Ask Eartha: How to host a zero waste Thanksgiving
High Country Conservation Center
I am hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at my home this year, and I want it to be focused on sustainability. How do I make my Thanksgiving feast zero waste?
During Thanksgiving, we eat and drink a lot, and that means we create large amounts of waste and throw away a significant amount of food. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, consumers will throw away an estimated 204 million pounds of turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday.
This is especially alarming during a time when 18 million American households struggle to put food on the table. Not to mention, food waste in landfills generates toxic greenhouse gas emissions. There is no better way to give thanks for our food this holiday than by making sure none of it goes to waste.
Making your holiday zero waste means not over-purchasing, not over-consuming and reducing the amount of materials you send to the landfill. You do not have to be perfect. Use the holiday to be more mindful of the things you purchase and how you discard them. Make a broader impact through creating an experience that aligns with your values. You might even inspire others to do the same.
Hosting a zero-waste Thanksgiving is easier than you might think. Follow these tips to cultivate gratitude for one another and our earth this holiday season.
Preparation and prevention
Making a difference starts long before you begin cooking. The easiest way to avoid buying and preparing too much is through planning. Be conscious of how many people are attending, how much they normally eat, and adjust your grocery list accordingly.
Before going to the grocery store, check your refrigerator and cabinets to prevent buying things you already have. Avoid impulse buys and purchase items that have minimal packaging. Look for packaging that you know can be recycled locally.
Before the feast
When setting your holiday table, make sure to use real plates, silverware, glasses and cloth napkins. Try natural decorations such as dried leaves, pinecones, squash and pumpkins. Once the holiday is over, you can return these items back to nature. Your table will look amazing, while eliminating plastic junk that goes to the landfill.
Next, get your recycling and composting bins ready. If you still haven’t picked one up, High Country Conservation Center has some free composting buckets available, but they are going fast. Have your bins clearly labeled and in a convenient spot for your guests to use. If you need recycling and composting signs to help guide your guests, the Conservation Center has some available to print on their website, highcountryconservation.org.
Let your guests know why zero waste is important to you and that their help would mean a lot.
During the feast
After all your hard work and preparation, enjoy a well-deserved glass of wine or two. You are making a difference by creating less waste and sharing the importance with loved ones and friends. When you are thinking about what you are grateful for this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to mention Mother Earth.
After the feast
Although you and your guests might be in a food-induced coma, don’t fall asleep just yet. The cleanup is essential to make sure everything gets packaged up, composted or recycled correctly. Toward the end of your dinner, make an announcement to let guests know to compost their food scraps and encourage them to take leftovers.
Instead of reaching for Ziploc bags and plastic wrap for leftovers, opt for glass mason jars, reusable Tupperware or eco-friendly beeswax cloths that form around bowls. Make it fun and convenient for your guests to take food home by setting up a leftover station. Have reusable containers available or, better yet, have everyone bring their own.
What’s a waste warrior to do with all those bones, trimmings and peels? Compost them, of course. Through the free Summit County Food Scrap Recycling Program, you can drop off food waste at the Breckenridge and Frisco recycling centers. You’ll just need to enroll at highcountryconservation.org. Once the leftovers are put away, use eco-friendly cleaning products and only run the dishwasher when full.
Thanksgiving easily can become a time of excess. But with a little bit of planning, you can host a satisfying and waste-free feast for everyone to enjoy.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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