5 Tips for a Low-Carbon Thanksgiving

Published online on Sierra magazine’s Green Life blog, November 21, 2013

5 Tips for a Low-Carbon Thanksgiving

Most of us are aware of that Thanksgiving can take a toll. Between the hours spent cooking and decorating, then arguing with your crazy uncle about politics, and pretending to like your little sister’s new boyfriend, it can be an exhausting holiday. For many, the meal makes it worth the stress. But don’t take too much comfort in your holiday feast. A University of Manchester study has shown that the dinner itself has a significant impact on the environment. The report finds that a turkey-n-trimmings feast for eight produces approximately 44 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 60% from the life cycle of the turkey alone. Here are a few tips for reducing the carbon footprint of your favorite dishes, and keeping your Thanksgiving meal green: 

1. Shop Local: Thanksgiving is a seasonal meal, which means you should find all of the fruits and veggies you need at your local farmer’s market. The farm-fresh goods should be pretty guilt-free purchases, as they’ve traveled little and bypassed refrigeration and storage. The trip may mean planning slightly further ahead than is convenient, but it’ll be worth the fresh flavor added to the meal. 

2. Buy Ingredients, Not Dishes: The Center for Food Safety recommends skipping pre-packaged and processed foods in favor of side dishes made from scratch with fresh, bulk ingredients. While more time consuming, this extra step eliminates or reduces the need for machinery and packaging, which have significant climate impacts. 

3. Eat Your Veggies: Since your turkey probably takes the most energy to produce, consider either going meatless or serving a smaller bird and increasing the number of side dishes you serve. You might also reduce the impact on your waistband and wallet as an added bonus.

4. Cook Just Enough: Thanksgiving has earned a reputation for excess. Most of us take our seat at the table planning to eat ’til it hurts, followed closely by a tryptophan-induced nap. But this expectation of overindulgence usually results in a lot of leftovers, and a lot of good food wasted. Make your food miles count by buying just enough to feed everyone comfortably, or inviting others to join in the feast. 

5. Consider Your Turkey Purchase: Avoid factory-farmed poultry and instead seek out a local, heritage, or organic bird. Localharvest has great tools for finding turkey farmers in your area, and learning more about heritage breeds.

Read online at SierraClub.org

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