This past Saturday, aFewSteps asked shoppers at the Swarthmore Farmers’ Market to share their tips for making the Thanksgiving feast more sustainable. We enjoyed a lot of great conversations, and many of you wrote down your ideas for us to share with the community. We summarize them here, and hope you’ll be as inspired as we are to enjoy a green Thanksgiving.
1. Buy local!
From cheese to honey to the apples for your pie, the farmers’ market is the place to find delicious local foods for your holiday meal. “Buy a local turkey” and “Shop at the Co-op” appeared on our message board, and one of you suggested, “Buy local beer and recycle the bottles.” Local foods are fresh, transported over the shortest possible distances; and, when you buy local, you support a balanced economy in our region.
2. Ride your bike
One Swarthmorean added an extra twist to buying local: “Shop only at places where you can ride your bike!”
3. Eat more veggies
“How about letting turkeys live and using an alternative?” asked one neighbor. Another pointed out that even shifting toward a higher proportion of vegetables and less meat would make for a more sustainable feast, since meat production is more energy- and resource-intensive than growing vegetables.
3. Use real dishes and cloth napkins
Many of you advised against disposable paper and plastic on the Thanksgiving table. Eliminating drinking straws is an easy way to reduce waste. And almost any meal – not just Thanksgiving dinner – tastes better eaten from “real” dishes, with “real” table linens. What about pesky grease stains on cloth napkins? Use patterned napkins, and no one will notice.
3. Choose natural or reusable decorations
In late autumn, gardens and woods provide natural beauty for your tabletop. Or save family favorite decorations to use again next year.
4. Serve filtered tap water
Most bottled water is actually just tap water from somewhere else. Because water is heavy, transporting it uses up lots of fossil fuels. Serving tap instead of bottled water is the sustainable choice.
5. Make stock
Most vegetable scraps and the turkey carcass can be used to make soup stock. Had enough cooking for one weekend? You can freeze vegetable and turkey scraps to use later.
Vegetable and fruit scraps that don’t make the grade for soup stock are ideal for composting. If you don’t have a compost bin, perhaps you have a neighbor who does.
7. BYOB – Bring your own bags
What’s Thanksgiving without leftovers? Several of you suggested taking your own bags and reusable plastic containers to Thanksgiving dinner, to bring home the food without a lot of wasteful packaging.
8. Travel smart
Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel time of the year. Some of you recommended reducing both stress and energy use by staying close to home or taking public transportation.
9. Give thanks
One neighbor said she’ll be giving thanks this year for the new rooftop solar system that has dramatically reduced her family’s electric bill. We at aFewSteps would like to thank all of YOU for taking an interest in our project and for sharing your terrific ideas. Happy Thanksgiving!