Guide to a Sustainable Thanksgiving

Did you know that in the U.S. we generate an extra 5 million tons of food waste annually between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? That’s a lot of perfectly good food heading to our landfills! With Thanksgiving a couple days away, I’m committed to conserving food and using our leftovers. Here are some simple tips to help you enjoy a waste-free Thanksgiving:

  • Plan ahead: Simply making a list and sticking to it can save you tons of time, money and food waste. Also, do the math and figure out how much food to cook per person. For the turkey, I usually calculate 1.5 lbs per person (this includes room for some leftovers). Here’s a genius tip from Martha Stewart: The smaller the bird (12 lbs or less), the lower the meat-to-bone ratio, so you’ll need more like 2 lbs per person.
  • Store leftovers safely: Properly storing our leftovers will keep them safe for future meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be left out for no more than two hours. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, so it’s more convenient to grab for a quick meal rather than being passed over and eventually wasted.
  • Compost: Instead of throwing out the vegetable peels, eggshells, and other food scraps, consider composting them. Here’s a helpful guide to composting from Wikipedia. There are even systems that allow folks without backyards to compost indoors.
  • Create new meals: Fortunately, Thanksgiving is one of the few days a year when many of us instinctively take steps to prevent food waste. It’s a day when most Americans eagerly save leftovers, and the day after is probably the only time many of us look forward to eating what remains in the fridge. There are a ton of websites out there dedicated to repurposing your Thanksgiving leftovers.
  • Donate excess: Food banks and shelters gladly welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. The charity group Feeding America partners with more than 200 local food banks across the U.S., supplying food to more than 37 million people each year. To find a food bank near you, visit the organization’s Food Bank Locator.
  • Avoid plastic wrap: Most plastic wraps contain PVC, which quickly winds up in landfills and has been linked to harmful environmental consequences. Use aluminum foil, or even better, send family home with glass or ceramic storage containers that they can return to you.  Or you can call your guests and ask them to bring their own containers if they’d like leftovers.

Most importantly, be sure to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!