Funny how zero wasting seems less feasible during the holidays. That’s probably your unsupportive, Styrofoam-loving great-aunt chirping in your ear, though. It really doesn’t have to be more difficult. In fact, a low-impact Thanksgiving is nowhere near impossible. As long as your guests are willing to cooperate, these tips for a zero waste Thanksgiving will ensure your holiday is as eco-friendly as it can be.
Keep reading to check out these essential tips for a zero waste Thanksgiving!
Shop your own supply before hitting the store.
Fight the temptation to buy everything on your grocery list. Truth is you probably have a ton of ingredients -- things like spices, broth, or canned goods -- hanging around in your pantry already. Incorporate these ingredients in your recipes before just shelling out hundreds of dollars of ingredients you’ll only use this once.
Get what you need from the bulk section.
Now that you’ve done inventory of what you already had in your pantry and fridge, it’s time to hit up the bulk section. Curate what you need and be very specific. Can you eliminate certain ingredients that have plastic packaging? There is usually always a packageless option: instead of buying premade things, buy the freshest ingredients and use the bulk section to stock up on ingredients like nuts, rice, quinoa, or dried fruit.
Decorate with leaves, acorns, and pinecones.
Decorations can be zero waste, too. Make it a family affair by setting out on a hunt in the yard for things like leaves, acorns, and pinecones -- anything that can be used for “natural” decorations. You can make place settings with leaves or even pinecones. Acorns can be used to decorate wreaths or you can fill a glass jar with a bunch for a pretty centerpiece. Put a wax candlestick in there for a DIY candle holder. All of these “decorations” can be returned to the wild later and composted.
Use reusable cookware, dishes, and utensils.
This would might be a given because a lot of people usually spring for the “nice” reusable dishes and utensils instead of opting for paper plates or plastic knives. But keep it in mind: use reusables whenever you can. While cooking, while setting the table. There is so much waste than can be cut out of Thanksgiving just by opting to use reusable utensils, dishes, and cookware. Sure, it will mean a lot of dish-washing, but hey, make that a family affair, too.
If you can, try to cut out any paper as well. This means setting your guests’ places with cloth napkins. Instead of paper towels, you can use unpapper towels for spills or again, cloths.
Use mason jars to store (and give away) leftovers.
Mason jars are pretty cheap to come by, usually selling for about $3 at Whole Foods or sometimes even less at Wal-Mart. Make sure guests leave with leftovers by the jarful. Whatever you can’t distribute and want to keep for your own leftovers, store in mason jars in the fridge.
Compost what can’t be used as leftovers.
… And for whatever can’t be saved for leftovers, make sure to add to your local compost. If you don’t have your own compost, you can use the app ShareWaste to find one near you.
Use bones for broth.
The benefits of bone broth are plenty, so if you’d rather use your turkey carcass (and all its subsequent bones) for making broth, that’s a great low-impact option, too. Throw what’s left of the turkey in a slow cooker or large pot and use the bones to marinate the water.
Need something? Borrow rather than buy.
Do you need salad tongs? Or maybe a turkey baster? If you don’t have a particular tool because you haven’t hosted Thanksgiving before, try borrowing from a friend rather than going out and buying new. If it’s a tool you’ll think you will get a lot of usage out of, that’s one thing; but if it’s a ladle you’re never going to use again, phone a friend instead.
Use homemade disinfectant for clean-up.
Sometimes the clean-up can be the most daunting part of Thanksgiving. If you make your own disinfectants at home, it doesn’t have to be a terrible task. You can make a two-ingredient disinfectant with ½ cup of ACV and 1 cup of water. Put it in a spray bottle and use it to all-purpose, deep clean the kitchen and dining room after the feast.
If you’re not into the smell of lingering vinegar, use vodka as your disinfectant base. Take ½ cup vodka, ½ cup water, and 15 drops of the essential oil of your choice and mix in a spray bottle. There you have it -- another all-purpose cleaner option without the packaging and single-use plastic!
From myself to your family, have a happy Thanksgiving.