One of the hardest things about embarking on my zero waste journey was holidays. The holidays were hard because of the following reasons:
- We get off our normal routine
- There is often a lot more overwhelm during that time of year, and it can be hard to balance normal activities
- Traditions often supersede new lifestyles
- You’re around other people more – and they may not follow the same lifestyle you do
- You often have more ‘things’ coming into your home, and those ‘things’ may not fall in line with your lifestyle change
Related post: How to Simplify the Season – The Ultimate Guide
But the holidays don’t have to cause you to fall off your zero waste journey. In fact, with a little bit of planning and communicating, you can easily make zero waste switches! Read below to find out more.
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10 Tips for a Zero Waste Thanksgiving
Start small! Don’t try to go completely zero waste. You may end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, try and implement a couple of things, see how they go and reevaluate after the holiday.
- If you are hosting and planning on distributing leftovers, check to see if you have plastic takeout containers that you don’t need. Or, you can buy reusable containers from a thrift store, or if comfortable, ask people to bring their own containers! Additionally, you could see if people have any extra they are willing to ‘donate’ to you for leftovers. People often have so many sitting around, they would be happy to make some room! For your own leftovers, pyrex glass containers and mason jars are great for storing leftovers (mason jars can go in the freezer).
- If you aren’t hosting and you’re comfortable talking to the host/hostess, offer to bring your own. You could also offer to donate some containers for the host/hostess to distribute the leftovers in so they don’t have to use their own.
Have a plan for food
- 172 million pounds of turkey
- 14 million pounds of dinner rolls
- 29 million pounds of vegetable sides
- 30 million pounds of gravy
- 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes
- 38 million pounds of stuffing
Can you guess what these statistics are referring to? It’s not how much we eat every Thanksgiving…
It is how much food is WASTED each Thanksgiving.
That’s a lot of food.
That’s a lot of money.
A common misconception about food going to the landfill is that it will just ‘compost away’. But it doesn’t. Not like in a compost bin. Food sitting in a landfill is not exposed to the chemical reaction that occurs in a compost bin, and therefore, food in a landfill just rots and produces a lot of greenhouse gasses.
One of my tops for having a zero/low waste Thanksgiving is to have a plan to use up those leftovers BEFORE you even start cooking. Using the food in other dishes. Giving the leftovers away (ask guests to bring their own reusable container!). Freezing the food. These are all ways you can help reduce waste.
- If you are hosting – speaking of leftovers, try and have a general idea of what you want to do with the leftover food, whether that is eating within a week, freezing, or giving away. This way you can plan ahead for containers, making room in the freezer, planning which recipes to use leftovers, etc.
- If you are not hosting – if you end up with some leftovers to take home (lucky you!) make a plan to do something with the food right away. Maybe that is put it in your ‘eat me now’ section of your fridge, freeze it, or think of a recipe to reuse the food.
In need of a food calculator? This one is awesome and will help you figure out how much food you need!
Make it a theme
- If you are hosting, suggest to the guests that you want to have a zero-waste Thanksgiving, and ask them to follow suit by paying attention to packaging at the store, bringing their own leftover containers, etc. Or, you could show them this post – hint-hint for tips.
- If you aren’t hosting and know the host well enough to make a suggestion, suggest doing a zero-waste themed Thanksgiving! Offer to help out wherever you can!
- If you are hosting, opt to use cloth napkins. You will be able to use them over and over again.
- If you are not hosting, cloth napkins would make a GREAT host/hostess gift!
- If you are hosting, have a dishwashing party and get as many people as possible to help out with dishes and more! This way you can feel comfortable using non-disposable dishes knowing they’ll get clean in a flash! For tasks such as wiping down tables, counters, and stoves, opt to use cloth towels you already have, or try bamboo towels in place of paper towels. You will be able to reuse them many times. We LOVE these. Be sure to tell guests where your recycling and compost waste is (if you have one) so they know where to properly dispose of waste.
- If you are a guest, initiate a dishwashing party right away to let the host relax. Use cloth towels to clean as much as possible (and for drying). Ask the host where their recycling and compost waste go (if they have either), and make sure the proper waste ends up in the right bins.
Buy in bulk
I will preface by saying approach with caution. Zero waste shopping can easily get overwhelming. But as you are shopping, whether you are hosting or just bringing a dish, take a look around and see if there are certain products that you can buy in bulk. Make sure you have a plan in mind as to what you are going to do with the food since there will be a lot of it. I find that meal planning really helps with this!
Pay attention to packaging when shopping
I have found that the easiest way to reduce packaging is using reusable produce bags (I like using these). Other tips include trying to avoid single serve items or most convenience foods as they produce a lot of waste! I will talk more about this in an upcoming post, however, for right now, just start making note of the packaging as you are shopping.
Cooking the turkey
If you are hosting and don’t have a turkey pan, instead of buying a disposable one, ask friends and family if they have one you could borrow! Save money and waste. Additionally, you could try to find one at a thrift store. Or, try an alternative method of cooking your turkey (I hear deep frying a turkey is good – kidding – kind of).
Bringing a dish
If you are not hosting but are bringing a dish, opt for a reusable one to take home, or buy a cute one at a thrift store that you can gift to the hostess afterward.
Decorations are one of those things that are easy to reuse year after year or buy from a thrift store or second-hand store. Another option would be to ask around and borrow some from friends/family. Or, you could bring some ‘hygge’ into your home and decorate with some natural elements from outside. Maybe a grapevine wreath, some dried flowers, berries, etc?
Whether you implement one of these tips or all of them (or maybe you already do them), I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Related post: The Ultimate Zero Waste Halloween Guide
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