The holidays are a wonderful time of year to celebrate traditions with family and friends, but some of the practices are not especially eco-friendly.
You can, however, reduce the carbon footprint of this holiday by creating some of your own traditions that are good for the planet and help the larger community striving to create a sustainable planet.
Bring your reusable shopping bags to the grocery store or market, instead of requiring the grocer to bag your items in plastic or paper bags. While both can be recycled, manufacturing them takes raw materials and energy.
Shop locally for organic produce. You may live close to a farmer’s market or have a grocery store that has an organic produce section. Not only does organic food taste better, your purchase supports the organic farmers in your area, an excellent way to say thank you for treating the earth with care.
Try to find a humanely raised turkey if meat is on the menu. Although the turkey may cost more, it’s likely to taste better than a mass-produced bird. It also throws your support to growers who practice ethical husbandry. Look for the American Humane Certified label. If you can’t find one, the next best turkey to purchase is one marked with the USDA Certified Organic symbol.
Instead of buying paper decorations that last just one Thanksgiving, try more eco-friendly decorations. Even if your paper goods can be recycled, any food spills contaminate it, making it unusable. Use colorful fall leaves or edible fruit baskets for decorating. Fabric tablecloths and napkins last many seasons over.
Turn your furnace down as you start cooking your dinner. Your oven and stove burners throw off a lot of heat, which you can use to warm your home. Unless you have a smoky situation, leave the kitchen fan off to keep the aromas and warm air inside your home.
It’s easy to splurge on food for Thanksgiving dinner, so either send your guests home with extra food or save space in your freezer.
Instead of using plastic freezer bags or containers, start using glass jars to store the food. The glass lasts a long time, does not emit harmful chemicals into the food, even when microwaved. When freezing liquids in the jars, leave at least one inch of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion as the food freezes.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2011 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.