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10 Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving

By Sarah Newman

Since I started this holiday tips tradition a few years ago, the sustainable food movement continues to transform fields of corn, soy and CAFOs to more verdant, bountiful lands filled with organic produce, heirloom greens and pasture-raised livestock. Countless more school and community gardens have sprouted up. Hundreds of local groups are transforming food deserts by bringing in supermarkets and community gardens.  Thousands of people are gleaning public fruits for food pantries across the country. And there’s plenty more backyard farmers with their personal chicken coops, goat shelters, fruit trees and raised beds.

This is in light of the gloomy news that approximately two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese and 17 million households are food insecure (meaning they don’t have regular access to food). This year’s holiday tips offer more ways to make your Thanksgiving meal an opportunity to support sustainable agriculture, reduce your water use and go on a low carb(on) diet.

Eat organic. We’ve all heard it before but it’s pretty simple. Eating organic doesn’t pollute our drinking water or air, reduces your carbon dioxide emissions, protects farm workers and is safer for humans. And, best of all, it tastes better.

Meet a farmer. Take a trip to your local farmers’ market to savory locally grown produce and handcrafted goods, meet farmers in your community and stock up on goodies for your holiday meal. Best of all, it’s one of the most interesting and exciting ways to keep kids preoccupied during your holiday shopping.

Celebrate endangered species.  Help to keep our food chain diverse and support local culinary traditions by consuming nearly-forgotten endangered beauties like the Wilson Popenoe Avocado, Hauer Pippin Apple and Algonquin Squash.

Skip Meat. Yes, it might be sacrilegious to suggest that people opt-out of eating meat on Thanksgiving. However, factory farming (where most turkeys live their miserable lives before ending up on your dining room platter) is inhumane. Livestock is responsible for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions.  If it’s too much for you to go meat-free on Thanksgiving, start the following week with Meatless Mondays.

Adopt-a-Turkey. Whether or not you decide to eat turkey during Thanksgiving, some lucky farm animals were rescued from the cruel, inhumane conditions of industrial farms. They are now enjoying blissful, grassy fields at farm sanctuaries and need your support.

End Hunger Year Round.  Thanksgiving sparks countless effort to serve meals and donate canned goods to local food banks. Unfortunately, food pantries alone will not solve our nation’s hunger crisis. Support groups like Mazon, Bread for the World and Meals on Wheels which are delivering meals to millions of people every day but also working to change the system so that there is no hunger in America.

Save your scraps.  The average US family wastes $600 in food annually. Rather than throwing out uneaten fruits and veggies, transform them in a compost bin. City green compost bins are on the path to being nearly as ubiquitous as blue recycling bins. Or get your own bin and transform your scraps into gorgeous dirt that will make your plants quite happy.

Grow.  So, now that you have a compost bin, it probably makes sense to have a place to put that mulch. Whether your choosing to start simple with some herbs (pretty hard to kill) or more challenging crops like lettuce or root vegetables, all you need is a windowsill , a little plot of yard or community garden spot and some sunshine to start growing.

Drink local water. Ironically, Americans spend $18 billion on bottled water, much of which is actually tap water but has the added bonus of the plastic’s toxic chemicals leaching into the water. Bottled water creates mountains of plastic which will be here for thousands of Thanksgiving meals to come.  If you’re concerned about the quality of your drinking water, opt for a filter on your tap.

Share your own tips! This list is hardly exhaustive so please share your ideas and resources for a sustainable Thanksgiving for all.

Happy eating!




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