Green Tips: Thanksgiving

Green Tips | November 4, 2021

Thanksgiving is one of the most joyous holidays of the year. It is also one of the most resource-intensive days of the year, responsible for Americans collectively traveling billions of miles and consuming more than a billion pounds of food. As more families will be gathering in person again this year to celebrate, here are some tips on how to enjoy the holiday while being mindful of your carbon footprint.

Thanksgiving Meal:

The Thanksgiving meal and preparation is estimated to emit around 50 pounds of CO2 per household, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Included in those 50 pounds are around 34.2 pounds of CO2 emitted just by a 16-pound turkey. Here are some tips to reduce your Thanksgiving meal’s carbon footprint this season:

  • Consider choosing a smaller turkey and making other plant-based side dishes more of a centerpiece in your meal. 
  • When choosing a turkey, consider buying one from a local farmers’ market, or one that is organic and GMO-free.
  • Perhaps you can avoid buying a turkey altogether, and opt for a vegetarian or entirely plant-based meal this Thanksgiving.
  • Try to avoid ingredients that require extensive transportation, such as out-of-season fruits. Instead, consider buying fall fruits and vegetables from a local farmers market to avoid extensive food transportation and unnecessary CO2 emissions.
  • When prepping and cleaning up your meal, try composting.


Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, and considering a flight across the United States emits at least one metric ton of CO2, carbon emissions for this holiday are particularly high. Below are some tips for reducing your carbon footprint during holiday travel:

  • If you plan to fly, try offsetting your carbon emissions.
  • Another way to reduce emissions when flying is to opt for direct flights instead of making one or multiple stops along the way. 
  • If possible, consider taking public transport such as the train or bus. 
  • Driving? How about carpooling by picking up relatives or friends along the way who will be joining you at the meal.

Decor and Set-Up:

Each year, the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years generates an extra 25% more waste amounting to around 25 million tons. Here are some ways to limit waste during the holidays:

  • When serving guests, try reusable plates, cups, and cutlery instead of single-use plastic. 
  • Instead of using paper napkins, opt for cloth, which can also be more festive. 
  • When decorating for Thanksgiving, try to use decorations you already own, or use fall produce such as pumpkins and other squash from local farmers’ markets. 

Thanks for reading this week’s Green Tips and have a safe Thanksgiving!

Submitted by: Michaela Stones

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