How to Have a Zero-Waste Thanksgiving

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zero-waste thanksgiving

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The holidays are a time for family, friends, and feasting. However, all that feasting comes with a lot of waste. The National Resources Defense Council estimates that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the week of Thanksgiving than at any other time of year.

However, you can make it different this year! With some planning, you can have a zero-waste Thanksgiving that is just as festive as any other. Here’s how:


  1. Plan ahead by making a list of what you’ll need and where you can get it

Thanksgiving is all about the food, so the first step to having a zero-waste feast is to plan your menu and make a shopping list accordingly.

When possible, buy locally-sourced and organic items to reduce your carbon footprint. You can also look for items in bulk to cut down on packaging waste. And remember to use reusable bags!


  1. Ditch disposables

reject single use plastic

From paper plates and plastic cups to single-use silverware and napkins, disposables are one of the biggest culprits for holiday waste. Invest in some reusable dishware and silverware that you can use year after year, and make sure to wash and reuse them instead of throwing them away.

You can also opt for cloth napkins—they’ll add a touch of style and sophistication to your dinner table while helping reduce waste.


  1. Make your own décor

Fall is a beautiful time of year, so take advantage of all the natural décor available outside. Gather leaves, branches, acorns, and pinecones to create centerpieces and other décor for your home—you’ll save money and help the environment simultaneously.

If you have young kids, put them to work gathering leaves and other natural items for craft projects like homemade wreaths or garlands.


  1. Get creative with your leftovers

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. But instead of letting them go bad in the fridge, get creative with how you use them! There are endless possibilities for turkey sandwiches, casseroles, soups, and more.

While some leftovers are best enjoyed cold, you can transform others into new and delicious dishes straight from the fridge.

For example, you can use leftover turkey to make a hearty soup or stew, while mashed potatoes can be repurposed into potato cakes or pancakes. Cranberry sauce can be mixed into oatmeal or yogurt or used as a topping for pancakes or waffles.


  1. Compost your food waste


Composting is an excellent way to reduce food waste, and it’s surprisingly easy to do at home. You can either start your compost bin or sign up for a municipal composting program (if available).

Once you’ve collected all your food scraps, add them to your compost bin or drop them off at the designated location—and voila!—you’ve turned food waste into valuable nutrients for plants and gardens.


  1. Recycle everything else.

Forget about good old-fashioned recycling! Most communities offer recycling services for items like glass jars, aluminum cans, plastic containers, and cardboard boxes.

So before you toss something in the trash this Thanksgiving, make sure you can’t recycle it first.



Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year—and rightfully so! It’s a time for family, friends, and feasting on delicious food. However, all that feasting often generates a lot of waste.

However, you can do it differently this year! With some planning, you can have a zero-waste Thanksgiving that is just as festive (and delicious) as any other kind of holiday gathering. So try out these tips and enjoy your sustainable feast!

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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