A girl's quest to live on the greener side.

5 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

eco-friendly thanksgiving

By: Ariana Palmieri

If you love celebrating Thanksgiving, you're not alone. Many Americans do: It's a time where friends and family get to come together, talk, and feast. There's just one problem with this holiday: It takes a huge toll on the environment. Between all the traveling, food, and waste we produce in this one day, it's hardly sustainable. That's why I've devised this simple guide to help you turn this holiday around: Here's 5 ways to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving! 


Eat (and stay) local

Are you planning on travelling this Thanksgiving? You might be better off staying home and preparing a dinner at your house.  If you must go out, try carpooling with other people, instead of taking your own car. The less cars on the road, the better: The amount people travel via car, train, and airplane this holiday takes a huge toll on the environment. In 2015, 48.7 million Americans traveled on Thanksgiving: Can you imagine the amount of pollution that must have added to the environment? After all, according to the New York Times, one round trip flight from New York to Europe or San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. 

But there is good news: According to a study done by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, there are ways to travel in a more ecofriendly manner: Try to avoid flying, driving alone, and driving big cars. Instead, when you can, choose the train, bus, or carpool with 2 to 3 people.

That said, the way to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving is still to stay home and eat locally. Try visiting your local farmers market to pick up some fresh produce for your meal. The food there didn't have to travel as far to get to you either, which cuts carbon emissions down even more.


Prepare an organic feast

Really want a turkey? Purchase an organic one. Turkeys are usually given hormones to speed their growth and eat feed grown in pesticides. Yuck. Plus they're given a slew of antibiotics (doesn't exactly sound appetizing). At least with an organic turkey, you know it was raised without hormones, antibiotics, got to graze in open pastures, and eat feed free of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

If you really want to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving, ditch the turkey completely. After all, an estimated 46 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving alone. Most of the turkeys killed are not raised organically either, but instead treated cruelly in inhumane conditions. Consider avoiding turkey this year, and instead focus on creating a plant-based feast.

Buy organic produce for all your sides and desserts: Shopping at a farmers market for produce is another good option (as mentioned previously). Organic produce may be a little harder on your wallet, but the flavor and environmental impact it has is worth it. Plants don't need as many resources to raise as livestock, so overall they leave a smaller carbon footprint. Livestock also leaves a bigger water footprint: To produce one pound of beef is 1,799 gallons of water, while the water footprint of corn is 108 gallons. That's a huge difference. 

Whatever you decide to do, please try to avoid any plastic packaging on the foods you purchase. Instead, get fresh produce that's pretty much naked and free of any plastic wrap. This might be harder to do with any meat you buy, but at least try to do it for the vegetables and fruits. 


Use reusable cutlery and napkins

Americans create 4.4 pounds of trash per day: That's 1,600 pounds per year. Lets cut back on that by choosing reusable cutlery and napkins this holiday (and hopefully, every day!). Avoid purchasing single-use plastic plates, cups, utensils, and napkins to use. Instead, use some silverware and chinaware you don't normally use. Maybe that set that's been sitting in your drawer or cabinet for a while? Or, just use the regular ceramic plates and stainless steel cutlery you usually use. As long as you can reuse it, do it. This will create the perfect zero waste and eco-friendly Thanksgiving. 

You might not have reusable napkins available in your house at the moment, but use this opportunity to get some. You can buy some online or look for some in stores. There are some really pretty reusable napkins available that will add a lot of charm to your table. You can even get some napkins with cute fall leaves on them, or cornucopias. Or, you can get them in solid colors, which might make it easier to reuse no matter what the occasion. If you're talented, consider making some from scratch (old shirts or fabric from a craft store work well). There are tons of YouTube videos and online tutorials out there to help you.

Also, please don't use bottled water at your Thanksgiving celebration. There are so many reasons why you should avoid plastic water bottles: Just use filtered tap water instead. If you buy any other drinks for the occasion, try to make sure they're plastic-free and come in a glass bottle (ex: Wine, beer, champagne). Glass is so much easier to recycle than plastic.

Here's a quick list of reusable items to get for your table this holiday:

  • Reusable napkins
  • Silverware (or any reusable cutlery you can find)
  • Glass, stainless steel or ceramic cups
  • Ceramic plates
  • Cloth tablecloth (totally beats a plastic table cover)
  • Filtered tap water (instead of single-use bottled water)
  • Reusable roasting pan (If making a turkey - don't buy the cheap, disposable ones)


Compost the leftover food scraps

Food waste is a serious problem in the U.S. Two-thirds of the food discarded in the U.S. homes is edible, according to a study done on three major cities: Denver, Nashville, and New York. Essentially, this could add up to 68 million meals being thrown away in these three cities alone. Isn't that crazy? Imagine what Thanksgiving would look like in these cities, considering most people cook too much food on this holiday. Not an eco-friendly Thanksgiving at all.

Thankfully, there is a solution: Compost your food scraps! Don't let them go to waste. I save my food scraps in my apartment and take them every weekend to the farmers market. They have a food scrap drop off there where they turn it into compost. There's probably one near you too! Or, if you have enough room in your house, consider composting at home. Have a friend that's a gardener? Give them the compost your food scraps create. Or, look around your local community: See any trees lining your streets that need a little extra nutrients? Dump some compost in their soil beds. Most of the soil in trees planted near roadways aren't exactly fertile: Giving them some compost is a great way to help them out! 

Of course, the alternative is to save your leftovers for another day, or give some away to your guests. But whatever scarps don't get eaten, make sure to compost! Doing this will make sure nothing goes to waste.


Avoid Black Friday

A good deal is tempting, but at what cost? Black Friday is all about consumerism, and consumerism can hurt the environment. Especially when its done in massive quantities, like on Black Friday. By being lured into a good deal, you're more likely to buy things you don't necessarily need. Things that will, eventually, be lost, thrown away, and end up in a landfill. Is that what you want?

Think about what you buy, before you buy it. If you really can't resist a deal, wait until Cyber Monday and do your shopping online. A study showed Black Friday is fifty times more carbon intensive than its online counterpart: This is because most of the CO2 emissions were coming from the gas used by consumers getting to and from stores. So if you really want to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving, wait for Cyber Monday (or, purchase nothing on both days).

I hope this guide helps you have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving! Please make sure to do your part to make the holidays as green as possible. Leave a comment below and let me know how you like to greenify Thanksgiving. 


  1. after going through your awesome piece arianna I am now motivated to superior papers.com your article has outlined the neccesary skills I am supposed to emulate when writing my paper

  2. Great article girl!! We had an Amish turkey this year. You know they don't use any nasties to care for their birds so I really enjoyed my dinner. My dad likes to compost. Hope you had a joyful Thanksgiving!