My Zero-Waste Thanksgiving

Show gratitude for the Earth this Thanksgiving and do your part to avoid waste.

Thanksgiving is almost here, which means you’re likely fingering the frayed pages of family recipes and wondering if this is the year you may actually try fooling grandma with a vegan turkey. But there are other food issues worth consideration; Thanksgiving is a huge culprit of food waste, and it can be easy to go overboard when celebrating. According to the USDA, Americans have thrown away more than 200 million pounds of edible turkey meat on Thanksgiving. When you factor in other food items, whether it’s stuffing, sweet potatoes, or sautéed green beans, that can create a lot of waste.

Take the time to make a positive impact this holiday. In the midst of your meal planning, establish game plan to use food efficiently, therefore limiting the amount of waste. Here are a few steps to get you started.

1. Cook Only What You Need

Limiting waste starts with meal planning. While it might be tempting to go buck wild and make four different types of potatoes, try to plan your meal thoughtfully. The USDA suggests about 1 pound of turkey per person. Also, be sure to check your cabinet before heading to the grocery store. There are likely a few surprises in there, and you may still have severals canned or packaged goods that you were planning on purchasing.

2. Do Your Research and Donate

Donating is a great Turkey Day tradition. It makes a difference to do a bit of research, and find out which food items are the most sought-after. In addition, it can far more beneficial to donate items that are high in nutrients, as many families in need of donations only have access to processed foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar. Once you’ve got your donations, visit Feeding America or other food bank organization to make your contribution.

3. Limit Packaging

In addition to creating an arsenal of leftover food, Thanksgiving can lead to an overwhelming trash mountain. This includes everything from plastic grocery bags to aluminum foil to beer bottles. While you plan your meal, try to think of creative ways to limit your waste. Consider purchasing beer by the growler, and definitely remember to bring your non-disposable grocery bags. You can also buy spices in bulk, reusing the smaller containers.

4. Repurpose Leftovers

OK, you’ve planned effectively, you’ve donated, and you still have leftovers. Go for that gobbler sandwich, or check out some creative recipes that utilize Thanksgiving day leftovers. Leftover Swap for more.

5. Compost Your Scraps

It’s easy to scrape your plate directly into the trash. If everyone does this, imagine how much food you’re actually wasting. While it might not be worth saving, you can compost tiny food bits to help give the soil a holiday treat. In addition, composting reduces methane emissions from landfills and encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi. The Environmental Protection Agency offers some advice on how and what to compost.

How do you minimize waste on Thanksgiving?

Amanda Kohr is the Senior Content Editor at Wanderlust. You can find her exploring new highways, drinking diner coffee, and on Instagram