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Out of the Bag: Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving

Green your Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the "original" green holiday - falls leaves, wildlife, foraging for food, sharing with our neighbors, over the hills and through the woods ... I could go on for paragraphs. 

Instead, let's talk about how we can incorporate environmental responsibility or "green" our holidays.

First, reduce waste. Wasted food accounts for 15% of landfill contents. Earth911.com suggests a few core planning tips to avoid wasting food.

  • Have a leftover plan. Think ahead so you don't up with too many turkey sandwiches and even more dressing than you can use. 
  • Consider energy use and efficiency. Can you put more than one dish in the oven at the same temp? What about washing dishes?
  • From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, household waste increases by 25%
  • What can be recycled? Perhaps use recyclable cups and compostable plates for your appetizers and desserts. 

 

Second, decorate with an eye to a green turkey. OK, maybe that's not the best imagery. But you get our point.

  • Use natural elements like pine cones, gourds and wood, perhaps even fall leaves. 
  • Fold reusable napkins (cloth) into cute shapes or simply use festive colors to avoid disposable napkins. 
  • Have the kids cut up construction paper which can eventually be recycled or composted. 

 

Third, source your food.

  • Have you considered a Heritage Turkey? Or free range? Organic? (Options!)
  • Buy local. Many regional farmer's markets are still open this week so you can purchase autumn foods and side dishes. Pumpkin can be a terrific base ingredient for vegetarian dishes. 

 

Fourth, tote bags.

  • One thing about Thanksgiving - we all carry "stuff" be it a dish to share, a bottle of wine or a hostess gift. Then there are leftovers
  • Pack a lightweight tote so your host isn't scurrying around for disposable bags for your takeaway items.
  • Pick up some festive totes to send home with your guests. Maybe add a special note or card for them to find the next day showing how much you are grateful for them.

 

Finally, green bean casserole. 'Nuff said.

The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project collects new and gently used tote bags for distribution to the region's food pantries. We are a project of the Thomas Merton Center. Visit our website for a list of permanent drop-off spots, information on how to organize your own tote bag drive and details on our partnerships with corporations and promotional products items. You can also follow us on Twitter@Tote4Pgh and Facebook.com/Tote4pgh

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Scott Baret November 18, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I realize it's a bit late in the game, but something to keep in mind for next year... Eichner's in Wexford still offers turkeys. It's a great way to buy local and support a great farm family. Also, if you make a turkey craft, make sure it can be re-used. My mom and I made felt turkey placeholders when I was four. They were out last Thanksgiving and if we weren't going out to eat this year, I know they would have made yet another appearance. Not only does this save on disposable items, it also provides a fun tradition which becomes even more special as those old crafts pass the two decade mark.
Sue Kerr November 18, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Thanks for commenting, Scott. Yes, purchasing a locally bred turkey is definitely green in addition to what you mentioned by the sheer reduction in fuel to transport the bird. It also can reduce packaging. I suggest folks ask their Farmer's Market contacts for turkey farm suggestions. The decoration point is well made. I was just thinking about the pair of slightly chipped ceramic turkeys that resided in our buffet year round. They were the only holiday decoration for Turkey Day, but I loved them. I think my grandmother made them in a class she took. Was your pun in the first sentence intentional? :-) Sue
Margaret French November 20, 2012 at 05:49 AM
Who could have "more dressing than you can use?" LOL
NE12Ukid November 20, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Good question, Margaret!
Sue Kerr November 20, 2012 at 02:05 PM
LOL. That's a good point. How about even more green bean casserole?
NE12Ukid November 20, 2012 at 03:02 PM
One year someone else made the green bean casserole and used whole beans instead of frenched beans. Never again! I learned this simple dish back when Betty Crocker first put it out in the early 60s, in my home ec class in jr high! Frenched style green beans (canned are fine, frozen bagged are good too) Cream of mushroom soup. French's can of fried onions. Noticed that GE and Target have a big rectangular box of the fried onions this year, instead of the smaller cans so you can make a double recipe or make it again a week or so later just because it tastes good. I have changed the ingredients slightly and use the fat free Campbells cream of mushroom soup to cut calories a bit. No one has ever noticed the difference. Recipe specifics: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/green-bean-casserole/f466928f-a799-4cdc-89ba-1e0bbedf878b
NE12Ukid November 20, 2012 at 03:03 PM
•What can be recycled? Perhaps use recyclable cups and compostable plates for your appetizers and desserts. How about no paper products at all. Use real dishes and utensils! AND cloth napkins!

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