Here are a handful of green Thanksgiving ideas that will save you money, reduce waste, and provide a warm family holiday for everyone. Greening up the holidays can be creative, fun, and easy—if you know how.
Let there be light. You can save energy and create a festive mood by illuminating your home and holiday table with candles. I recommend beeswax or soy candles. Try candles of varying heights and sizes. If you don’t have a lot of candle holders around the house, you can set votive or pillar candles on small dishes or saucers, or place candlesticks into a slightly hollowed out pumpkin or gourd—making a beautiful holiday decoration as well. Never leave burning candles unattended, especially with pets or small children at home. While you're at it, turn down the heat in the house as well. That oven-roasting turkey, not to mention all the extra people, are likely to raise the temperature a few degrees, and save a few dollars too.
Decorate naturally. Apart from cute pumpkin candle holders, nature can provide the bulk of your Thanksgiving holiday decor. If you like a festive holiday look, there’s no reason to head out to the store to buy a bunch of cheaply made Thanksgiving-themed junk. We collect pine cones and acorns and put them in a clear glass bowl to make a centerpiece. You can get the whole family involved in the project, too. My kids like to wrap a few tall vases with ribbon and put leaves and branches that that they gather from the yard inside of them. Strategically placed around the tables, it makes an earthy, warm holiday decoration.
Another centerpiece idea? Purchase a live plant. Plants are great to have around the house. They release oxygen and improve air quality, and will last well beyond your holiday festivities. You can also opt for a plant that, come spring, can be planted in your yard or garden.
If you do need to go out and purchase holiday items, try buying things that use the least amount of packaging or try to buy the most environmentally friendly packaging possible. Use real dishes and cloth napkins in lieu of their disposable counterparts. Using these things adds an element of charm and sophistication to your holiday, plus it gives you major green points for the day.
Focus on local. Whenever possible, purchase items for your holiday meal that are grown or produced in our area. Even in the colder months, farmers' markets are still selling scores of locally grown items that will work well in your Thanksgiving feast. Potatoes, yams, apples, pears, spices and a variety of greens are all readily available at one of our local farmer's market this time of year. Even if it means deviating a little from your usual menu, your guests might welcome the change, and there are hundreds of resources online for inviting new Thanksgiving dinner recipes that utilize just about every ingredient imaginable.
Waste not. Don’t forget to keep up your good recycling habits by having a bin or container handy for you and your guests to recycle aluminum, glass, plastic and paper trash. Sometimes when we are entertaining or preparing for a crowd, we tend to forget the importance of our commitment to recycling. And you don’t have to toss out all of those carrot tops, celery leaves and turkey bones. Save them to make soup or a hearty stock to use in future recipes. Or, now is a fine time to finally start composting.
With a little ingenuity and planning, a simple, green holiday celebration is something we can all be thankful for.