Friday 29 November 2013

a green thanksgiving fling

Happy Thanksgiving!

I don't know about you, but I love Thanksgiving. It's definitely my favourite holiday, and one American tradition that I've proudly continued in Australia. (My Aussie friends are so thankful, too.)

Thanksgiving a couple years ago - summertime feasting!

The real beauty of the holiday is that it does not focus on gifts or spending money. It's not exclusionary based on religious choices. It's just a time to get together with those you love to enjoy a feast and express gratitude.

As soon as I sit down and reflect in a state of gratitude, I find my list of thanks is limitless. A wonderful, supportive family. A caring husband. Generous friends. Freedom. Passion. Time to write and explore. A healthy body that can exercise, dance and practice yoga. The ability to travel. Accessible technology that allows me to keep in touch with loved ones around the globe. And so much more!

What are you thankful for this year?

My chalkboard wall at my last home - the perfect
spot for guests to share their gratitude!

Besides 'being thankful,' this day is really about eating. A lot. And watching football. And eating some more. Probably in the form of a cold turkey and cranberry sandwich.

Since it's not a holiday here in Oz, I'm hosting Thanksgiving next weekend. As I plan I'm hoping to make this feast-day as eco as possible. (These tips are probably too late for my American readers, but file these thoughts away for your upcoming Christmas feast, too.)

Organic, free range turkey
I limit how much meat I eat on a day-to-day basis to keep my eco-footprint low. On special days like Thanksgiving, though, I definitely enjoy my meat. For Thanksgiving I ordered an organic, free range turkey - I'm so thankful my local butcher can order this for me! This means the bird has led a healthy, humane life, free from antibiotics, hormones, and unnatural food sources (did you know that over the past 50 years the average domesticated turkey has grown by 12 pounds, causing a number of health concerns? Yikes!).

Look at this lovely scene.

Reduce Packaging
I also limit food packaging in my regular eating routine, and Thanksgiving is no different. I have a lot of fun making things from scratch that 'traditionally' are made with packaged foods (at least in my house!). These days I use fresh green beans in the green bean casserole, fresh pumpkin and homemade dough for pumpkin pie, and fresh sweet potato for candied yams. Making these treasured favourites from fresh ingredients reduces packaging waste, and is healthier, too, because I can limit the salt and sugar I use, and avoid unnecessary preservatives and food colouring.  

My first 'from scratch' pumpkin pie last year.

And of course my Thanksgiving shopping was done with reusable shopping bags.

Vegetarian options
Apart from the turkey, I prefer side dishes to be vegetarian. Historically, Thanksgiving celebrates the pilgrims first harvest with the help of the American Indians (that's the story everyone's sticking with, anyway), so it makes sense to feast upon local, seasonal produce. Keeping all the sides dishes veggo means my vegetarian friends can feast along with us, and we keep our meat eco-footprint just for the big bird.

Reusable dishes, glasses and cutlery
It's quite common during the holidays to succumb to the convenience of disposable plates, glasses and cutlery.  Using 'real' plates and glasses saves waste from going to the landfill and adds an extra sense of occasion. When I don't have enough to go around, I don't break the bank stocking up (definitely not sustainable to buy things just for a one time use!). Instead I assign someone (or a few people!) to bring their dishes/glasses/cutlery instead of a side dish. And occassionally I break out the picnic plates, too.

We can't all have a kitchen this well-stocked.

I'm hoping to end up with some leftovers so I can enjoy a few cold turkey sandwiches. Hopefully I don't wind up with too many leftovers, though.  Did you know that globally, one-third of all food is wasted? Food waste is the largest component of American landfills, and equates to 40% of Australian waste bins.

To cut down on food waste this Thanksgiving, I'll send some plates home with my guests, and look up 'leftovers recipes' to avoid wasting any of the delicious feast.

Homemade stock
After the bird has been carved and I've pulled apart the wishbone with my hubby, I'll be keeping the carcass to make my own stock. 1 Million Women recently posted this very affordable homemade stock recipe that I'll be putting into action - I particularly love that it helps me cut down on waste by using the little 'bits' of veggies that I usually toss. Genius!

Black Friday shopping
Since I'm not in America this year, I can avoid the mayhem of Black Friday shopping altogether. (Though, I have been in America the past two years and successfully avoided shopping centres on both visits.) This is the traditional kick-off to the silly season of spending, with stores promising mad discounts and special deals the day after Thanksgiving. And now it is creeping into Thanksgiving day itself, to the horror of many Americans.

No thank you! And before any Aussies get too judgmental, this is not
dissimilar to the Boxing Day craziness.

I believe that shops would not be open on Thanksgiving, or at ridiculously early hours on Black Friday (hello 4am! May as well stay up all night for that one), if there were not people willing to shop at that time. The stores are not without fault, but shoppers are also to blame, demonstrating time and again our thirst for a bargain. Instead of rushing out to try and get the so-called bargains, I prefer to vote with my wallet by not shopping on those days, and keeping my wallet shut.

If you also choose to keep your wallet closed this weekend, don't fret about the upcoming gift-giving season. I will be coming to you with eco-holiday gift tips in the coming weeks.

Until then . . .

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And sending extra special love to my family up north today, missing you all heaps.

Gobble, gobble!

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