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Green Tips: Reducing Food Waste Around Thanksgiving

Green Tips | November 19, 2020

Last week, we discussed the environmental impacts of Thanksgiving and what you can do to mitigate them. Perhaps the most astonishing statistic from last week’s Green Tip was that Americans throw away 200 million pounds of turkey every year. Food waste releases greenhouse gases when it breaks down in a landfill, and in recent years, over 30,000 tons of food waste have been landfilled in the United States. We’ve outlined a number of ways to cut down on unnecessary waste ahead of, during, and after the big meal this year.

Prepping for the Meal

You can reduce your Thanksgiving waste before even serving the dinner. By anticipating how much you need to serve and saving unused food scraps, you can make sure your food finds its way into your stomach instead of the landfill. Here are some tips:

  • Buy only what you need.
    • The general rule is to buy 1 pound of turkey per person.
    • If you plan on having plenty of turkey leftover for future meals, buy 1½ pounds of turkey per person.
  • Save food scraps while preparing the meal.
    • Save food scraps in the freezer for future dishes.
    • Make a vegetable stock using leftover vegetables.
  • Stay away from buying paper and plastic plates, cups, and utensils.
    • Disposable items like these may seem like less work to wash, but they add to landfills. 

During the Meal

It is easy to overlook any waste that is generated while celebrating the holiday and enjoying the meal. This makes it extra important to stay mindful about how much you are throwing away. Just by following these simple steps, you can significantly reduce how much you throw out:

  • Serve the meal in courses rather than putting everything on the table at once. 
    • You can keep track of how much people are eating and adjust how much food you put out in future courses accordingly.
    • Leftovers from one course can be incorporated into a later course.
  • While at the table, don’t put more on your plate than you plan to eat.
    • Uneaten, served food is much more likely to be thrown out than uneaten, unserved food.
    • As a host, ask each guest how much food they want before serving them.
    • As a guest, if the host is serving you too much, don’t be afraid to say so!

After the Meal

Even after you finish your meal, it isn’t too late to cut down on your Thanksgiving waste. In addition to cutting waste, cooking with leftovers can be a great way to discover new dishes you may enjoy. 

  • Save leftovers rather than throwing them away!
  • Put unwanted Thanksgiving leftovers in your compost bin. To prevent contamination, only include fruits and vegetables, while avoiding dairy, meat, and bones.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s Green Tips, and look out for next week’s topic: Shopping Smart for the Holidays.

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