Green Thanksgiving

Make it a Green Thanksgiving this year!


I love that Thanksgiving celebrates how the Pilgrims survived their first winter in America only through the generosity of the native people who lived nearby, and wished to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.

Of course today very few of us are dependent on the harvest for our survival – we only need to go to our choice of store.  But it’s always good to take time to reflect, and appreciate everything that we have.

One of the things we all have is the Earth, which can provide enough bounty for everyone but is being abused and polluted.  Thanksgiving is a great time to go green and practice an eco friendly celebration.

Here’s how:

1.  Travel

Green Thanksgiving - no congestionThe roads across the USA are at their busiest on Thanksgiving weekend.  So, lower your stress levels and carbon emissions by staying at home this Thanksgiving.   Use Skype or a video phone to reach out to loved ones, or record a family video and send it to them.

Invite your neighbours for Thanksgiving – after all, it was the Pilgrims’ neighbours who helped them survive.  While that probably won’t be the case for most of us, many neighbours do offer kindnesses to us, which we could repay.

If you must travel, then consider carpooling, and make sure your car is in good working order and the tyres are properly inflated in order to use less fuel.

Try to avoid short flights as they have a massive carbon footprint.  With the long waiting times due to security, you will probably be quicker travelling by train or long-distance bus.  (I love trains!).  You get to see the countryside too.

If you must fly, offset your trip by contributing towards projects which help to offset the results of global warming, for example via Carbon Footprint.

Save 30% on Thanksgiving Flower Gifts

 2.  The Turkey

Some 46 million turkeys have been killed this year just for Thanksgiving – just in the USA.

Now, I’m NOT suggesting you give up your turkey in order to have a green thanksgiving!  I love to eat turkey, and it’s a real tradition to have oven-roasted turkey for the thanksgiving dinner.

Green Thanksgiving TurkeyBut for a Green Thanksgiving, please consider the source of your turkey.

Most turkeys come from factory farms.  For some reason, the US Department of Agriculture exempts birds from the Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter Acts.  So they can be killed in the most economical way possible – which is not good.

Green Thanksgiving - NOT butterball In 2011 Butterball (America’s largest supplier of turkeys) was in the news after undercover footage showed horrific cruelty to turkeys.  Management said they were unaware and would take action.  One employee was jailed.  But guess what?  In 2012 there was more undercover footage, and it exposed exactly the same problems.  They don’t deserve your hard-earned money!

This is what Gadling has to say about factory farms:  “Industrially-raised poultry (i.e. chicken and turkey) are the taste equivalent of Styrofoam with bland, watery meat plumped with saline solution; their feed is often supplemented with arsenic to produce pinker meat and act as a growth promoter and anti-parasitic. They’re hybridized to grow quickly and possess outrageously oversized breasts (because that’s the part most people prefer to eat). Factory farming is also an inhumane, environmentally devastating industry with far-reaching impacts upon human health“.

Contrast this with this story about an organic farmer in Seattle here .

Consider an organic turkey fr your Green Thanksgiving – organic turkeys are not routinely fed antibiotics and artificial hormones, so although they may be more expensive, they tend to be healthier for us to eat (what price your health?) and better for the environment.

You may need to order an organic turkey in advance – they are in demand!  On the right of this page you’ll see a link to Local Harvest – just type in your Zip Code to find a Farmers’ Market close to you.   (See 5 Tips to get the Best from Farmers’ Markets).

If you decide not to have a turkey this year, poached or grilled salmon is a good alternative, as are roast pork or chicken.  Alternatively, here are some suggestions for vegetarian / vegan meals

3.  The Meal

The Pilgrims celebrated a local harvest.  Today, we have choices of food from all over the globe.  I like to keep with tradition and eat local produce.  Cranberries not grown close to you – do you really need them, or is there a local alternative?

Green Thanksgiving - buy localLocally grown food is good for your table, your health and the environment.  Locally grown food tastes better than food that has to be grown and packaged for maximum shelf life, and it requires less fuel to reach store shelves.  Locally grown food also contributes more to your local economy, supporting local farmers as well as local merchants.   A Green Thanksgiving has local ingredients.

