Giving Thanks Sustainably

In just five days, families across the country and Americans around the world will be sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast. Grandma’s pumpkin pie, Mom’s mashed potatoes, and Dad’s creative turkey carving technique make their yearly debut. I myself have my own preparation:

  1. Develop creative yet plausible answers when asked by friends and family why I am still single.
  2. Pick an outfit that simultaneously implies “boyfriend worthy” while incorporating an elastic waistband.
  3. Spend 24-48 hours directly follow the Thanksgiving meal simultaneously impressed and mortified that my body consumed as many calories as it did. 

But I must consider another point on my list of Thanksgiving “to-do’s”– eating and celebrating sustainably. Here are 5 ways to be sustainable on November 22.

Buy local: Who doesn’t want that personal connection between farmer and consumer, smiling as loose bills and parsnips exchange hands? Participating in CSAs (Community supported agriculture), farm shares, or the occasional stop to the farmer’s market benefits the local economy and supports the agriculture in your geographic region. Or prepare now for next year and harvest carrots and potatoes from your own garden!

Eat seasonally: This is more difficult for us Northeastern folks who exhaust the ways root vegetables can be cooked, sautéed, broiled, boiled, roasted, blanched, and pureed. Increasing your awareness of growing seasons however, can make a huge impact on your carbon footprint. Brussel sprouts, served with caramelized butter and maple syrup, were picked 20 miles away and taste incredible. Compare them to store-bought berries or tomatoes and chances are they were flown to your table from Florida, picked before they were ripe in order to make the 1,150 mile journey.

Go to the Source: I am the biggest culprit when it comes to canned goods. Baking, cooking you name it. Last month, I made muffins with a can of Trader Joe’s Organic Canned Pumpkin. Organic yes, but the pumpkin I used came all the way from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Definitely NOT local. Recently my housemate Julie made a pumpkin pie with pumpkins from a nearby farm stand. She roasted them on a baking dish and scooped out the softened orange pulp. The finished product was lighter in color than traditional pumpkin pies but had the most amazing flavor. So try roasting your own pumpkin or making homemade cranberry sauce. And don’t forget to toast the leftover seeds for a delicious snack.

Mind the meat: It’s true. Raising animals for food takes an incredible amount of energy and puts a significant strain on the planet. And while I don’t expect every family to go vegetarian, consider decreasing the number of meat dishes on the table. Do you really need a turkey, ham and mini hot dog appetizer? Experiment with new, delicious veggie recipes that leave your guests feeling fully satisfied and less stuffed at the end of the meal. Still need your turkey fix? For the past two years, my mom has reserved a Thanksgiving turkey from a local organic, free-range farm near our house. The sticker price is steeper than a traditional Butterball, but the externalized impact from animal cruelty, mass production, and added preservatives makes our local bird a no-brainer. Plus, available websites like EatWild and Local Harvest now allow customers to type in their zip code and find sustainable farms locally.

Spread the love: Sustainability extends beyond our dining room table. Many food pantries and homeless shelters provide Thanksgiving meals served in-house or deliver meals to those who cannot afford the luxuries we take for granted. This season, consider purchasing produce or canned goods to donate to your local pantry. I remember in high school, my friends and I drove around the area dropping off baskets of stuffing, gravy, cans of beans, pie crush and turkeys. We gave thanks by extending our love and fortune to those who were struggling to make ends meet. 

So there you have it folks. Take a moment to consider the environment while preparing this Thanksgiving. Stuff your faces and be thankful for everything, every person, and every good thing in your life. Go forward with a loving heart, a reflective mind and full stomach.

Also check out: Vegetarian Thanksgiving, Other Thanksgiving Tips

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3 thoughts on “Giving Thanks Sustainably

    1. Thank you Tammy! I wish I could take credit for the carrots but I found them and the recipe on an awesome cooking blog. Just click on the picture! I would love to hear how your thanksgiving goes and if you incorporate any sustainability at your table. Yes to food….the boyfriend thing is a lost cause. 🙂

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