Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving Feast

Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing. The list for a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast makes stomachs rumble. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and we begin planning out all of the dishes that will cover our tables, it is also important to consider the impacts that our annual feast has on the environment. How many natural resources are consumed to grow all of the food? Where does all the food we don’t finish end up? How can we have a more eco-friendly holiday celebration? Check out these tips to find out.

Shop local:

Buying local (whenever possible) is a great way to reduce your impact on the earth for several reasons. First, local food means fewer food miles, which in turn means lower greenhouse gas emissions. Conventionally grown food travels about 1500 miles from the farm to the plate of the consumer, compared to just 50 miles for local foods. As a result, conventionally grown products utilizes 4 to 17 times more fuel and emits 5 to 17 times more CO2 than local food does. Local farms also tend to practice more sustainable farming methods like using compost as a natural fertilizer.

Ditch Disposables:

With so many different plates being served at the table, Thanksgiving dinner can turn into a big pile of dishes quickly. It’s not uncommon for disposables to be used. While avoiding lots of dishwasher loads is tempting, it is not the more environmentally friendly option. All the plastic we dispose of often ends up in our oceans, contributing to wildlife endangerment and water pollution. And the paper napkins and plates we use promote biodiversity loss, deforestation, and increased CO2 emissions. So instead of disposable tableware, opt for your reusable dishes this year. Sure, it’ll mean a little extra time spent at the sink, but you’ll rest easy knowing you’re making a difference.

Avoid the Turkey:

Mass meat production places a significant strain on the environment, and turkey is no exception. Americans eat 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, each of which produced roughly 10.89 lbs of CO2! That adds up to 500,940,000 lbs of CO2 emitted on just one day. Plus, it takes 915,200 barrels of oil to produce and transport all of those turkeys. Plant-based foods on the other hand result in much lower carbon emissions, making them a more sustainable option. There are a bunch of imitation meats available for purchase that could easily replace your turkey entrée. Even if tofurkey doesn’t sound enticing, you can still have a plant-focused meal by offering more veggies.

Dispose of waste properly:

Lastly, be sure to dispose of your waste in the proper places. Most food scraps can be composted and many food containers are recyclable. When it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases, opt for in-store pick up to reduce packaging that is often used when orders are shipped to you. For more information about this, read this student’s corner article. Be sure to check your city’s policies and programs for specific waste sorting criteria. Proper sorting can help divert waste from landfills and avoid contamination of recycling facilities.


Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022.

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One Reply to “Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving Feast”

  1. Nice blog, Emily. I usually try to keep those things in mind but this was a good reminder. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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