11/05/2013 03:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rachelle Carson-Begley: Going Green This Thanksgiving

By Rachelle Carson-Begley

There are many green Thanksgiving ideas to save you time and money, help keep waste to a minimum, and create a festive dinner party or family gathering. This is the perfect holiday to experiment with green ideas you may not have tried before--resulting in an effortless, lovely, eco-friendly holiday. Take it from me, I'm not a big cook, but this is one holiday for which I love to put my green style into action. Friends and family are always close to home. If you make the day more about community and family and less about "consumption" you'll be well on your way to a green holiday.

Shop locally.
Many people fall out of the habit of shopping locally around the holidays. Big mistake. Try your local meat and farmer's markets for pasture-raised organic turkey, organic veggies, and unique prepared side dishes, such as cranberry relish, pumpkin pie, and fig jam. Local shops often stock a high percentage of local sourced goods, including fruits and veggies, which do not require long carbon-emission car and bus journeys, helping reduce our global footprint. Local foods picked when they are ripe always taste better. Another reason to shop locally: generally speaking, local businesses are more generous in their support of local charities, schools, and community events.

Consider hosting a vegetarian Thanksgiving.
One year we were invited to a friend's home for Thanksgiving, and she served a delicious, upscale vegetarian feast. She served tons of vegetarian side dishes, from pecan-infused Brussels sprouts to pumpkin soup, and lovely fruit compotes. Many organic markets, such as Whole Foods, also sell tofurkey, a casserole or loaf made primarily of tofu. Although I am not a vegetarian, I try my best to avoid overeating meat. In our home, we do a 90 percent vegetarian meal, with lots of leafy greens, such as Swiss chard and green beans (both in abundance at this time of year). Why? Partly because conventional meat production is a major cause of deforestation and global greenhouse gas emissions--more so than the transportation sector, according to a 2006 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Donate to a food bank.
According to Feeding America, one in six Americans face hunger every day. What better way to show your thanks than to donate some items to your local food bank? With the economy taking a toll on many food banks across the United States, donations are needed now more than ever. Community clubs and houses of faith also traditionally welcome both food and volunteers to feed the community at this time of year.

Use your candles.
Every Thanksgiving, we make it a point not to turn on the lights in the evening. We light candles around the table and all over our home. They are inexpensive, and there are so many shapes, sizes, and colors to choose from (however, I do recommend unscented so that they don't compete with all your wonderful food scents). A friend of mine places short votive candles in a tall, glass vase filled with water so they can float. You can also use a decorative bowl filled with water and cranberries or greens. They work equally well on the mantle, kitchen counter, or tabletop.

Decorate with nature.
Pumpkins, squash, Native American corn, pomegranates, pinecones, tree branches, green apples, and other natural items make beautiful accents and centerpieces when placed in your favorite wooden or ceramic bowl. Autumn leaves look stunning when gathered together and placed with acorns in a clear glass bowl. I sometimes make pomanders a week before: I simply take a needle and poke holes in small oranges or apples and insert a clove into each spot. Place these in a shallow dish filled with a mixture of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, and turn them during the week until they have dried and hardened. When they have cured you can dust them off and either give them as gifts or place them in bowls around your home.

Recycle your turkey carcass.
Your organic turkey carcass and a gallon of purified water provide the perfect ingredients for a hearty soup stock. Toss in your carrot tops, celery leaves, and other left over veggie for added flavor. Your local community may have turkey recycling programs--sometime organic farms will take them in to recycle and keep them out of landfills.

Start a compost pile.
Your discarded veggie and fruit scraps provide the perfect ingredients for that long-awaited compost pile. Backyard composting is a straightforward process designed to speed up the breakdown or decomposing of organic materials--if you put a pile of carbon-rich fall leaves, dead flowers from your garden, and your nitrogen-rich green kitchen scraps in a cardboard box in the back yard, they will decompose. Ideally, pick an area that is at least 3x3', and don't forget to a shovelful or two of organic gardening soil. There are many online gardening sites that provide tips for creating compost piles.

Don't forget to be grateful.
Thanksgiving, is the perfect time to give thanks for what you have and not what you don't have or need to acquire. Engage your friends and family in gratitude and have every guest be prepared to state something he or she is grateful for as you begin your meal. Consider inviting someone over who might be alone or someone you don't know so well. Go out of your comfort zone.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving as you give thanks to the universe for all that you have.


Actress, speaker, and author Rachelle Carson-Begley is one of the most recognized names and faces in the environmental world of Hollywood. To learn more about her and her tips for an eco-friendly world, visit