Eco-Friendly Ideas for Your Thanksgiving Celebration

 In Environmental Education, Explore Ecology

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! It’s a holiday celebrating family, friends, and the harvest bounty. But sometimes bounty becomes excess and waste. If you’re looking for some simple and practical ways to make your holidays more earth-friendly, read on! 

Buy local & organic 

  • Our food sometimes travels very far away to get to us. It’s transported by trains, planes, ships, and trucks to get to us, all of which emit CO₂ and contribute to global warming. Buy food grown nearby to reduce the distance it has to travel to get to your table. Fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used on food are also harmful to the environment, and many end up in our watersheds (and eventually in the ocean). Organic options use fewer chemicals and pesticides, so choose these when you’re able to! Local and organic food is often more expensive, so do what you can within your budget. Maybe choose a few items that you’ll buy from the farmer’s market this year for starters and support local farmers! 

Skip the plastic packaging

  • So much food comes in plastic packaging these days. I saw a shrink wrapper sweet potato at the grocery store the other day! Bring your own produce bags to the store to cut down on plastic, the plastic bags shoved in the cabinet under your sink will work just fine. Opt for no packaging or cardboard packaging whenever you can. An added bonus is that you won’t have to take out the trash as often when you throw away less plastic!

Offer more vegetarian options

  • I know, I know, turkey is the heart of most Thanksgiving dinners and the thought of replacing it is HORRIFYING to many. But if you’re ready to make a big change, try a Tofurkey (they’re better than they sound!), or maybe bring a vegetarian dish to your friendsgiving rather than a meat one. I’m not the kind of vegetarian who believes everyone should stop eating meat immediately, but if everyone ate less meat this would go a long way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and make better use of farm land. 

Ditch the plastic dishes and silverware

  • The fewer things that end up in your trash bin, the better! If you have too many guests and not enough reusable dishes, you can opt for paper plates and wooden silverware that can be composted instead of being thrown out. Recyclable aluminum cups are becoming more commonplace and are a great alternative to plastic solo cups. Make sure your cleanup crew knows what can be recycled.

Have guests bring their own containers for leftovers instead of disposable plates & tinfoil

  • Tupperware or old takeout containers work great!

Make sure leftovers get eaten

  • Freeze them, share them, or make them into something else. If you can’t eat them all, compost is the next best option. North County residents (Santa Maria & Lompoc) can put all food waste (including meat & animal products!) in their green waste bins. South County residents should put food waste in the trash-most of it will get sorted out and composted in an anaerobic digestion facility at the landfill. A home compost is always the most eco-friendly option, check out for tips on starting your own compost!

Buy conscientiously on Black Friday

  • Good deals are hard to resist! But buying more stuff makes more waste. If you do shop, try to buy things made from natural materials, things you really need, or things that will be used for a long time.  I have at least one item that I plan to buy on Black Friday that I need and know I will use long term. Avoid impulse purchases or things that are cheap and will break in a few months’ time. Art From Scrap will be CLOSED on Black Friday to encourage you to get outside

And finally and most importantly, learn the true story of Thanksgiving and remember whose land we are on

  • Santa Barbara County is Chumash land and has been since long before the Spanish, French, or English arrived in what is now the United States of America. The Chumash have deep ties to this land and have ecological knowledge that is incredibly valuable as we work to protect and preserve this beautiful place we call home. So as you celebrate with loved ones and eat delicious food, remember to honor the people who have lived here since before written history began. 
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