When Abundance Leads to Waste: How to Have a Sustainable Thanksgiving

Sitting at the dinner table with friends, family, and lots of food on Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to be grateful for what we have. The holiday lets us reflect on all of the things that bring us joy, happiness, success, love, balance, and fun! 

The only thing that isn’t fun about Thanksgiving is that it can be wasteful. That does nothing to support our environment. So we’ve come up with a few tips to support a sustainable holiday this year!

1. Ditch the flimsy single-use products this year.
We all look forward to Thanksgiving – so go all out and use your favorite dishware, utensils, and cloth napkins. But if you do have to use disposables, go the eco route with palm leaf plates, bamboo or wooden cutlery, or compostable cardboard.

2. Go local and buy organic.
There’s no better way to prepare for the big meal than enjoying a morning with your family perusing your local farmer’s market for all your ingredients. Buying local helps cut down on CO2 emissions since your food isn’t traveling far from the field to your table. You’re also helping support your local economy and farmers!

3. Take it easy on the meat products.
We would never tell you to ditch the Thanksgiving turkey, but we have to acknowledge the fact that the meat industry is not sustainable for the environment. So this year, maybe stick to one turkey, ditch the ham, and have some fun with side dishes that require less animal products. 

4. BYOT.
This year, have your friends and family bring Tupperware for leftovers! Instead of wrapping paper plates in foil or saran wrap to be discarded in a day or two, have everyone come prepared with their own containers. 

5. Let nature be your centerpiece.
Celebrate the fall harvest and decorate your dinner table and home with beautiful multicolored leaves, acorns, and pinecones. You can also use clean-burning soy and vegetable wax candles to create the perfect ambiance for dinner.

6. Cut back on your energy use. 

Plan your meal prep ahead of time and bulk dishes together that need to be cooked at the same temperature. This has the added advantage of  giving you more time to spend with your friends and family!

7. Carpool or use public transit to your festivities. 

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel days of the year, which means a lot of air pollution. If you have to drive far, plan with family and friends to carpool. Or, if you can, take public transit.

8. Compost. 

With all that cooking and eating, there’s bound to be a lot of food scraps. Take this opportunity to start a compost bin or add to the one you already have and keep that waste out of our landfills. Check out our blog to learn the do’s and don’ts of compost.

9. Skip Black Friday and #OptOutside! 

Spend the day after Thanksgiving out in nature with your loved ones instead of at the mall. A hike around Coldwater Canyon Park is the perfect way to burn off all those extra calories you enjoyed the night before.

Creating a more sustainable holiday doesn’t mean you have to turn your celebration upside down. All it takes are a few little steps that, when taken by lots of people, will make a HUGE difference for our planet. 

Happy Thanksgiving from our TreePeople family to yours!


  1. Jim Montgomery   •  

    As a long time TreePeople member, I want to first thank you for all you do to raise awareness on how we as individuals can support a more climate-resilient, biodiverse world. I want to recognize your advice to “take it easy on the meat products”. I find that so many environmental groups avoid this topic when it is one the single most powerful things we as individuals can do to address climate change, reduce ecological destruction and species extinction. Here is a great scientific study from 2018 that provides more info for those interested. I will keep supporting you as I see your organization as one of the most effective grassroots organizations out there.


  2. James Bloszies   •  

    All that said, it is of value to balance this point of view with a look at the ways concerned and forward-thinking farmers are striving to reduce their waste and energy consumption when raising livestock…

    Just one example is “silvoculture”: “In a silvopasture system, livestock is rotated through different enclosures, not staying in any one place for all that long. This means that the soil maintains – or even improves – its ability to sequester carbon.”


    It’s also important to remember that many large farm factory operations raising produce have deep negative environmental impacts, too — from the long-term consequences of monoculture to “pouring” chemical fertilizers and pesticides onto the ground and into the local water supplies, etc. And then there’s the carbon footprint of all the produce flown around the globe to “satisfy” consumers’ desire for “fresh” vegetables and fruit – no matter what their local season is.

    Thanks for thinking!

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