Thanksgiving: Like Norman Rockwell Imagined with Less Trash
This Norman Rockwell photograph is supposed to represent the ideal Turkey-Day. Although, I also enjoy Alton Brown’s interpretation of what this picture has done to our society. Despite the fact that turkey probably wasn’t even eaten on the original Thanksgiving, this is the image permanently etched in my head as I barrel through isles at the grocery store in search of the freshest ingredients to make a huge meal that no one in their right mind has any hope of finishing.
Waste reduction comes to my mind more so at the holidays because of all the extra trash we generate at this time of the year. Each week between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans create 1million extra tons of trash. Since trash that goes to a landfill never goes away, we are not only spending a lot of money throwing away all of that trash, but are loosing the valuable energy and natural resources used to create that trash. From now until New Years I plan on sharing with you the little ways I plan to reduce trash through the holiday season.
This year I am hosting Thanksgiving. Last year we did this as well and we generated a lot of trash! By planning ahead I hope to drastically reduce the amount of trash we make without having people notice. Just because I want a waste-less holiday doesn’t mean everyone in my family will embrace the tofurky and reducing fuel usage by eating together via webcam. I think the best way to go about this problem is to think about what made up the lion’s share of our garbage last year.
- Food waste from preparing dinner. This was a big one. Potato peelings, fruit rinds, egg shells. You name it, I made it. This past year I have started composting. My compost bin is pretty much filled for the winter, but I am going to make sure that food waste from preparing dinner as well as compostable food scraps left on people’s plates will make it in to the bin before I officially close it up for the winter.
- Food packaging. This is another large culprit. This year I am double checking to verify that I am purchasing items with the least possible packaging. For example, for items I know I will use a lot of (staples, if you will) I have bought in bulk. For other items that I wont ever use again, I have bought the smallest size possible. My husband and I don’t drink soda very often, but we got a 2-liter for family members who drink the stuff almost exclusively rather than a lot of individual cans or 20 oz. containers. We also buy juice for the kiddos (not the re-hydrated or concentrate varieties) because although concentrate would make less trash, looking at the entire energy life cycle, it takes less energy to transport juice in larger containers than to dehydrate the stuff (containers that I make sure are recyclable btw). Also, I bought bacon that just came in the plastic rather than bacon that was in the plastic and then in a box. Downright goofy. Eggs I purchase in a paper egg carton as opposed to Styrofoam so that i can recycle it.
- Left overs on the plate. Last year we had huge plates that everyone filled to the breaking point, plus plates for salad and bowls for jello. Not only did this make our table very crowded, but it was difficult to realize just how much food you were even taking! This year I am doing away with all the extra plates and bowls. People can go back for seconds, which is better anyway because the food will be a lot more likely to stay hot if it is in the original container I cooked it it rather than sitting on its own ‘lil plate. Thats right – subtle psychological ploys to get my guests to take only what they will eat and not feel the need to beach themselves once full.
- Left overs in general. Last year was my husband and my first attempt at hosting a holiday. We had no idea about how much food to make and were a little over zealous in our attempts. This year I knew what to scale back on. Just as important, I have recipes handy to make tasty leftovers. I can personally vouch for this recipe to use up extra turkey and stuffing. I also plan to make turkey soup with the bones, and Shepard’s pie. One of my favorite tricks for making soup is to freeze individual sized portions in small, microwavable safe glass bowls. Then, once the soup is frozen I pop the soup-cicle out into a plastic bag so that I don’t have my dishes lost in the freezer forever. When someone needs an individual portion of soup you can just pop the soup-cicle back into the microwave safe dish and warm it up!
While Thanksgiving tends to revolve around family, football, and a really fun parade – food waste and food packaging are things that can easily be lessened by thinking creativly and planning ahead.