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Be grateful for a green Thanksgiving
Keep Liberty Beautiful
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Sara Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful. - photo by File photo

The Holidays are here. It is the most wonderful time of the year! Make the next month some of the greenest days of the year by adjusting preparations for the holiday.

According to RecycleWorks, Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent. We need to start thinking green, not Grinch green but environmental green.

Thanksgiving Day is loaded with tradition, so why not start a tradition in your family by making Thanksgiving a green and eco-friendly celebration? It is not as hard as you think.

Before you rush to eat yourself into a tryptophan-induced coma, make a green holiday plan for shopping, for food planning, for natural decorations, for easy-peasy ecofriendly cleanup, and just catch a moment for thanks.

First, plan shopping to use time and fuel wisely. Use those reusable shopping bags. Look for organic foods and products with minimal packaging that offer the greatest opportunities to recycle. If you’re going to have a crowd, buy food in bulk to reduce packaging and save money. Reduce waste by buying only as much as you need and choosing as many products that you can that come in packaging that can be recycled.

Encourage guests to pitch in, and mark recycling bins. Recycling all packaging, as well as beverage containers, will significantly reduce the number of times you have to take the trash out, as well as the amount of garbage you send to the landfill.

I am bad about wanting to create a massive feast, but that can waste a tremendous amount of food. At least, 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year. That is more than 100 pounds of food per person.

One of the best ways to reduce your waste this Thanksgiving is to plan the meal and practicie portion control. In our family, we cooks — my sister, sister-in-law and nieces — each choose one or two dishes we want to have. That way we still can make the holiday special, but we do not get too carried away.

Use Less Stuff created a handy list of approximate per-person food and drink portions:

• Turkey: 1 pound

• Stuffing: ¼ pound

• Sweet potato casserole: ¼ pound

• Green beans: ¼ pound

• Cranberry relish: 3 tablespoons

• Pumpkin pie: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie

If you buy local, not only can you enjoy fresh food, you also support our economy. Check for farmers markets, family farms, community-supported agriculture programs and U-pick options in your area for the fresh produce, eggs, dairy and grass-fed meat.

Use tap water. Lose the plastic bottled water that creates enormous waste. Check on-the-counter and system water purifiers to get drinking water.

If you have several dishes that cook at the same temperature, put them in the oven at the same time to reduce energy use and prep time.

Compost kitchen scraps. Composting scraps can have a big impact. Twenty-four percent of the waste Americans send to landfills is organic, meaning kitchen scraps and leftovers. Keeping that waste out of landfills is essential. We are running out of landfill space.

Use your nice china and cloth napkins. It is a holiday! And you have all these built-in kitchen helpers and dishwashers sitting around! If disposable place settings are your only choice, opt for biodegradable and compostable utensils, napkins and plates, such as those from The average dishwasher uses 7 to 15 gallons of water per cycle. After the meal, be sure to fill the dishwasher to capacity before running it.

When it comes to decorations, go natural. Use candles made from soy or vegetable wax. Soy wax is clean-burning, without soot or harmful emissions, and has a low melting point so it burns cooler.

Forget the petroleum-based plastic and synthetic decorations and adorn your table with natural and homemade decor. Fill clear vases with pinecones, acorns and colorful leaves. Carve small slits in wine corks, and slide in a piece of paper in each with a guest’s name for upcycled place settings.

Add extra fun to your table. Lots of materials can be found in your craft cupboard or backyard. With a few simple supplies and a little imagination, you can make great eco-friendly Thanksgiving decorations. Have the kids participate in a pre-Thanksgiving craft day. Here are some other easy ideas:

Acorn napkin ties on raffia

Dried leaf place cards

Corn or leaf print place mats

Pinecone turkeys

Painted or polished gourds

Festive arrangements of pumpkins or corn cobs

Make a fruit and vegetable cornucopia

There’s no way around it, traveling miles and miles to share a single meal with family and friends is not the greenest of ways to spend a Thanksgiving. I am not going to be the one to say, don’t go visit granny, but if you must go through the woods to grandmother’s house, make sure that you turn down the thermostat and turn off the lights to save energy while you’re gone.

Also make sure your car is serviced and that your tires are properly inflated to get the most efficient use of your fuel and that your car does not leak fluids. If you are attending a large family gathering, look into carpooling with relatives.

Once the party is over, decide what to do with all that leftovers. Make sure your guests all take leftovers in reusable containers. Don’t forget to donate leftovers to a charity. But save some for yourselves. After all, one of the best Thanksgiving traditions is enjoying those leftovers the next day.

No family to share a holiday with? Inviting neighbors or coworkers to share your green Thanksgiving is an opportunity to say thank you and start your own "Friendsgiving."

Consider planting a tree each Thanksgiving. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Planting one may not seem to make much of a difference, but, in one year, the average tree absorbs roughly 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and returns enough oxygen to provide for the needs of a family of four.

A green Thanksgiving will enrich your family’s holiday because you will know that you have made the world brighter by reducing your impact on the environment. And that’s something for which everyone can be thankful.

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