Waste Less on Turkey Day

Wild turkeys
(Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

It’s difficult to find hard numbers on how much more Americans waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than the rest of the year—Recycle Works says household trash increases by 25%. Whatever the actual number, there’s no question that once the fourth Thursday in November hits, many of us forget about our earth-friendly ways and splurge through year’s end.

Bearing that in mind, I decided to search for some tips to reduce the waste that often accompanies these festivities, without cutting into holiday cheer. Many articles and blogs I read suggested buying local and organic food—always a useful tip—but with Thanksgiving just two days away, food-purchasing has likely already occurred.

Instead, here are a few tips there’s still time to try out this Turkey Day (from Audubon staff, Earth911, Use Less Stuff, and Watauga County (NC) Sanitation):

- Ask guests to bring reusable containers to take home leftovers. Perhaps that’ll help reduce the 25% of purchased foods (170 pounds per person) Americans chuck each year, according to the USDA. (Watauga) 

- Make less food—do you really need that green bean casserole and the sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows?—or follow Audubon Senior Editor Julie Leibach’s simple philosophy: Eat everything.

- Travel at off-peak times, if you can, to avoid sitting in traffic (in other words, not the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Sunday after). Not only will this stave off holiday stress, at least for a few hours, but it’ll save you money and prevent sending unnecessary greenhouses gases into the atmosphere.

- Evaluate how much food waste you create. Keep a mental checklist or write it down in a place you’ll remember. Then, adjust accordingly for next year. (Earth911)

- If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with the same people you celebrate gift-giving holidays with, have presents ready to hand out on Turkey Day. That way, you don’t have to ship them (saving you and the environment). When wrapping presents, keep in mind this stat from the 2009 Use Less Stuff Report: If Americans used two feet less ribbon, the amount saved could circle the globe—twice. (Watauga)

How will you reduce holiday waste this Thanksgiving?

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”