In Canada, since 1957, we celebrate the day of giving thanks on the second Monday in October. And, Canadians can express their gratitude with an eco-friendly Thanksgiving without waste.

A feature image for a blog post about having an eco-friendly Thanksgiving without waste.

In this post, I cover how to enjoy a sustainable Thanksgiving whether you’re the guest or the host.

You’ll get 17 tips with added info on how to cut down on waste and protect the environment.

An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving for the Host

If you’re the host of the Thanksgiving celebration, there are many things you can do to make it an eco-friendly occasion:

1. Use Real Dinnerware

To cut down on single-use products, use real dishes, glasses, silverware, napkins, and serving utensils.

Get everyone to pitch in with the cleanup and it will be worth it to reduce the amount of trash produced by the gathering.

2. Shop Local and in Bulk

To prepare for your Thanksgiving meal, do as much of the shopping locally as you can. Plus, reduce packaging and buy in bulk where you can.

When you shop at local small businesses, you support their livelihood and the economy of your area, too.

3. Compost the Scraps

Make sure your guests have easy access to the indoor compost bin for their table scraps.

You can also make sure to add vegetable and fruit peelings and other compostable scraps from the food preparation.

4. Ask for Plant-Based Side Dishes

If you ask your guests to bring side dishes to contribute to the meal, make a request for more plant-based options.

Having more plant-based items for the meal will help to reduce the greenhouse gases produced by meat production.

5. Skip the Turkey

Another idea along the lines of plant-based sides is to skip the turkey altogether and go with vegan options instead.

While Thanksgiving without turkey may seem like a terrible idea to many people, there’s nothing wrong with following your own preferences. So, if most people present are on the same page and embrace the idea, why not go for it?

6. Buy a Local Turkey

If you do opt to include a turkey in your Thanksgiving meal plan, try to source one locally that is organic and free-range.

At least that way you cut down on transportation costs and support local businesses. Plus, it will probably be a healthier choice.

8. Do a Head Count

Knowing how many people are coming to the dinner will help you plan better and avoid food waste.

Just because it’s a holiday meal, it isn’t mandatory to have a huge pile of leftovers. Also, look for recipes to use up the remainders instead of tossing away perfectly good food.

9. Keep the Meal Simple

To help with reducing food waste, keep the meal simple and use as few ingredients as possible.

Careful planning can ensure that everyone feels like it’s a feast without dealing with too many leftovers that lead to waste.

10. Cut Down on Side Dishes

Along the lines of keeping the meal simple, ask fewer people to bring a side dish. They can contribute something else such as beverages, entertainment, or rides home.

Expecting everyone to bring along extra food is often the reason there is so much wastage at large gatherings like this.

11. Use Reusable Containers

When you store the leftovers and send some home with the guests, make sure to skip the plastic wrap and tinfoil.

Make use of reusable containers or empty jars to carry the extra food or put it in the fridge for later. Mason jars are a great solution for food storage and come in a variety of sizes.

12. Use Eco-Friendly Decorations

Keep your Thanksgiving decor eco-friendly by using reusable pieces that work every year. Skip the disposable tablecloths and napkins.

You can also use natural objects like driftwood, dried leaves, or late fall flowers from your garden. Eco-friendly decor won’t contribute to the single-use plastic problem.

13. Turn Down the Heat and Save Energy

It gets very warm in the home with all the cooking and guests, so turn down the heat and save energy.

Also, if it gets too warm, open windows instead of using the air conditioning. There are plenty of ways to cool down without the AC.

These are just some of the things you can do as the host to eliminate food waste and make your dinner a sustainable occasion.

Next, what if you’re the guest?

An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving as a Guest

Being a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for keeping the occasion an eco-friendly affair.

There are things you can do to help cut down on waste and preserve resources:

14. Car Pool with Other Guests

Take the time to find out if other people who live near you are going to the Thanksgiving meal, too.

Try to arrange carpooling among the guests to cut down on the number of cars going to the same place.

15. Make the Host Gift Eco-Friendly

If you’re bringing the host a gift, make it something ethically sourced or fair trade. Use eco-friendly ideas to wrap it.

Try to avoid bringing anything disposable that is going to end up in the trash sooner rather than later. It’s also a good idea to shop locally if you can.

16. Only Plate Up What You Can Eat

To help cut down on food waste, only plate up as much as you can eat. If you don’t, you may end up throwing things away.

If there are a large number of dishes you want to try, but can’t consume in one sitting, take samples of some home in a reusable container for later.

17. Use Reusable Containers

If you know there will be leftovers, bring along a reusable container. Don’t leave it to the host to use disposable options.

If you’re bringing a side dish or dessert to the meal, transport it without using tinfoil or plastic wrap. Use can use things like beeswax wraps and beeswax bags. If you haven’t started using these products, you may want to try some.

So there you have 17 ideas to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving without unnecessary waste. You don’t have to do them all in one go. Add a few new ideas for each occasion and build up your green lifestyle over time.

And, whether you’re a host or guest, you can add more ideas in the comments below. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

4 thoughts on “Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving without Waste”

  1. I think the best way to give thanks and show gratitude during Thanksgiving is having an eco-friendly Thanksgiving meal without waste. I like to make compost with all the scraps of all meals. And I would like to buy in bulk and keep the meal simple. But what I won’t be able to do, honestly, is to skip the turkey.

    1. Yes, for many people the turkey is a key part of the Thanksgiving feast. But if you can, you could make sure to get one that is organic and from a local business.

  2. Although I think many will disagree with the leaving the turkey out of the table mostly due to tradition the rest of your ideas can definitely be followed by most. If only most people would do as you suggest there would be saving vast amounts of food and energy. Even if we could follow some of your ideas there would be a huge benefit to all of us.

    1. Yes, for many people it isn’t Thanksgiving without the turkey. But you’re right, there are still plenty of things you can do to save resources and reduce waste. It just takes a little extra planning.

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