How to plan a green Thanksgiving

By  | 
dining table setting at provence style with candles lavender vintage crockery and cutlery closeup

Image: Shutterstock/Daria Minaeva

With some of the political uncertainly surrounding environmentalism going forward, the holidays are a great way to reaffirm your own personal commitment to being green and gently encourage others to do the same. Hence why we’re declaring this year a green Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is already a fairly green holiday, when you think about it. It’s the ultimate leftover holiday (turkey sandwiches, anyone?), and it’s one of those holidays where you tend to use fancy, reusable dinnerware. But there are other ways you can have a green Thanksgiving.

Have a vegan and vegetarian option

It’s no secret that meat has a large carbon footprint. It takes more energy to prepare, store and ship to keep fresh. Plus, it takes two levels of resources to get meat to your table: what you feed the animal and killing the actual animal.

The good (?) news is beef has well over double the production and post-farmgate carbon dioxide emissions over turkey (27 kilograms of emissions versus turkey’s 10.9). But tofu has only about 20% the emissions of turkey, sitting at 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. Even if not everybody wants to be vegetarian, it might be worth getting a smaller bird and having the tofu turkey option, or other vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving recipes to make a green Thanksgiving.

Remember the compost heap

This time of the year, there may still be time to get in some remaining composting action before the pile freezes, especially if you’re in one of the areas that has had a more mild fall.

It is possible to keep a compost heap going year round, or at least most of the winter, with enough insulation. Part of that insulation is making sure you have plenty of organic matter within an enclosed area, ideally insulated with hay bales. So get stared by composting any uneaten organic matter to kickoff your green Thanksgiving.

Make reusable substitutions 

Just because Thanksgiving is a good fancy dinnerware holiday doesn’t mean you can’t go above and beyond. Remember to use cloth napkins. Make use of reusable leftover containers, especially if you’re going to someone else’s house so you have your own reusable option. You might also want to use reusable bakeware like glass pie pans.

Remember to use reusable decorations as well for this green Thanksgiving, like faux centerpieces or window hangings that use suction cups instead of adhesive window decals that can lose their stick after a year or two.

Get into energy conservation mode 

Remember the energy you’re using while preparing food. Use the oven to prepare food requiring similar temperatures at the same time so you’re using the oven less. You can also do little things like putting the butter out early so you can soften it without the use of the microwave.

Though a microwave is actually more energy efficient than the stove, since an efficient microwave can use 30-80% less energy than a conventional oven, depending on the type of appliances used. So see if you can substitute some oven cooking for heating something up in the microwave if you can’t fit your whole meal in the stove at once. You can actually make mashed potatoes in the microwave, and it’s a good option for preparing veggies. You can really get creative here when preparing for your green Thanksgiving.

Remember the local and organic food

It’s easy to forget the farmers market when the weather gets cold. You might assume everything is getting out of season. But actually, many farmers markets are open into the winter and have holiday fare. Some even sell turkeys and fresh cranberries this time of year. You may also be able to find late-season hardy vegetables like spinach for salads.

Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. You can find out more about her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *