The holidays are meant to bring out the best in us. Throughout the season, we celebrate love, give thanks, create cheer and whip up joy. Amid the merry making, with the average American spending $730 on food, gifts, and other holiday items, we’re also generating a ton of trash.
Starting with Thanksgiving alone, the volume of waste in the United States generally goes up by 25 percent. At Thanksgiving in particular, households experience three times more food waste than other times of the year.
The good news is going green doesn’t require a holiday miracle. It’s easy to give more meaning to the season while creating less mess. With your next holiday feast, you can kick start an eco-friendly Thanksgiving and make sure your only leftovers are the kind that you can eat.
- Food Packaging: Most food packaging is unnecessary and created by marketers to capture your attention. Avoiding unnecessary packaging requires just a little extra thought. First, commit to buying fresh and in bulk whenever possible. Bring your own jars or containers for produce and any items that need to be weighed. If you have to buy packaged goods, opt for the ones that are in sustainable packages that can be reused or recycled. Many packages are now made with recycled materials. So make sure to read the label when making good consumer choices.
- Eat Sustainable Food and Shop Local: Go local as much as possible. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s better for your health. Food produced locally is fresher and full of more nutrients than the items that have to travel to you and sit on the shelf before you take them home. Also, choose organic veggies, fruits, meat or sustainable seafood, which all have a lighter footprint on the earth.
- Serve just enough: Make sure to plan ahead exactly how much food your guests will realistically eat. It sounds like a no-brainer but many hosts fear not having enough food and then go overboard with shopping and preparation.
- Self-serve: Encouraging self-serve allows guests to put on their plate exactly what they need. You may think you’re being a good host by loading everyone’s plates but this method reduces the chances of excess food hitting the garbage afterwards.
- Use reusable dishware: Avoid disposable dishes, utensils, and napkins. If you can’t go without them, make sure they are made from recycled or compostable material.
- Compost & recycle: Place identifiable recycling and compost containers at your gathering so your guests can easily recycle cans, bottles, paper products and compost food scraps. If you have too many leftovers too handle, you can share them with your local food bank. Check out this link to locate a food bank near you.
- Use recycled content: Rethink your decorations and invites by using recycled content. You don’t have to buy new. Get creative at a second-hand store for mix-n-match place settings. Opt for digital invites and when sending cards, look for paper with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
- Give with meaning: With the final slicing of the pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving signals that holiday shopping has officially begun. You don’t have to get swept away in the long lines or Black Friday madness in order to be a generous gift giver this season. Why not survey your current clothes and household goods? Many of the items you no longer use (or the ones that will be replaced this season with gifts) can be giving a second life through recycling programs. Textile recycler USAgain is celebrating the holiday season with accessible clothing bins and the reminder that clothing recycling helps people across the world.
As we give thanks this holiday, we can renew our views on what abundance really means. Let environmental responsibilities inspire your celebrations. It only takes a small commitment to “green” your holiday season with reducing, recycling, and reusing.