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5 Easy, Unexpected Ways to Make Thanksgiving More Sustainable

Make the most of what you have.

Sustainability is a big – no, massive – topic.

What does it mean to you?

There are social, environmental, and economic aspects (the three legged stool) to consider. What do each of these aspects mean, and how can we take positive action that accommodates “everything” that goes into being sustainable?

This one post isn’t meant to solve or address everything. It IS meant to inspire you to find actions that are totally doable and make a difference.

Regardless of how you personally define it, these are five super simple ways to bring sustainability to your table on Thanksgiving and other days, too!

  1. Plan ahead. Besides the holiday meal itself, what about all the goodies you may have left(over)? I watched a cooking competition show the other day. The contestants shopped for the feast and leftover meals at the same time. Genius. Take a moment to consider all the yummy ways you can repurpose extra holiday faves and add other ingredients to your list. Avoiding food waste and making the most of your budget? That’s sustainable.
  2. Consider storage. Make it simple to go from a meal to the freezer/fridge and back to the oven/microwave. I like two-cup glass bowls with lids for portioned out amounts that make lunches a snap on busy days. Larger dishes that are stackable in the freezer are great for family meals to serve later, too. Make the most of what you buy and don’t waste it. Use dishes that do double or triple duty to save dishes (which saves water and energy). That’s sustainable.
  3. Organize the oven. Energy efficiency is an environmental and economic advantage. Before the party, see what dishes fit together in the oven so you can use it to maximum capacity. From a social aspect, this also helps plan the timing of a meal. Yep, you guessed it. Sustainable.
  4. Prepare the freezer. Organize ahead of time to be sure you have room for your leftovers. Put ingredients/raw items in one section and ready-to-eat in another. Remember to date and identify what is in each dish. This manages food waste which is good for your wallet (economics) and the environment (stuff in landfills contributes to greenhouse gases). Besides…You don’t get nutrition from food you throw away. Bonus? A full fridge and freezer are more energy efficient than they are when emptier.
  5. Share. Whether you are the cook or the guest, a gift of leftovers is a win. Sharing hits all three buckets: we’re managing our food waste and using what we bought (environment and economic) and we’re supporting others we care about (social).

Defining sustainability is important. Acting in sustainable ways is even more important. Every positive action we take, big or small, matters.

Wishing you a lovely, healthy, and happy holiday season!

P.S. Wash your hands. 🙂

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.