Tips for a Green Thanksgiving

Image of yellow and orange gourds
November 18, 2013
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Thanksgiving. It’s a time to reflect on our blessings, enjoy the company of family and friends and stuff ourselves silly. Unfortunately it is often the case that, with our diets, our green conscience also goes out the window.

This year, try a couple of tips to enjoy the abundance of our environment without increasing your carbon footprint.


1. Size up your guests and the menu

Be good to your pocket book, refrigerator and the garbage man by better estimating how much food you will actually need. This cuts down on your shopping bill and helps to ensure that leftovers aren’t forgotten and thrown in the trash.

The folks at Use Less Stuff have a handy portion estimator to help you plan your holiday buffet.


Eggnog                         1/2 cup

Turkey                          about 1 pound

Stuffing                         1/4 pound

Sweet Potato Casserole   1/4 pound

Green Beans                  1/4 pound

Cranberry relish              3 tablespoons

Pumpkin Pie                  1/8 of a 9″ pie


2. Buy Local and Organic

The traditional Thanksgiving table includes many in-season items. Look no further than local farmers markets to find everything you need for side dishes and locally baked goods. Need help finding a market still open? Check out the resources in the Green Project: Shop a Farmers Market, Join a CSA or look on the Community Map for a market near you.


Orange and yellow gourds decorate a Thanksgiving table.


If your holiday budget can’t stretch to be 100% organic, reduce your exposure to pesticide residue by buying less of the “Dirty Dozen”. They are the fruits and vegetables found to have the most pesticide residues. Replace the “Dirty Doze” with organic options.

And don’t forget the wine! There are several Maryland and Virginia wineries providing great pairings for the holiday table. Ask your favorite wine store for local selections.


3. Get started on your compost bin

With all the slicing, dicing, chopping and mixing going on this time of year it is a great opportunity to start a compost bin. Set aside your veggie peels, cores and scraps to start compost for the summer. Just be sure any fruit and veggie bi-products stay to themselves and don’t get mixed with meat or other fats.

If you’re looking for more details on composting, take a read through the project Compost Kitchen Waste to find out what you can add to your bin and where to get a free composting bin from Montgomery County.


4. Find extras for your table second-hand

Uncle Bob broke the gravy boat last year and you need a replacement. Save some green and go green by finding a replacement at a consignment store. There are several stores throughout the area with unique pieces at bargain prices.

Plus, this time of year they are stocked with extra place settings, stemware and holiday trimmings to deck the hall so you might find something for the fast-approaching holiday party too! Find a store near you by doing an online search or try the Use it Again Guide.


5. Waste not, Want not

It’s estimated that Americans waste about 25% of food over Thanksgiving. This is accounted for by half eaten plates and funky leftovers. To avoid heavy trash bins try using smaller dinner plates. It will help your guest to take what they want the first time around and go back for seconds if they need it. Besides, are the kids really going to make it through their plates before returning to play with their cousins?


6. Help your guests help you with clean-up

Every household is different so demonstrate that yours is a green one by clearly placing and labeling recycling containers in your kitchen. Ask the kids to help out by making sure bottles, cans and plastics get to the right place during clean-up. If you’re not sure what can be recycled, refresh your memory with this recycling tip sheet from Montgomery County.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Let us know if you try any of these tips, or if you have one of your own to share.

Have a happy and green Thanksgiving!

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