This Thanksgiving, whether you're interested in saving the environment, saving money, or both, check out these tips from the Cool Foods Campaign, which looks at the connections between food and global warming.
First, they have 5 money-saving green tips for Thanksgiving. Here they are, with my comments:
- Buy from the bulk foods section. This not only saves money but decreases packaging. And when stuff's transported in bulk rather than packages, more fits in a single vehicle, meaning a lower environmental impact.
- Buy dried beans rather than canned beans. It's obviously cheaper, but it's also better for the environment because the dried beans are lighter and easier to transport than beans full of water and surround by liquid. And soaking beans is easy!
- Use non-processed foods. It's cheaper, healthier, and it's better for the environment because of the energy that goes into all that processing (and typically extra packaging.)
- Avoid food waste by using your leftovers. Apparently we waste 27% of our food, and big meals like Thanksgiving are a big part of the problem. Take a few minutes after the meal to make plans for the extras. Be honest about what you'll actually eat in the next few days, and stick the rest in the freezer or send it with your guests.
- Make cheap, edible, biodegradable decorations. Rather than paper or plastic turkeys and pilgrims, why not string up some popcorn or cranberries? You can eat or compost them afterwards.
But they also have general green tips for Thanksgiving, and several of them are money-savers too. For example:
- Use less meat in your meal. It's estimated that animal production is responsible for almost 20% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (and Americans are less than 5% of world population but consume more than 15% of the world's meat.) It takes a lot more energy to produce meat than vegetables and grains, because the animals eat much more than their weight in feed over their lifetime. So if you're looking to lessen your impact, cutting back on the meat (and dairy) is a great way to do it. Plus meat's typically more expensive than many great vegetarian options!
- Don't use disposable plates, cups, and utensils. The logic-- both environmentally and financially-- is pretty obvious, even if it's tempting to find ways to do less dishes.
- Store leftovers in Tupperware or in serving dishes rather than foil and plastic bags. Ditto.
- Keeping it local means less carbon's emitted to get it to you, plus you're supporting your community and your neighbors. And a focus on local foods creates a more authentic connection to your local area's heritage (and the history of Thanksgiving!)
- Get a local, free-range organic turkey.
- Buy local produce.
- Choose local wines and beers.
- Buy organic for as many of your food purchases as possible. Organic products are free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which is not just good for your health but also for the environment-- besides the ill-effects of the chemicals on the earth, they also take a lot of energy to produce and emit greenhouse gases when applied.
- Recycle your cooking oil. I can't find a good website that centralizes the info, but in a surprising number of places around the country you can donate your used vegetable oil to be turned into biodiesel to power vehicles. Just Google your city or state, "donate"/"recycle" and "cooking oil"/"vegetable oil."
Happy Thanksgiving! And if you're interested in more about the environmental impact of your food choices, the Cool Foods Campaign website is a great place to start.