Go local with your beverages too – it can be great way to showcase your local breweries and wineries to your guests.  Or buy organic beverages from health food stores.

4.  The Decor

  • Decorate with nature, not cheap junk which will fall apart by next year
  • A bowl with pine cones looks stunning (and smells great too)
  • Try a living plant which can go into the garden next year
  • Place little string lights (LED of course!) around a pillar or branches in a vase or the fireplace
  • Add atmosphere with beeswax or soy candles and save electricity
  • Get the kids involved – baker’s clay, made from common kitchen ingredients, can be shaped and moulded into holiday figures and coloured with non-toxic paints or food colouring


Happy turkeys are healthier for you – it’s a win-win!

These are all simple, easy-to-do things to make your holiday a Genuinely Green Thanksgiving.

And if you’ve already bought your thanksgiving turkey, remember the turkey advice for your next turkey, perhaps at Christmas or New Year!

P.S. Here’s what Paul McCartney will be doing for his Thanksgiving meal

P.P.S.  Whatever else you do on Thanksgiving, make it a time to say thank you to the people in your life who matter most.  Life is short, every moment counts, and many of the best moments in life are those spent with friends and family.  Tell them why they mean so much to you and how they make your world a better place.




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  • Lois says:

    I will be traveling this Thanksgiving, but I am taking a bus as I gave up my car a just over a year ago. I won’t be doing any decorating for Thanksgiving but do use natural elements to decorate for Christmas.

    This year I’ve been informed that we will be having homemade cranberry sauce rather than that which comes from a can. Looking forward to that.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Wonderful Lois, that’s a really low-carbon-footprint Thanksgiving you’re going to have! And home-made cranberry sauce yum! We don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving here on this little island, although there are some traditional harvest festivals instead. Enjoy your celebration!

  • Will says:

    Hi Clare

    Just to put a different slant on this – if I make certain assumptions such as there are 350m people living in the US and there is an average of 10lbs of actual meat on every turkey then every man, woman and child must eat an average of 1.3lbs of turkey at Thanksgiving. I happen to know that there is normally a lot more than 10lbs of meat per turkey and probably not close to 350m people eating turkey meat at this time. That makes a lot of eating – or a LOT of unnecessary waste!!!! Not really very green at all which ever way you look at it.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Those figures are pretty frightening! I’m sure people eat the left-overs over the next few days which would mean they eat more than one helping. But certainly it’s true that not everyone eats turkey at Thanksgiving, so I’m hoping there’s not as much waste as I’m afraid there might be!

  • Dennis Perry says:


    These are excellent suggestions for a Green Thanksgiving. These suggestions continue on into the Christmas season and all the year.

    Only humane turkeys for me from now on!

    The Wealth Doc

  • Mil says:

    We had a local and pastured turkey this year at Thanksgiving. I’ve never had one before, but I could tell the quality and taste of the meat was superb. The price was not cheap, but I think we should remember that quality food really isn’t cheap anyway (labor, gas, inputs), no matter what the food conglomerates try to tell you.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Absolutely Mil, so many of our food prices are skewed by subsidies it’s hard to know what’s real …..
      Thanks for your comment!

  • Michael D Walker says:

    Great ideas for having a Green Thanksgiving that’s eco-friendly.


  • Sonya Lenzo says:

    Clare, thanks for all your great ideas. One of the other Americans involved in our thanksgiving day has purchased a turkey, but the rest of our meal will be locally grown and organic veggies.And it will highlight many that you mention above..pumpkin,yams,green beans, spinach…
    Sonya Lenzo

  • Body language of shoes says:

    Clare, I may go eco friendly to give up turkey, that would be fantastic, What would be some good eco friendly veggies to go with the dinner of the season.
    Scott Sylvan Bell

    Now go implement!

    • Clare Delaney says:

      I’m most impressed Scott! 🙂 Ecofriendly veggies are those grown locally to where you live, preferably organic. In season right now are pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, brussels sprouts, mushrooms and spinach. Thanks for your comment!