Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Thanksgiving Tips from the Authors of Celebrate Green

Plan ahead Thanksgiving saves time, money and waste

You may balk, but the best way to save money, save time, save waste and save your sanity if you want to have an eco-friendlier feast this year, is to--say it with me now--plan ahead.

Planning helps zero in on when to buy, how much to buy, how to decorate, how to deal with leftovers and all the other details around hosting a fun, Earth-friendly celebration.

One hour of planning can make the difference between a pleasurable event and a frenzy of expensive over-consumption.

So gather the kids, a pen and pad (or be extra-eco and write on a blackboard), and start by posing and discussing these 10 questions:

1. What foods do we traditionally serve? Are we going overboard? If we usually provide eight side dishes, could we cut that to six?

2. What items should we be sure to buy organic? (Here's the list of fruits and veggies with the most pesticide residues and those with the least.)

3. How are we going to decorate the table? Can we use décor we already have? Borrow? Use items from nature? Do double duty with edible décor?

4. Can we check with friends and neighbors to see if they'd like to join us in buying organic produce in bulk at reduced cost?

5. Can we aim for a no-waste Thanksgiving by avoiding pre-packaged items?

6. Can we find what we need at a local organic farm and save money while having fun by picking veggies and fruits?

7. Can we consider an organic turkey or a heritage variety? (It's complicated and time consuming to wade through all the labels you may find on turkeys, but the USDA organic label offers pretty clear standards. If you're buying from a local farmer, ask about methods used in raising and slaughtering. Their turkeys may not be labeled organic because of the cost involved in doing so, but assuming you trust the farmer, you should be purchasing a healthier alternative to conventionally raised birds.)

8. Do we have enough dishes, flatware and glasses for the crowd? If not, how will we sidestep purchasing new? (We suggest asking guests to bring their own place settings. To add meaning to the greening, ask them also to be ready to share the history of the plates. Were they a wedding gift? Handed down from great grandma? Purchased with your first paycheck?)

9. How much of our meal can we make using in-season items instead of those imported from far away?

10.What will we do with leftovers? Will we provide guests with upcycled glass jars for them to take home what they like? Can we make something delicious from leftovers and take to a food bank? Freeze for later? Will we compost anything we can't use? If we don't compost ourselves and haven't asked, can we call our local trash service and ask if they will compost food scraps?

Whether you go all out in celebrating an eco-Thanksgiving or take one or two steps, be sure to give thanks for the bounty that the Earth provides.

~Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors ofCelebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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