Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Enjoying a Green and Happy Thanksgiving Dinner

Tips to Reduce Your Environmental Impact This Holiday Season

 

Not to knock Martha Stewart's tips, but to put together a version of her perfect Thanksgiving dinner could easily consume the annual resources of a small country. For my green Thanksgiving, I like to pull away from the consumerism and provide my dinner guests with an environmental impression that takes a step back from the carbon foot print without any funny business.

Green ThanksgivingOrganic Free Range Turkeys Are Funny
 
I start with the most important dinner guest - the turkey. Several small farms in my neighborhood sell organically-raised, free range turkeys, and the prices are comparable to even the frozen blocks of bird found in large supermarket chains. Going this route lets me choose my own bird and give it a name (this year's sacrifice is named George Finklesteinbrener) before the farmer tags it for the slaughter house.

Tips For Controlling The Water Bill
 
Instead of running the dishwasher three times to wash the same dishes over and over, I fill the two halves of my sink and wash those plates by hand. I'm always prompt with scrub-duty no matter the occasion, and by having the kitchen prepared early for the dishes makes quick work of the task. And should someone decide to lend a hand, I'll pull a Tom Sawyer and stand aside to admire their work with appropriate commentary. "Impressive technique, Countessa." "Nice detail, Paula." "You'll have to let me watch you work in your own kitchen sometime, Gordon." No need to wait for the dish washing machine's dry cycle, and no need to damage my teeth-bitten manicure.


Use Compostable Cutlery This Thanksgiving


Another way of lessening my impact will be a first for me. Eco Products markets a line of cutlery made from earth-friendly plant fibers that are 100% compostable. For those who have read my articles in the past, you realize how this might peak my interest. These forks, knives, spoons, and related sundries are primarily marketed for restaurant customers by volume, but for less than $5 per selection, I can have boxes of 50 overnighted to the house to be used for dinner on Thursday, and have the brown material placed in my backyard compost bin by Black Friday.


Buy Local Green Veggies For Dinner


The farmer's markets are still going strong with squashes, root crops, and late-season salad greens, and since a traditional Thanksgiving meal is comprised of such seasonal veggies, it only makes sense to have a last gander through my personal candy-store to stock up for the big meal. Of course, I can't forget I am supporting my community when buying local farmers, and at the same time decreasing my carbon footprint by not encouraging trucked-in, mass-produced, GMO-infused, slave-wage-supporting corporations. Take that, Con-Agra.


Turn Down The Heat, Turn Up The Love
 
If the guests are due at 4pm, I will turn down the thermostat to 50 degrees at 3:59. Once crowded, my house heats up like a the sauna in a Greek bath house. Stopping the furnace from kicking in every time the door opens will keep my guests comfortable, as well as lower my gas bill come December.


Request Guests Carpool


This one may or may not be practical, but I offer incentives to guests who carpool to my Thanksgiving feast. Not only are they able to socialize before arriving, they reduce carbon emissions and don't deplete our national fossil fuel reserves. Also, those who participate have an automatic designated driver, to whom I offer a door-prize for the one who brings in the most bodies. It's a growler of our local beer. To share with me.


Place A Convenient Kitchen Compost Bin
 
The compostable cutlery must have a place to go after it's used, and it wouldn't be prudent to expect my guests to truck out back to my bin to make their own deposits. Therefore, and I'm dead serious on this one, I have my daughters decorate a re-usable wastebasket as a composter to set outside the back door. I haven't asked what theme this year's sculpture might take, but last year's was a paper mache turkey resembling George Takei. They were four and five. I Helped. It was lovely.


Use Re-Claimed Place Settings
 
I tend to save the wedding china for when my mother comes over for a formal dinner, though I suspect I would pull it out if Clint Eastwood ever accepted my invites for a backyard BBQ. Instead, I use my hunter gatherer skills to pick from the wide variety of fine dishes available at my local Goodwill. As mentioned above, I could purchase plant-starch plates, but then I would miss the whimsical Niagara Falls tourist platters I so enjoy putting in front of my guests.


Cleaning With An Eco-Friendly DIY Cleaner
 
A re-usable spray bottle filled 1/4 cup vinegar per two cups of water is almost all I use these days for cleaning projects. This formula makes for a great spray-on and wipe-off solution, but I've found another use for it as well. Every once in a while I might neglect a frying pan or pot on the stove, and it may get a teensy bit burned. Instead of scrubbing a hole through the bottom, I'll pour in the same ration of vinegar and water, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat and sprinkle in a 1/4 cup of baking soda. Once the fizz goes away, I let the pan soak a bit, then come back with a Brillo pad and voila, the burn marks scientifically disappear.


Create A Re-Purposed Center-Piece


I have not set foot in a holiday-themed chain store for over five years. There just doesn't seem a need, at least as far as dinner centerpieces are concerned, since I now have two artistically-driven daughters. Each year, I provide them with two small woven baskets, and what items they place within become the cornucopia settings for our holiday table. The usual contents include pine cones, oak branches, and an occasional small rodent skull. Easy as can be, and it's one less thing I have to concern myself with.

Happy holidays, and be safe.