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Green Tips: A Green Thanksgiving

Green Tips | November 22, 2019

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, a holiday typically associated with lots of family and mountains of food. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that from Thanksgiving until New Years Day, there is a 25% increase in American household waste. With this in mind, let’s give thanks to the Earth by making this year’s holiday season America’s greenest one yet! Follow our tips below for a more planet-friendly Thanksgiving and be on the look-out for more holiday green tips in the coming weeks!!


If hosting a Thanksgiving meal, plan ahead to reduce waste. According to the EPA, there were 50.7 million tons of non-durable waste generated in 2017 in the U.S., such as disposable cups, utensils, and plates. Used disposable products generally cannot be recycled and are sent to already overburdened municipal landfills. A Thanksgiving meal can be waste-free with a few simple, conscientious changes.

Here are some easy and quick changes you could make:

  1. Use reusable cutlery and plates instead of paper or plastic
  2. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
  3. Go on a nature walk to find natural items to use for table decorations instead of purchasing manufactured decorations. Task the kids to look for pine cones, acorns, leaves, or flowers for table decor. Natural items look festive, and make for great conversation starters! You can toss them back outside after dinner.


Transportation is the leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and in New York State. Last year, it was projected that upwards of 54 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more and 30.6 million people were expected to fly for the Thanksgiving holiday. As Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, it is a good time to consider ways to make your travel plans more green. 

There are ways you can decrease your impact without significantly altering your travel plans. If you’re driving, be sure to arrange a carpool with guests who live nearby. Some highways have designated carpool lanes which may be slightly less congested. If renting a car to travel, look for hybrid or electric vehicle options with the rental company. 

Using public transportation to travel is a great way to save money, reduce congestion on the roads, and decrease vehicle emissions. Although some bus, train, and subway services use different schedules on Thanksgiving Day, there are still available options for holiday travelers. 

If you’re planning on flying, purchasing carbon offsets is a quick way to counterbalance some of the carbon pollution emitted from the flight. Many airlines prompt you at the end of your ticket purchase with the option to buy a carbon offset. If you would rather pick a specific place or organization to direct your offset to, there are many options to choose from. Carbon Fund, Cool Effect, and The Climate Trust are some examples that have GuideStar Seal of Transparency ratings ensuring honesty and commitment to their projects. 


The highlight of Thanksgiving is the meal. Whether you’re cooking a whole dinner or just one dish, an important aspect of eco-friendly cooking is buying locally-sourced ingredients that are in season. Supporting nearby farms helps retain freshness and tastedecrease food travel emissions, and supports the local economy. To find a farmers market selling local agricultural products near you, use the USDA locator

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation estimates Americans waste 25% of the food they purchase. Leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner are always something to look forward to, but it’s important not to over-prepare food that will eventually get thrown away. Check to see what you already have and plan a grocery list in advance to cut down food waste. You can also use the Thanksgiving Food Planning Calculator to help ensure you don’t cook in excess, or the BigOven leftover recipe generator to create new dishes with the same leftovers. If you typically have mountains of food leftover, try making smaller dishes this year. Divert any food waste from landfills by finding local compost programs to bring your food waste to. 

Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday

The deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pretty hard to resist, but Small Business Saturday can offer a less frantic shopping experience while supporting an important cause. This November 30th is Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to support small business owners and the local economy  Shopping local helps both the community and the environment, especially if the products sold are produced locally. Online or chain retailers often require long-distance shipping of products, producing substantial amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. If choosing to purchase from online retailers, find items that ship from locations close to your address to reduce emissions.

The day after Cyber Monday is Giving Tuesday, a day to think about how you can give back to your local and global community. You might consider volunteering, donating to a food or clothing drive, or making a charitable donation. To donate to NYLCVEF and support our mission to engage, educate, and empower New Yorkers to be environmental advocates, click here.

The Earth will be very thankful for any adjustments you make to have a more eco-friendly Thanksgiving this year. We’re thankful for all our members and supporters this holiday season!

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