10 things you can do to green up your Thanksgiving
Finding a way to be green and thankful this holiday season.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 11:29
PRIMARY COLORS: Fresh leaves certainly brighten up the landscape. The tips below can make sure your days stay happy and bright this season. (Photo: sponselli/Flickr)
It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and requests that are the holidays. Here in the States, we take our holidays seriously. In the running, preparing, flight-catching days to come, how can you make sure your holiday is full of all the good things you love, but still be green?
10. Take the train. If your family lives on or very near a train line, why don't you get off the highways and out of the airplane terminals, and into the railway station. This, for many, may not be an option (hence its bottom rank on the list). However, many people forget that this system is out there waiting to serve a willing public, especially the D.C. area. The best parts of traveling are still a part of this mode of transportation: nice seats, short lines and no baggage limits or fees!
9. Pack light. You don't need five dresses, three pairs of pants and seven blouses for a four-day Thanksgiving excursion. Buckle down and go with the essentials. Lightening the load will not only be easy on your back, but also on your car's (or airplane's, believe it or not) efficiency. Also consider purchasing carbon-offset credits for your trip.
8. Order your protein in advance. If you are an omnivore, like many Americans, you are likely to have a lean protein be the main showcase of your holiday meals. If that's the case, find a local farmer who raises these animals. Why? Firstly, you can see first-hand how the animals are treated. Be sure they are raised and meet their ends in a humane manner. It is a sign of deep reverence and respect. And good for you to know, too.
7. Use real china. There was a study that concluded washing one ceramic mug took more resources than simply using one disposable coffee cup. This seems a little suspect. It's not entirely clear that the analysis took into account the amount of energy/resources it took to obtain the original cup resource (usually wood), transport it, mill it, process it, run it through a series of machines to create that cup shape, pack the cups for shipment (not to mention the origins and energy use to creat those packing materials), shipping it to the warehouse, then shipping it to the stores where they finally fall in the hands of an awaiting public (read: you). So, due to these suspicions, I think going with reusable cutlery and plates is the way to go. And since it's a holiday for love and family, break out the good stuff and make it a real event. If you have little ones or clumsy pals, there are many reusable plates made of renewable resources that won't break on impact (reusable bamboo is a popular option!). Also, break out the real cloth napkins, if you got 'em. Your loved ones deserve nothing but the best!
6. Turn off the TV. Watching the parade while prepping for your luscious meal is an enjoyable tradition. But leaving the TV on all day, even through meals, in some homes, isn't healthy for your electric bill or your family meal. This is a day for telling your loved ones how much you appreciate their presence in your life. Show them how much you mean it by turning off the game and starting good conversation, instead.
5. Get your wine from a local winery. And no, California isn't the only place for good wines. Virginia and Maryland have some fantastic local wineries. Check them out and get tastings to see which would go with your planned meal. Several in the area also make their own version of a "port," so ask about those, as well! The best part of it all, other than the fabulous time you'll have checking out all the wineries, is, again, supporting your local agriculture and a low carbon footprint due to the short distance that wine traveled from barrel to table.
4. Get your groceries on a week night. Going along with #2 and #3, if your local farmers market is already done for the season, or you're unable to get everything you need, then a trip to your friendly, neighborhood mega-mart is on your to-do list. If your grocery store is like many of the stores in the D.C. area, Saturdays and Sundays are super packed! It takes longer to park (higher carbon footprint), longer to get through the store and longer lines to pay (higher stress). Many locals find that Monday and Friday nights tend to be the best nights to shop. It's usually pretty quiet and you can get your list and then some done in less time than a weekend errand run.
3. Get your goodies at the local farmers market instead. Some farmers markets are still going strong, even this late in the season. If so, take advantage of them and get as many of your groceries as you can there before heading to the mega-mart! If money is tight, look for what the stands have the most of, so you can buy at least a few things and support your local farmers and economy. This time of year, it's squash. So, try a delicious side of baked or mashed squash instead of your traditional white potatoes or sweet potatoes. Recipe suggestion: Take 1 butternut squash, skinned and cubed, and toss it in olive oil, rosemary or thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until tender. Yum!
2. Buy local. Buy local and organic, if you can. There is the long debate: do you buy local when shopping, or organic? Well, do both, when you can. However, going conventional and local over organic can have its upsides in certain cases. When you buy local, you know exactly where your food is coming from and it has less to travel to get to you. That means fresher, longer-lasting produce and a lower carbon footprint. There are some fruits and veggies commonly used this time of year that should be purchased organic, if you can, such as apples, celery, spinach and potatoes. Try to go with domestic produce, rather than imported, no matter which way you go. This supports American farmers and can also increase the amount of organic produce grown within our borders, if the economic support is there.
1. Tell everyone in your life "Happy Thanksgiving." This may not seem like a specifically "green" thing to do, but it's a large part of being green. Showing others, especially those with different political leanings, that you still wish them well this holiday season, reveals that the cornerstone of the green movement is compassion, kindness and sincerity. We are citizens together. Showing everyone in your life, especially those who disagree with you, that these essential traits are an integral part of who you are will hopefully translate into the understanding that they are also essential components of the green movement.
That said, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for all of your support of this blog and MNN.com. Best wishes to you and yours.
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