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Top 10 Tips for a Green Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday that is loaded with tradition, so why not start a new tradition in your family by making Thanksgiving a green and eco-friendly celebration from start to finish?

Here are 10 tips to help you capture the spirit of the original Thanksgiving, and to give your holiday celebration extra meaning by making your day of thanks green and eco-friendly. A green Thanksgiving will enrich your family’s holiday experience, because you will know that you have made the world a little brighter by reducing your impact on the environment. And that’s something for which everyone can be thankful.

1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To make your Thanksgiving celebration as green as possible, start with the three Rs of conservation: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying only as much as you need and choosing products that come in packaging that can be recycled.

Carry reusable bags when you do your shopping, and use cloth napkins that can be washed and used again.

Recycle paper, and all plastic, glass and aluminum containers. If you don’t already have a compost bin, use your Thanksgiving fruit and vegetable trimmings to start one. The compost will enrich the soil in your garden next spring.

2. Buy and Eat Locally Grown Food

Buying only locally grown food is one good way to have a green Thanksgiving. Locally 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.

3. Make Your Meal Organic

Using only organic food for your feast is another good green Thanksgiving strategy. Organic fruits, vegetables and grains are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers; organic meat is produced without antibiotics and artificial hormones. The result is food that is better for your health and good for the environment. Organic farming also produces higher yields, increases soil fertility, prevents erosion, and is more cost-effective for farmers.

4. Celebrate at Home

Thanksgiving weekend is one of heaviest for highway travel in the United States. This year, why not reduce global warming and improve air quality by lowering your auto emissions at the same time that you lower your family’s stress level? Skip the stressful holiday travel and celebrate a green Thanksgiving at home.

5. Travel Smart

If you must go over the river and through the woods, there are still ways to have a green Thanksgiving. If you drive, use less fuel and lower your emissions by making sure your car is in good working order and your tires are properly inflated. If possible, carpool to reduce the number of cars on the road and lower the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to air pollution and global warming.

If you fly, consider purchasing carbon credits to offset your portion of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by your flight. A typical long-haul flight produces nearly four tons of carbon dioxide.

6. Invite the Neighbors

The original Thanksgiving was a neighborly affair. Having survived their first winter in America only through the generosity of the native people who lived nearby, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock celebrated a bountiful harvest with a three-day feast to give thanks to God and their Indian neighbors.

Your neighbors probably haven’t saved your life, but chances are they have done things to make your life easier or more enjoyable. Inviting them to share your green Thanksgiving is an opportunity to say thank you, and also to reduce auto emissions by keeping more people off the road or ensuring shorter trips.

7. Plant a Tree

Trees absorb carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming—and give off oxygen in return. Planting one tree may not seem to make much difference in the face of global climate change, but small things do matter. In one year, the average tree absorbs roughly 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and returns enough oxygen to supply a family of four.

8. Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Decorations

With a few simple supplies and a little imagination, you can make great eco-friendly Thanksgiving decorations and have a lot of fun in the process. Colored construction paper can be cut or folded into simple Pilgrim, turkey and harvest decorations. Later, the paper can be recycled.

Baker’s clay, made from common kitchen ingredients, can be shaped and molded into holiday figures and colored with non-toxic paints or food coloring. When my children were young, we used baker’s clay to make whimsical turkey, Pilgrim and Indian table decorations that drew compliments from our Thanksgiving guests for years.

9. Make it a Spiritual Day

The Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving fled religious persecution in Europe to seek a better life in America. The Thanksgiving holiday was established to provide a national day for all Americans to give thanks. Even if you follow no particular religion, however, Thanksgiving is a good time to count your blessings, beginning with the many ways the natural environment sustains and enriches our lives.

As part of your green Thanksgiving, make time for prayer, meditation, reflection, or perhaps just a walk in the woods to contemplate and give thanks for the wonders of nature.

10. Say Thank You

Whatever else you do on Thanksgiving, make it a time to say thank you to the people in your life who matter most and, if possible, to spend time in their company. Life is short, every moment counts, and many of the best moments in life are those spent with friends and family.

If distance or circumstances prevent you from spending Thanksgiving with some of the people you love, call, email or write them a letter (on recycled paper) to tell them why they mean so much to you and how they make your world a better place.

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