Turkey, stuffing and sustainability

photo by Element5 Digital from Unsplash

Reducing Food Waste During the Holidays

With the changing of leaves and cool, brisk air comes the much anticipated holiday season. A time when friends and family get together and gather around the table for quality time and exceptional food. What often gets lost in the excitement is the impact that your food choices have on the environment. If you knew that your food choices could negatively affect the planet, would you be willing to make changes to enjoy your thanksgiving dinner in a more sustainable way?

What’s the big deal? Food’s environmental impact.

The food on your plate didn’t end up there by chance- there was likely a large amount of labor and natural resources consumed to get it there. When we waste food, we also waste the water, energy, and resources that go into producing that food and delivering it to our tables.  About 1/3 of the planet’s land mass and 70% of its fresh water is used for agriculture alone. Ready for the most frustrating part? With the inclusion of excess food at holidays, the average American household throws away $2,200 of food every year!

How can I create change? Your role in sustainability.

  • Shop with intention

Do your best to create and stick to a list of foods based on meals you plan to cook, which will reduce or eliminate the amount of forgotten food that tends to accumulate in the back of your refrigerator. We know you have a huge family, but you don’t want five pounds of leftover stuffing looming in your house.

  • Consume less meat

Although Thanksgiving revolves around the infamous turkey entrée, about 83% of greenhouse gas emissions from the average American’s diet are generated from the production of animal products. Try bringing some vegetarian dishes to your get-together, and incorporating a more plant-based diet into your daily life!

  • Eat your leftovers

It would be ideal if every time we cooked it was the perfect amount of food to feel full and satisfied. More likely is a scenario where we overeat to finish what was made, or we throw away uneaten portions. Don’t be afraid to save your Thanksgiving leftovers and eat them later that week! With a little love any meal can come back to life, which is a much better alternative than the landfill.

  • Get creative

When the contents of your kitchen are dwindling down, it can be difficult to utilize the odds and ends that remain. So often we believe that meals have to have a specific name or structure such as “spaghetti” or “tacos”. This is where we need to think outside of the box and improvise meals based on what food is available, creating a “nameless dinner”! If your food is past its prime it may still be fine for cooking- think stir fries, soups, casseroles or smoothies! Forget structure and create a masterpiece from what you have available to reduce or eliminate the food going into your garbage.

  • Compost and donate

Lastly, when all else fails, be sure to make good use out of the food you do not plan to eat. For rotten or inedible foods, try composting as a wonderful way to further decrease your environmental footprint. Learning how to turn leftover food scraps into nutritious plant food is an incredibly helpful way to reduce the food waste coming from your kitchen! For edible, untouched foods, consider donation programs that transfer your unwanted food items to loving homes.

How will this make an impact? Personal and planetary benefits.

Not only will reducing your household food waste help the planet, it will come full circle and help your household as well. Benefits of reducing household food waste include:

  • Saving money from buying less food
  • Conserving energy and resources like land and water used for food production
  • Preventing unnecessary pollution from the production and transport of food
  • Decreasing landfill use and lowering your carbon footprint
  • Supporting your community by providing donated food that would have otherwise been thrown away
  • Increasing your overall impact on society and the incredible planet Earth!

Where do I start? Finding your green thumb.

With Americans wasting about 6 million turkeys at Thanksgiving last year, there is good reason to start with the holidays. Buy and make only what you need, and since there are bound to be leftovers, find creative uses to reduce the amount of food you send to the landfill. Creating a more sustainable food culture is possible. Reduce the food waste in your home- the Earth and your wallet will thank you!

Copyright: All content © 2010-2018 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.