Tips & Tricks for a Sustainable Thanksgiving

According to the EPA, American household waste increases by more than 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. On top of this, Americans discard 33% more food during the holidays. This adds up to an additional 1 million tons of waste per week to our landfills.


Use these small steps to make your Thanksgiving celebration more environmentally friendly:



  • Leftovers:  If your guests don’t finish what’s on their plate, simply transfer the remainder into a reusable container, label it with their name and stash it in the fridge until just before departure. Offering to pack up extras of whatever other dishes are left for those guests who would like them is also a great way to avoid food waste.
  • Turkey Bones & Vegetable Peels: These make delicious soup! Simmer your leftover turkey bits in a large stockpot with your vegetable peels to make homemade stock.
  • Turkey Meat: Turkey is great for more than just a sandwich! Throw the leftover meat into your homemade stock; add some fresh veggies & noodles to create a perfect bowl of turkey noodle soup. Want something more filling? Chop-up your turkey meat & combine it with beans, veggies and tomato puree to transform it into a piping hot bowl of turkey chili.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Revamp leftover mashed potatoes by mixing them with flour & egg yolks to make your own gnocchi.
  • Stuffing: Use the stuffing in your soup to both add layers of flavor & thicken the broth. Stuffing can also make a great crust for a quiche. Simply press the stuffing into your baking dish in an even layer & bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until it is slightly set. Take the dish out of the oven, sprinkle it with cheese, add your eggs & bake again until the frittata is set!
  • Choose recipes that “fit” together: By examining your recipes before heading to the store, you can choose a selection for your meal that will use up whole vegetables, cans of broth, and anything else you might need. Still have a “special” ingredient you need to purchase to complete a dish? Ensure you have a plan for using any of your ingredients that are left over after preparing the meal, such as using it in a post-holiday meal, or how to store them for long periods of time (freezing, drying, canning, etc.)
  • Compost! Set-up a compost bin next to your trash bin to make it easy for your guests to separate garbage from the leftover food. Your plants will thank you come spring! Eartheasy has great tips for composting beginners.



  • Carry reusable bags when you are shopping for Thanksgiving food. Some businesses even give you credits or discounts for using your own bags!
  • Tableware: Ditch the disposable cutlery, plates and cups for your favorite set of dishes. Use cloth tablecloths & napkins instead of paper. They not only look nicer, and won’t go in a landfill, but they’re easy to wash once the festivities are over. If you must use disposable products, choose sustainably made disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils made from 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper, sugarcane and corn – most can be composted, too!
  • Skip the name cards & let everyone choose their seats! If you would really like everyone to have a place card, consider using pinecones or leaves from your backyard & writing your guests names on them with paint markers for a festive, sustainable option.
  • Centerpieces: What better way is there to eliminate waste from a Thanksgiving decoration than to eat it? Many fruits and vegetables fit the color palette of the holiday, including apples, oranges, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. Strategically place the fruits and vegetables on your serving tray into the shape of a turkey, leaves, or pilgrim hat.
  • Decorations: Skip the store-bought decorations and adorn your table with festive, homemade décor! Fill clear vases with pinecones, acorns, mini pumpkins and gourds or colorful leaves. Stuff empty wine bottles with a strand of twinkle lights and light them up when your guests arrive for a warm, cheery atmosphere. You can also paint your used wine bottles in fall colors with cute Thanksgiving sayings.

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