Your Guide to a Green Thanksgiving

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It can be easy to forget being green in the midst of the menu-planning, grocery-buying and family networking that precedes most Thanksgiving celebrations. But with all the effort, time and money you put into this yearly tradition, why not make your Thanksgiving a little greener? We’ve compiled six ways to bring sustainability into your holiday – without skimping on the festive fun.

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Using your day-after leftovers in creative recipes like soups, sandwiches and breakfasts is the No. 1 way to reduce holiday food waste. Photo: Flickr/Pink Sherbet Photography

1. Go low-waste

On a day where copious amounts of food are as commonplace as football and family togetherness, reducing waste can seem next to impossible. But creating a low-waste Thanksgiving is easier than you think. We chatted with Emily Vaughn, associate program manager for Slow Food USA – a Brooklyn-based nonprofit on a mission to change the way America thinks about food – and came up with these four quick and easy tips to shrink holiday waste.

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  • Shop in your pantry: “Before you even start to make a menu, take stock of what you have,” suggests Vaughn. Using what you have on hand keeps prices down in the kitchen and reduces waste. Take inventory of what’s in your fridge, freezer and cupboards and build your shopping list around what you find.
  • Use it up: One-third of food in America goes to waste, adding up to 15 percent of what’s in our landfills, according to Slow Food USA. Fight back against food waste by using every bit, like incorporating vegetable scraps and inner meats in stocks, gravies and sauces. Check out our library of reuse ideas for food scraps, and don’t forget to compost what’s left.
  • Have a leftover plan: Sure, you could feed the family turkey and stuffing for five straight days. But why not incorporate your Thanksgiving leftovers into innovative recipes for added variety? Slow Food USA provides a library of day-after recipes in their Thanksgiving Guide to help you make the most of all your leftovers.
  • Take a look at your energy use: “People tend to think more of physical waste on Thanksgiving, which is very valid,” Vaughn says. “Another thing you can think of is how energy efficient you’re being with your cooking.” If you have several dishes that need to be in the oven at the same temperature, put them in at the same time to reduce energy use (and prep time!). And start with some of your ingredients at room temperature, like butter, to reduce stove-top melting time.

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