Today's blog post comes from Kelly Morales! Kelly is a fourth year ES major who credits her small country town of Escalon, California with inspiring a “love for all things environmental and food.” When she is not in school or working, she loves to have movie nights with friends and explore Santa Barbara, doing anything that can get her outdoors. Please enjoy thoughts about a sustainable Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the all-important turkey, these are some of the staples of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that will be present in many American homes this Thursday. It is an American tradition to get together once a year, on a nice November day, to enjoy some quality family time, eat until you can no longer move, and to give thanks. To give thanks for our health, our happiness, our family and friends, good grades, and anything else you can think of. However, we should also be thankful for the environment and the wonderful planet we live on, and one way to give back is to enjoy a Sustainable Thanksgiving. So I have come up with five tips to help you achieve a Sustainable Thanksgiving.
1. Bring Out the Family China! Thanksgiving is already stressful enough with having to cook, but then, at the end of the night, there are so many dishes to clean up. This is why many people choose to use disposable plates and utensils. However, I urge you to get out of this habit and turn to utilizing reusable plates and utensils. Not only would reusable plates be more sustainable, by reducing what you throw out, but they will also look nicer on your dinner table. Also, don’t worry about hand washing, simply use your dishwasher as there are many appliances that utilize less water, and you won’t have to do as much work. If you decide that disposable plates and utensils are right for you this Thanksgiving, then choose compostable products so that you can still be sustainable.
2. Buy Local, Buy Organic! I know this can be difficult especially if you are tight on money, but not everything in your meal has to be local or organic. You can splurge on getting a free-range turkey, or you can choose organic potatoes and cranberries or make your own organic pumpkin pie. Pick and choose what works best for you and your wallet and remember that even a little goes a long way. If you can only buy one local or organic product, this year then plan on getting two products next year and three the next. Eventually, your whole meal could be made up of local and organic products. If you would like to learn more about local and organic food in Santa Barbara, read Madison Conrado’s blog post-Living La Vida Local.
3. Eat Less Meat! Yes, you read that right. I am well aware that Thanksgiving is all about the Turkey, but the meat industry is one of the greatest contributors to global warming. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 18% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions are created by animal agriculture. Animal agriculture also greatly affects water with it taking 50 times more water to produce meat than plant-based foods. I am not saying to forgo meat altogether, just to supplement your dinner with more locally procured veggies or if you are like me, just eat more pumpkin pie.
4. Reduce Waste! Don’t fall into the abundance trap! The media makes it seem that a proper Thanksgiving dinner entails an overflowing dinner table with a massive turkey at the center and an array of side dishes surrounding it. However, the truth is that this can contribute to food waste. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that on average, Americans waste about 1/5 of the food that is available to them, which is equivalent to $371 per person annually. It would not be a stretch to assume that Thanksgiving contributes a significant amount to these numbers. To reduce waste, the USDA recommends that when purchasing a Turkey, allow for one pound of Turkey per person. Also, spread the love with the leftovers by sending your guests home with some of their favorites. Remember that leftovers can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or safely frozen for up to a year (USDA).
5. Enjoy Nature! Take some time out of the day to turn everything off in your house and spend some time outside. Play a game of football with your family or take the dog out for a walk before or even after dinner. The point is to be out in nature and to get some fresh air. We should enjoy the environment, and the wonderful weather California has to offer!
Now this is all I have for you today. I hope you find some of my tips helpful and maybe even entertaining. Again remember that a little goes a long way, and maybe you won’t be able to do some of the things I stated above, but if you can at least do one then, that’s a start. I wish you all a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.