Seven tips for a healthier and more sustainable Thanksgiving

Environment Friendly Living

W

ell, it’s that time of the year again: Thanksgiving. Time to eat until your pants don’t button, fight massive airport crowds and traffic jams, and shamefully fill your trashcan with pounds of rotting leftovers purged from the back of your fridge sometime in early December. Or not. Here are some tips to make sure your

Thanksgiving

is a healthy and sustainable one. And just a warning: these tips are not of the “light green” wimpy kind, but are for the committed connoisseur of sustainable living.


Stay home

Thanksgiving is such a busy travel weekend, with so many planes, trains and automobiles clogging the air, rails, and roads. The best thing you can do for the planet is to simply stay home and celebrate the holiday with friends and neighbors. If you absolutely must travel to visit far off family, take longer trips less frequently – and time those trips for less busy travel periods to reduce costs and stress.


Skip the turkey

The only way we can produce

46 million turkeys

to be consumed on one day is to factory farm them.

And that means overuse of antibiotics, turkey waste runoff and animal cruelty galore

.

So please skip the turkey this year. And no,

don’t adopt a turkey

– the last thing we need are more turkeys on the planet. Cull humanity’s livestock population; don’t inflate it even further.

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This Turkey Day, skip the turkey.


No Tofurky

If you do skip the turkey, please don’t replace it with an artificial turkey substitute. While the

ingredient list

of leading fake turkeys isn’t as unhealthy as I feared, this is still a highly processed, awfully artificial way to sustain a food ritual that is only a few hundred years old anyway. After all, what if American Indian hunters hadn’t shot a turkey that first Thanksgiving? The pilgrims would’ve eaten something else (but definitely not Tofurky) and we’d now all celebrate with a roast duck or grilled deer. This Thanksgiving, assume you had a bad day hunting and try a new vegetarian recipe. Something still decadent but more sustainable. A nice

Spanikopita

perhaps? Or if you really want to eat meat, why not reach out to a local hunter to get some deer steaks? Remember that

deer hunting is good for the environment in many parts of the US as deer are now overpopulated.

Why not make Thanksgiving part of the solution?


Source your food wisely

This is an obvious one: make sure your food is local or organic or as sustainable as your budget allows. Sure, buy it from the farmers’ market or from the organic section of your grocery store if you can afford it. Or if you want to go hardcore, you can try a freegan thanksgiving, gleaning your

feast from dumpsters

(not for the faint of heart!).


Eat until you’re full, not too full to move

Intentionally take just a small sampling of everything, so you’ll have room to take seconds of your absolute favorite dishes. And then, save


your second piece of pie for a late night snack. Let’s be honest, you’re gonna eat more than one dessert anyway, so you might as well limit your dessert to one piece now and one piece later, rather than two or three pieces now and then even more later. Obesity, after all, isn’t just a public health concern, but also a sustainability concern. Worldwide, obesity has added

an extra 15m tons of human biomass to the planet

, which takes a lot of food and energy to maintain. (And obviously, if you’re going to eat less, you’ll also want to either cook less or eat all your leftovers so you minimize food waste as well.)


Play football, don’t watch it

Get outside and toss the ol‘ pigskin rather than vegging out on the couch and watching overpaid athletes run around beating the stuffing out of each other (as well as hundreds of commercials encouraging you to consume more beer, more cars, and more stuff you don’t need). Although I will note that it’s probably a good idea to play before dinner instead of after, even if you don’t eat till bursting.


Don’t forget to give thanks

This holiday is a fun time to spend with family, but we rarely give real thanks – other than the token grace at the beginning of the meal. Why not give thanks more deeply on Thanksgiving? Set up a walking labyrinth in your front yard to do a walking meditation before dinner? Or if that’s too new-agey, just a pre-dinner walk in the park? Or help out in the morning at the local food pantry. Or make a donation to support a cause you care about. Or at least, spend a bit more time with grace by thanking all those who touched the food that now graces your table. The farmers, the truckers, the food processors, the multinational agribusiness conglomerates (just kidding), and most importantly, give thanks to the awe-inspiring processes of nature that make this food and our lives possible.

And a bonus suggestion for the day after Thanksgiving:


Absolutely avoid any


Black Friday


shopping madness

It’s hard to believe, but

141 million Americans took part in Black Friday last year, spending an average of $407 each

. Instead of participating in this ritualized consumer orgy, buy nothing on Black Friday and even join a

Buy Nothing Day

protest, both of which are small but useful ways to make a statement about how destructive the consumer culture is and how staying out of it as much as possible is ultimately good for people and the planet.

Happy Thanksgiving! And please post any additional tips you have for having a sustainable Thanksgiving below.


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