Zero-Waste Thanksgiving: 10 Easy Tips For a Sustainably Delicious Holiday

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and food. But what about the trash?

It’s not just your house that gets messy after Thanksgiving dinner — it’s also our planet! The average American throws away more than 25 pounds of garbage on this day alone. That means you’re throwing away an entire turkey in the trash every year!

But no need to stress! We’ve got you covered. With some planning and creativity, you can make this event more sustainable without sacrificing any of the fun! So let’s get started with some popular tips to host a zero-waste Thanksgiving!

1. Make All The Food From Scratch — No Canned Cranberry Sauce! 

1. Make All The Food From Scratch

Sometimes premade food comes wrapped in thin, non-recyclable plastic. This is bad for the Earth because it does not break down and cannot be recycled. When you make things from scratch, you have control over the quality of ingredients used, the amount that is used, and how to cook them.

Do you have your turkey, but need something to go with it? There are tons of ways to make a simple side dish without buying anything packaged. For example, bake your own bread instead of buying boxed stuffing mixes, which usually come with small pouches of non-recyclable materials that contain artificial preservatives and chemicals.

2. Use Reusable Cutlery And Dishes

2. Use Reusable Cutlery And Dishes

Disposable items like cups, plates, knives, and forks can be made from thin materials that are not recyclable. If you wash them, they end up taking more water to clean than they’re worth. On the other hand, reusable items last longer if taken care of and can be used again and again.

Alternatively, you can ask your guests to bring their own reusable dishes and silverware. This way, you still serve a multitude of people but also save on water and energy! As odd as that may sound at first, many of your guests will be thankful for the opportunity to contribute something other than just their presence.

3. Don’t Pre-make Your Plates — Use The Buffet!

Don't Pre-make Your Plates

This is a great way to prevent food waste and prevent more dishes from being made. Buffet style allows people who eat a lot of food to fill up their plates, while those who don’t eat as much have the ability to take as little as they want. This helps reduce food waste, because you’re not wasting food by preparing too much for everyone.

4. Keep The Leftovers!

4. Keep The Leftovers

Don’t throw away your turkey or stuffing! You can save them for later and then warm them up to eat again (especially if you took the buffet approach). There are some foods that taste even better the next day, like pumpkin pie.

5. Compost Your Food Scraps!

5. Compost Your Food Scraps

Food scraps are great for composting, and then you can use that compost to grow new food for next year! You don’t need a special bin or anything — just keep it in your house and mix it with yard waste like grass clippings, tree leaves, and branches. This is a great way to turn what would otherwise be garbage into something useful!

And just in case you are looking for a compost bin, here’s a nice list of 11 Best Countertop Compost Bins For A Greener Lifestyle.

6. Buy Organic, Non-GMO Turkeys 

6. Buy Organic, Non-GMO Turkeys

The turkeys are the only farm animal that is not regulated by USDA Organic standards. Turkeys raised for meat are raised in conditions that are not suitable for an organic animal to live in. They are also fed antibiotics, which can be dangerous for people to consume. On the other hand, turkeys that are raised organically have a much healthier life and better well-being. This means they can lay more eggs, grow faster, have better meat quality, and have less susceptibility to disease. Plus, buying organic turkeys means supporting organic farms too!

7. Serve Fruit For Dessert Instead Of Pies And Cakes

7. Serve Fruit For Dessert

A fruit salad would be healthier than all the cakes and pies that are usually served at Thanksgiving. If you want something with chocolate, go for cookies! It’s easy to make cookies without dairy or eggs, so you can enjoy them even if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant.

8. Serve Vegan Food!

8. Serve Vegan Food!

If everyone at your table is vegan, why not? It’s easy to make a vegan Thanksgiving, and no one will be left out! You can serve brussel sprouts that are marinated in soy sauce or wine, green beans with cashews, mashed potatoes with vegetable stock instead of butter, and you can even have a tofu turkey!

9. Purchase Alcohol in Bulk

9. Purchase Alcohol in Bulk

Consider putting a growler or crowler on ice to serve craft beer or wine at your Thanksgiving table. Ideal for parties, these reusable jugs can hold up to 64 oz. depending on the size you choose. And what better way to spend a special day with family than indulging in craft beer or wine from your local brewery or specialty shop? Even though glass bottles are 100% recyclable, reusing is typically preferable to recycling (less energy and resources used). Cheers, friends!

10. Nature Makes The Best Decor

10. Nature Makes The Best Decor

Let your imagination run free to create absolutely lovely Thanksgiving dinner decorations. Just look around your backyard or local park for beautiful dried leaves and acorns. You don’t have to buy anything dyes, artificial scented flowers or even plastic pumpkins!

If you want to gather more color for your table, try some colored leaves. You can put them in vases and they will be totally stunning! There are so many cool colors.

You can also collect small pinecones and place them on your table. They are very easy to find and they look great with other decorations.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of time making this amazing table, you can make centerpieces using pretty glass vases or candle holders. Just fill them up with branches and add some flowers to them! 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year to gather all your family and friends together! And with all these zero-waste Thanksgiving tricks in mind, the next time you’re hosting, the event will be even more wonderful.

Happy Zero-Waste Thanksgiving!


Do you have more tips to recommend? Make sure to share them with everyone in the comments section below.


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