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7 Sustainable Swaps To An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

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SKL Contributing Writer


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My name is Danielle and I am a mother of two, wife, CEO, and lover of vintage treasures. I created SKL in 2020 to help our community in their need for well-researched and trust-worthy articles, listicles and guides to live a more sustainable and healthy life. So happy to have you here!


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Are you looking for some super simple and accessible sustainable swaps to have your dream eco-friendly Thanksgiving in 2022? We have got you covered with this epic mini-guide to an Earth friendly Thanksgiving celebration.

p.s. Don’t forge to checkout our round up of the best eco-friendly Black Friday Deals of 2022 to support those amazing small businesses!

How To Have A Sustainable Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy delicious food while remembering the things that matter most in life. When you consider all the beautiful things in life, the planet should be on your list. So, when shopping and preparing for this holiday, try to think about how eating, traveling, and shopping impact the planet. If you have this mindset, here are sustainable swaps your family will love this Thanksgiving.

What is the environmental impact of the average Thanksgiving celebration?

Although sustainability is important to consider all the time, total emissions tend to increase during Thanksgiving. Each Thanksgiving table may look different, but the average household has a table full of enough food to feed 12 guests. This amount of food is associated with a total of 103.1 pounds of CO2 used without considering travel estimates. The turkey pulls the most weight, coming in at 64 pounds of CO2.

How much food is wasted on Thanksgiving?

A 2021 estimate pegged Thanksgiving food waste alone at around 300 million pounds per year in the United States.

This is your guide to a sustainable Thanksgiving holiday!

How To Have An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

Considering the environment while enjoying a Thanksgiving meal makes it an even more rewarding time. Making these swaps can help save you and your family time, stress, and money. Here are some ideas.

1. Include More Veggies & Sides

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You can make more veggies and sides to eat one less meat this year. 

This is one of the most impactful choices to make to reduce climate change and conserve natural habitats

 Although turkey isn’t at bad as beef, it still requires an abundance of land, water, and fuel compared to veggies.

You can consider options like tofurkey or cooking a smaller turkey with lots of different sides to fill up on. Sides are a big part of Thanksgiving anyway. 

Your family will love trying out new sides that include many nutritious and delicious vegetables.

2. Shop Local & Sustainable

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When shopping for Thanksgiving goods, try ditching the store and heading to the local farmers market. Picking up locally grown foods requires fewer greenhouse gases to get to the table you eat at.

Buying local also helps keep jobs and money in the community ecosystem. You can go with a group of family members to make fewer trips back and forth.

When shopping, it’s best to consider making a list of things to get before you go. Encourage your family to try a salmon dip. This is a nutritious side with protein and healthy food groups that adds a unique flavor to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Ensure you grab seafood that’s sustainably caught by local fishermen.

3. Decorate With Nature

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Make decorations more authentic and biodegradable using nature. 

Instead of using plastic items, use things that are already available. A great option is gathering things like pumpkins, acorns, shelled walnuts, and colorful leaves. These are great options since they will not end up in a landfill like plastic décor.

If you do your part using biodegradable decorations, you can cut down on waste this holiday season. 

People tend to throw away 25% more trash during the holidays than at any other time of year. That’s around 25 million tons of garbage. Contributing to cutting back with nature’s decorations instead of plastic store-bought ones can feel rewarding.

4. Repurpose Kitchen Scraps

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A lot of the food you throw away ends up in landfills as well. To reduce your carbon footprint, repurpose kitchen scraps. 

A lot of the time, things get thrown away because you don’t know it’s still edible or just don’t know what to do with it in general.

Foods like carrot tops can be used for garnishing and adding that extra elegance to your family’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes. 

In cases where you don’t feel that any of the scaps will fit nicely into a dish, making compost is a popular method. You can use this tactic to give back to your environment by providing enriched soil.

5. Try Some Vegan Recipes!

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Since turkey is a big contributor to emissions on Thanksgiving, you can try some vegan recipes instead. And just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean your guests won’t love it. There are so many delicious options your family will love. 

Here’s some inspiration and quick links for what you could make:

6. Give Back and Get Involved

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Giving back during the holiday season can help you feel good and make an impact on others’ lives.

It can be easy to get caught up in your own life when many other people may not have the luxuries you do.

To get involved this season, you can donate non-perishable leftovers, volunteer at a soup kitchen, sponsor a family in need, or visit a nursing home where people may not have families.

No matter what you do to give back, it will make a difference in someone’s life.

Find a full list of where to volunteer on Thanksgiving here!

7. Rethink Thanksgiving From A Native American Perspective

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When you think about Thanksgiving, you may skip to thinking only about the food. Thanksgiving’s history is based on the harvest feast shared between Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag in 1621. The Wampanoag shared their resources and environment with the English, but the English eventually attacked despite their agreement.

Native American culture and history are important to consider while celebrating Thanksgiving (and every other day!).

Gaining a deeper meaning will help you practice cultural sensitivity regarding the holidays.

We would like to encourage you to consider donating to native tribes and/or support Indigenous owned businesses:

A More Conscious Thanksgiving Is Possible!

When it comes to big holidays like Thanksgiving, it’s easy to go overboard on the consumer side of things: food, alcohol and decorations. Don’t forget to remember that the day is more about family and being grateful for what you have and give thanks!

When keeping things sustainable, you help the environment and enjoy more wholesome opportunities to share the day with your loved ones.

Mia Barnes is a freelance health and wellness writer with a passion for eco-friendly wellness and sustainable living. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine

If you liked this post, you’ll definitely want to check out these other posts from SKL:

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