Do you love Thanksgiving too?
While I adore Christmas, I don’t want to rush past this specific, short season. Some of my favorite memories are of eating at a big table with my whole extended family, followed by dozing off to the sounds of a football game. I love that Thanksgiving is a holiday with no presents – just great food and togetherness.
And as a “grown-up,” I get to create our own traditions and create a holiday that’s about our values. Read on for three ways I make a sustainable Thanksgiving uniquely ours – and how you can too.
Combat Food Waste by Making Your Own Menu
Making a massive meal in the spirit of gratitude is an annual tradition that I absolutely love. But to keep things sustainable, you have to think ahead about creating excess food waste. Neither my husband nor I are crazy about turkey. So for our Thanksgiving, we will be making our absolute favorite roast chicken. In addition, we will of course, make a few of our favorite Thanksgiving sides, like stuffing, green bean casserole, and crescent rolls. Other than that, we will add in the dishes that we love and enjoy eating leftovers indefinitely. This macaroni and cheese recipe is incredible and has become my staple whenever cooking for a crowd. All of these dishes freeze really well too, so I’ll package up many leftovers for an easy dinner in December. Making food that you love to eat leftovers of, and utilizing your freezer combats food waste in a huge way. Also, if you can think about changing up some of your recipes to be more plant-forward, vegetarian, or vegan, you’ll further reduce the environmental effects of eating animals. With just a few tweaks, you can truly celebrate abundance with the respect and gratitude it deserves.
Single-use plastic and paper plates and cutlery make for a colossal waste of resources that all end up in landfills. The thrift stores are full of gorgeous plates, serving dishes, and silverware. Using and reusing real plates and containers for baking and serving instead of plastic, paper, and foil containers is so much lighter on the environment. Using a dishwasher instead of hand washing further saves water. Suppose you don’t have a dishwasher and have lots of folks to feed, consider biodegradable options that fit your budget. I also just love the feeling of sitting down to dinner with real plates, lovely fabric napkins, and beautiful silverware. It’s classic, elegant, and truly feels so much more festive than paper plates. Snag a few vintage covered casserole dishes from the thrift store and send folks off with them filled with leftovers instead of stocking up on plastic containers.
Pick Thrifted & Biodegradable Decor
With the rapid churn of advertising and social media, it sometimes feels as though you need to reinvent your holiday decor each and every year. However, when I think back to my childhood, I loved seeing the same familiar decorations mark celebrations year after year. They became old friends, and part of our family’s story.
When you’re decorating for any holiday, search out new-to-you decor through hand-me-downs or secondhand stores. Thrift stores are full of holiday decorations, including gorgeous serving dishes, table cloths, fabric napkins, and oh-so trendy candlesticks.
Faux greenery and botanicals use a ton of resources to produce, so if you want to use them, purchase ones that will last you for a decade or longer. They should be stored with care and possess some adaptability so that you might update them without purchasing completely new pieces. Even better – choose pieces without built-in lights which easily break. Finding some garland that can transition between Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, gives you versatility and a long life span in your home.
Otherwise, choosing locally-grown fresh or dried greenery and botanicals for decor (globally produced flowers and foliage are a major drag on the environment too – with massive pesticide use and carbon impact of long shipping distances). Or you can forage some branches of leaves and berries from your areas. Using fresh greenery means you can compost them after use. It’s a great reason to pick up a new thrifted vase or low container and practice arranging some florals.
Examine Your Perspective
Finally, a tradition that I’ve added to my Thanksgiving celebrations is centering Indigenous American stories – specifically the
Wampanoag. As a descendent of Mayflower passengers, I feel that it’s my responsibility to understand and share the stories of the native men, women & children that genuinely kept my ancestors alive despite the harm they and their descendants suffered. So I do celebrate some aspects of my ancestors’ story, but I can also diligently examine where they failed. I can reflect on why the Thanksgiving holiday is also the National Day of Mourning – marking the beginnings of a genocide of Native peoples that would span centuries. I added this beautiful biography about Squanto to our holiday stories rotation for my son as an introduction to the Thanksgiving story massively different from the one I received as a child. Let’s work to expand our knowledge of this day, and the significance it has for the people to whom this land really belongs.
I hope this post inspires you to try some new things this year as you celebrate. If you do, let me know in the comments here, or over on Instagram @riverroadworkshop.