By Kim Robson:
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, dating back to our country’s earliest European settlements. While its early origins may spark debate, we can all enjoy what it has become for millions: a day to share with family, feast, and give thanks for all we have. Want to make it a more eco-friendly holiday? Check out our tips below.
Approximately 46 million turkeys are consumed in America each Thanksgiving, according to The National Turkey Federation. Organic turkeys are certified by the USDA and must be raised under strict guidelines: no antibiotics or growth hormones, and fed only organic feed. They also must be given access to outdoors. Many markets (like Whole Foods) carry organic turkeys year-round, but it’s a good idea to order one ahead of time for the holidays. To find a turkey raised by a local farmer in your area, try LocalHarvest.org. There you can search by zip code for farmers markets and farms in your area that sell organic turkeys. The directory even lists online stores that will deliver to your home.
If you want something really special and memorable this holiday, consider buying a heritage turkey. When we think of heirloom and heritage foods, fruits and vegetables are usually what come to mind. But heritage livestock also have long-standing lineages. What’s old is new again; there is renewed interest in preserving these diverse breeds. Heritage birds grow for a longer period of time than commercially raised turkeys. As a result, they have an extra layer of fat, and fat equals flavor. They have a higher proportion of dark to white meat because they get plenty of exercise not being confined to conventionally overcrowded pens. As their organic feed is supplemented with insects and fresh grasses, they are not only healthier but more flavorful.
There are still plenty of options for vegetarians. Tofurky might have a funny name, but their many products are delicious. I made this Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cheddar Bread Pudding one year that was to DIE for. Even the meat-eaters were doling out seconds of that one.
For all the other holiday fixings, try to go with only locally grown and/or organic foods. They’re better for your health and the environment. Locally grown food tastes better, and requires less fuel to reach store shelves. It also contributes to your local economy by supporting local farmers and merchants.
Resist the temptation to purchase wasteful disposable baking tins and holiday-themed paper plates and napkins. Instead go for dishwasher-friendly reusables. If everyone pitches in, clean-up after the meal doesn’t have to be hard labor for life.
The days before and after Thanksgiving weekend are the heaviest travel days of the year in the United States. This year, why not skip the stressful holiday travel crunch and celebrate a green Thanksgiving at home? You’ll reduce global warming, improve air quality, and lower your family’s stress level.
The original Thanksgiving was a neighborly affair. Having survived their first winter in America solely through the generosity of the native people who lived nearby, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock celebrated a bountiful harvest with a three-day feast to give thanks to God and their Native American neighbors. Consider inviting your “homeless” friends or neighbors to share your Thanksgiving meal. Another option is to share your meal with a soldier who is stationed far from their family. Adopt-A-Soldier.org matches up service men and women with families who want to show their gratitude by opening their home for the holiday.
If you must drive, make sure your tires are inflated properly. If you fly, consider purchasing carbon credits to offset some of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by your flight. A typical long-haul flight produces nearly four tons of carbon dioxide.
However you celebrate Thanksgiving, make sure to say thank you to those people in your life who matter most and, if possible, spend some time in their company. Life is so short, and many of the best moments in life are those spent with loved ones.
Finally, on the day after Thanksgiving, buck the Black Friday shopping insanity. 2013 will be the 16th year of the counterculture holiday called “Buy Nothing Day.” If you’d like to reduce conspicuous consumption in our society, join the effort and refuse to shop. Hang out at home with the family, play backyard football, and eat organic leftovers instead.