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An eco-friendly 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.
To make your Thanksgiving celebration as eco-friendly 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.
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.
Buying only locally grown food is one good way to have an eco-friendly 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.
Using only organic food for your feast is another good eco-friendly Thanksgiving strategy. Organic fruits, vegetables and grains are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers; organic meat is produced without antibiotics and artificial hormones.
Skip the stressful holiday travel and celebrate an eco-friendly Thanksgiving at home.
If you must go over the river and through the woods, there are still ways to have an eco-friendly 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 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.
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 eco-friendly 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.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that contributes to the greenhouse effectand 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.
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 of thanksgiving for all Americans. 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 eco-friendly 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, it is the moments that count most, 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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