Thanksgiving is upon us once more and the holiday provides with a day to give thanks, spend quality time with loved ones, and of course, rest.  The day is meant to teach the all-powerful message to give thanks for all that we have. Even with all the tough times our country is facing, we have plenty to be thankful for. Perhaps, the single thing we all can be thankful for next week and everyday is our Earth. The Earth provides us with life and nourishment, as well as a pretty nice place to live. Unfortunately, as a species we haven’t been so thankful for her in recent centuries. As humans continue to pump the world with pollution and imminent extreme climate change is on the horizon, what better time to stop and give thanks to the Earth. One of the great ways to give our mother thanks is to live a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle. If you have not started implementing these changes to your day-to-day, you can start by greening your holidays.

Last year we posted a helpful blog that provided suggestions for an Ethical Holiday, which included purchasing fair trade and vegan, as well as cutting down your travel and recycling. This year we wanted to focus on a few simple ways you can throw a truly green Thanksgiving dinner at your household. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful and requires a lot of planning, but if you are the host, you can be sure you take the necessary steps to giving an eco-friendly dinner. 2010 is the year to give our world its proper rest and thanks.

5 Simple Ways to Green Thanksgiving Dinner

1) Purchase Local and Always Organic: We know you hear it a thousand times from us but purchasing local and organic foods has a huge impact on the environment and your health. Conventional foods are covered with harmful pesticides that seep into water supplies, harm wildlife, and end up on your plate. You can avoid this by purchasing all organic this year. As far as fruits and vegetables, almost every type is offered organic. On top of fruits and vegetables, a whole host of other items needed for dinner are made organic, including bread, wine, margarine, olive oil, beer and nuts. Whenever possible, please also try to purchase local items, thus simultaneously supporting your community and cutting down on emissions from shipping food all over the world. Farmer’s markets, co-ops, natural food stores, and even Whole Foods are great resources for both organic and local food.

2) Re-think the Turkey: Most Americans love to consume turkey during the holidays, however, factory farmed turkeys, which most people buy, are incredibly harmful to the environment as well as cruel to the animals. Environmental issues include soil erosion and water pollution, just to name a few. In fact, 10 billion pounds of manure are generated by turkey farms in 33 states, and much of it ends up in our drinking water. Luckily there are alternatives! You can skip the meat this year and serve only side dishes or purchase a mock meat product such as Tofurkey. We have a large holiday-themed vegan recipe backlog to choose from, but also check out this list from Gentle Thanksgiving. We also encourage you to consider adopting or sponsoring a turkey through Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey project and save the life of a rescued bird.

3) Consume Less Energy: This tip may seem overly simple but the truth is it can really help! With all the cooking and preparation, the energy you use will soar, as well as your bill. This year, make a couple of conservation moves to reduce the amount of energy you consume. Cook many dishes together in your oven so it is not on for hours and hours, use a slow cooker or microwave (we can’t back the taste) since they use less energy, make sure you use the correct-sized pots in order to maximize the energy used, and wash all dishes via dishwasher, as it conserves water. Another great idea is if your climate allows, host your dinner outside, cutting down the use of lights, heat/AC, television, and stereos. You could also encourage your guests to entertain themselves outside with lawn games or possibly a game of football. These are creative and interactive ideas that will cut your energy and facilitate community.

4) Re-Use, Re-Use, Re-Use: A house full of guests create a sink full of dishes and it may seem easier to use paper or plastic when serving your loved ones. But using these items is not so friendly to the environment. You might as well impress your family with a nice set of reusable dishes and silverware or your nicest set of china. But don’t stop with dishes: cut out paper towels, napkins, invitations and place cards. You can use cloth for napkins and towels and recycle junk mail or newspapers to make place cards and invitations. If every household in the US cut out one package of paper napkins 1 million trees could be saved! For more ideas on how to host a paperless Thanksgiving, look no further than this list of tips by Planet Green.

5) Know Your Portions: Waste is an issue for the United States and Thanksgiving can be a wasteful holiday. According to the New York Times, America wastes about 27% of our food per year and 2% ends up in landfills. Although many people love their Thanksgiving leftovers, not everyone remembers to eat them before they go bad. You can be sure and reduce your leftovers by properly planning how much to cook. According to Use Less Stuff , the average person-to-food ratio should be as follows: Main Course (Tofurkey)- 1 pound; stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans- 1/4 pound each; cranberry sauce-3 tbsp; and pie-1/8 of a 9 inch pie. By using this model you can be sure to cook an accurate amount for your guests without going overboard. If you do have leftovers you cannot eat, consider donating them to a local homeless shelter.