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Make Your Thanksgiving Celebration Eco-Friendly

Thanksgiving, while an ecumenical holiday, is a great time to consider the Jewish principle of baal tashchit (do not waste).  There are many things you can do to make your celebration of this holiday more earth friendly.

Reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible:  Try to buy only as much food as you need and look for food that either has no container or that has a container that can be recycled.  Plan to compost any non-meat food items that can’t be eaten (such as carrot peel) or that have to be thrown out after the meal.  Also plan to use reusable cloth napkins instead of disposable paper ones.

Use local and organic products for your feast:  Most Thanksgiving meals focus on food that is in season.  Use organic and locally grown pumpkin for your pie.  Locally grown vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash taste great and are plentiful this time of year.  Buying locally means that your food is not flown miles away wasting fossil fuels as it travels from across the country or another continent.  Eating organic food means that what goes on your plate will not contain traces of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  If you plan to make a traditional turkey for the holiday, buy one that is from a family farm that does not use antibiotics or artificial hormones.

Celebrate at home:  Thanksgiving is one of the holidays when many people travel by car or plane.  Do your part to reduce global warming by planning to celebrate at home for a more green holiday.  Your stress level also will decline as you avoid crowds on the highways or airport terminals.

Make your own decorations:  If you plan to decorate your home (inside or outside) for the holidays, use simple compostable or recyclable materials to create your decorations rather than buying new ones.  Consider picking up pine cones and leaves and using these in a centerpiece for your table.  Have your children cut construction paper into turkeys, pilgrims or other Thanksgiving themed designs.  (The paper can be recycled when done.)

Give thanks to nature as you celebrate:  In many households, those attending the Thanksgiving meal go around the table and give an example of what they are thankful for.  Add a new twist by also thanking the natural world around you for helping to sustain and enrich your life.  Weather permitting, consider a short nature or garden walk before or after the meal to make the connections between this food-centered holiday and the earth around us more visible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gail Wechsler is the Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She is the staff person for the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the JCRC and a part of the JCRC's Bohm Social Justice Initiative.
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