Offset Your Travel: I've already told you how to offset your turkey -- but will you be offsetting your Thanksgiving travel as well? Unless you're planning to walk, bike, carpool, or catch public transit to your Thanksgiving destination, you'll likely be taking a plane. And though it's controversial, offsetting is currently one of the only ways to make flying greener. If you're in the it's-better-than-nothing camp, check out this list of worthy carbon-offsetting sites.

4. Manage the Aftermath: After the feast is finished, there are two inevitables: leftovers and cleaning. When storing what's left, eschew Saran wrap and aluminum foil, which get used a time or two before heading to the landfill. Opt instead for reusable containers. Consider, too, asking guests to bring their own containers so they can take home leftovers -- that way, you won't get caught trashing days-old turkey (or Tofurky) in early December.

When cleaning, go for green products (or make your own), and choose cloth instead of paper towels.

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