5 Tips for Hosting a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. It seems like just yesterday we wearing shorts and taking day trips to the pool to cool off from summer heat. Now, as we enter the full holiday swing, I’m thinking about fall layers, gathering with friends and family, comfort foods, gratitude and…trash.

When you’re thinking about what you're grateful for this time of year, don’t forget to include mother earth. Household waste in the United States increases about 25 percent in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, roughly 1 million extra tons. Mother earth deserves better, she deserves a zero waste Thanksgiving.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, we know you have your plate full with menu planning, grocery shopping, house cleaning, table setting, etc. Think of making your gathering zero waste as a community effort, not something you alone are tasked with. Get your friends and family involved, take a deep breath, and read my 5 tips for a zero waste Thanksgiving to get you started:

  1. Paper/Plastic-Free Place Settings. Be sure to use real plates, real cutlery and cloth napkins at your holiday table. Your table will look catalogue pretty and let guests know this is special, thoughtful affair. Plastic utensils and paper plates may seem like the easy way to host a large number of guests, or maybe you don’t have enough place settings. Have your friends and family help out. Have them bring over extra plates, cutlery, napkins, etc. if you’re running low.
  2. Table Decor. There’s nothing like a festive table to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Get plastic-free flowers at a florist (ask them to wrap the flowers in butcher paper). Add some small gordes and real candles. Or take some fall branches and arrange them artfully on your table. Table decor doesn’t have to be fancy, and you can even skip it and just make more room for food.
  3. Have Your Compost Ready (and Labeled). It’s always nice when friends offer to help clean up, so be sure to have your compost bin ready and labeled clearly so people know where to put their food scraps. Make an announcement as dinner winds down so people know how to clear their plate “the compost bin is in the kitchen, please clear your leftovers into the bin so we can get ready for dessert.”
  4. Bowl Covers. As you get each dish ready, you may want to reach for the seran wrap or tin foil. Instead, try reusable beeswax cloths which mold with the heat of your fingers to covers bowls, casseroles and plates. There are also cloth bowl covers with an elastic band that come in 5 different sizes and are so easy to use. When you’re done, just put them in the wash.
  5. Leftover Containers. One of the best parts of thanksgiving is all of the leftovers. You probably cooked way too much food for Thanksgiving and don’t want it to go to waste. Instead of giving your guests plastic ziploc bags full of food, ask them to bring their own reusable container to your house. You could also collect some glass jars that may have gone in recycling, and keep those handy to fill with food for guests.

I hope these tips get you thinking about ways to have a plastic-free holiday season. Let us know what other ways you're reducing waste during the holidays in the comment section below.