White Christmas -- How About A Green Thanksgiving?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

White Christmas is a cultural and traditional icon of our
society.  Hopefully, sooner  rather than later, Green Thanksgiving will also
become an American standard.

Naturally, the most eco-friendly meal would be a 100 percent
vegan menu.  Let’s be honest, though, do
you really want to celebrate with turkey-shaped soy?  If you do, more power to you.  But if a “tofurky” feast isn’t your thing,
bear in mind you still have other savory and sustainable options:  Choose a turkey that is USDA-Certified
organic and free-range, meaning it is given organic feed and is free from
confinement.  You can find a list of
farmers at Local
who use organic methods to raise their birds, perhaps there is one
near you? 

If you do choose to enjoy soy for Thanksgiving there are
many vegetarian and vegan soy “turkeys” available, or you can even try making
your own.  Click here for
an article
offering many non-meat turkey options.  There are also some vegetarian
recipes if you want the full Thanksgiving meal experience.

It’s also the season for pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes,
and yams.  Traditional Thanksgiving food
is usually in season anyway, so why not get the freshest possible ingredients
for your mashed potatoes and pies by visiting your local farmer’s market?  Eating produce that’s in season -- especially
if grown locally -- cuts down on the carbon emissions needed to grow, plow,
ship, truck and fly it from the farm to your table.  If you can’t find a farmer’s market in your
area, try to purchase as many organic, in-season ingredients at the grocery
store as you can.  Here is a list of recipes
by in-season ingredient that you can try for your Thanksgiving meal.  

Planning final headcount will help monitor unnecessary food
waste, so get those RSVPs early!  While
we all love leftover turkey sandwiches, inevitably, some food spoils quickly
forcing you to toss it; have guests bring a reusable dish to share
leftovers.  If there are any scraps left,
try composting
them to limit waste and add nutrients to your garden. 

You can also consider, making your Thanksgiving meal a
potluck and ask your guests to bring different side dishes so all you have to
worry about is getting the best possible turkey.  Share vegan, vegetarian, in-season and
organic recipes as a little hint for the menu theme.  This allows everyone to participate in
creating a sustainable soiree.

Easy Décor

Don’t stop with dinner; incorporate a touch of green into
décor as well. Create the perfect holiday ambiance with candles, but choose
ones made out of soy or beeswax as they last longer and burn cleaner than
paraffin and petroleum candles that emit toxic chemicals.  Also, natural accents like baskets filled
with beautiful fall leaves or a cornucopia centerpiece with organic pumpkins
and gourds, are not only affordable but also eco-friendly.

When setting up for the feast, forget the disposable plates,
paper napkins and plastic cutlery and opt for the real deal, including
linens.  If your party is too large for
reusable items, try more biodegradable and sustainable party
supplies that can be composted after use.      

Before turkey-coma
sets in, be sure to keep your daily habits of recycling glass, plastic and
aluminum, and compost the leftover treats after the party. Also, remember to
let leftovers cool before storing as steam can increase the temperature inside
the refrigerator, which will then use more energy to keep it cold. Think you
might have too much, even for those delicious post-Thanksgiving meals? Send
guests packing with some turkey takeaways! 

Shop Smart

First, bring reusable bags when shopping. Planning for a big
meal means taking food home in a bundle of bags, so pass on the plastic at the
grocery store. Secondly, because of the popularity of organic products,
companies are starting to slap on organic labels for items that are not truly
organic.  Read the labels carefully.  USDA's National Organic Program regulates
the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that
wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced so look for
anything USDA-certified. 

You may find that turkey that is free-range, organic and
free of antibiotics is a bit pricier than the others at the supermarket.  However, it is a better choice for the
environment, your health, and the taste is incomparable.  If that’s not enough, just remember that
following the rest of the tips -- like making less food, not buying disposable
plates and cutlery, reducing electricity, using natural decorations, etc -- will
end up saving you money.

Most of all, enjoy the time with friends and family and be
thankful that we have an opportunity to correct mistakes of the past by making
environmentally friendly holiday decisions.  

What are some ways you plan to go green this Thanksgiving?
As always, I enjoy reading your comments.