5 Ways to Go Green This Thanksgiving
1. The Turkey – When choosing a Thanksgiving turkey, pay attention to the label. There are lots of choices when it comes to responsibly raised turkeys.
- Natural: USDA regulations require that meat marked “natural” not include any artificial flavoring or preservatives. They can included extra salt and water, which are used to plump poultry and make the meat juicier.
- Organic: Organic turkeys have been fed an organic diet and were not treated with antibiotics. There is no certification required for an organic food label, so be sure to buy only from farms and companies you have researched and trust.
- Free-range: Birds labeled free-range will have spent some portion of their lives outside. However, there are no regulations that specify how long or in what environment the bird was allowed to range.
- Pastured: These turkeys were raised in the lifestyle generally associated with free-range farming. They live their entire lives outdoors and are usually able to forage for at least part of their diet.
- Heritage: There are fairly strict requirements for a heritage label turkey. They must come from older turkey breeds (whereas most commercial turkeys are Broad Breasted Whites), be raised outdoors, and mate naturally. They will be smaller than commercial turkeys, especially in the breast, and the meat will be gamier.
2. The Rest of the Meal – Use locally sourced fruits and vegetables that are currently in season to cut down on the energy required to transport food from the field to your table. Traditional holiday meals are already stacked with seasonal fruits and veggies like pumpkins, apples, and cranberries that you can find at local farmer’s market.
3. Cookware – Be sure to use eco-friendly cooking utensils, pots, and pans, which will not only cut down on kitchen waste but will also keep potentially hazardous chemicals out of your food. Replace plastic spoons with bamboo cooking utensils, get a cutting board made from recycled plastic, and cook in cast iron pots and pans, which provide even cooking and great flavor without chemical coatings.
4. Compost Leftovers – Reduce landfill waste by composting leftovers. It’s easy to get started with table scraps; just add them to a compost bin along with other yard and kitchen waste (although you should avoid adding any animal products like meat or fats), add water, and wait for nature to take its course.
5. Clean-up – Preparing all that food is bound to leave a mess. Clean up usingenvironmentally friendly cleaning products that are biodegradable and free of hazardous chemicals. Pay extra attention to any surface that came in contact with raw turkey to avoid spreading germs like salmonella. Also, be sure to recycle aluminum cans and cardboard or plastic packaging.
Rachel Tardif is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues and sustainability.