Thanksgiving has the potential to be one of the greenest holidays around. Smushed between candy-crazed Halloween and the gift-obsessed winter holidays, Thanksgiving is a welcome reprieve from consumerism. It also has green messages to boot at heart. Read on for reasons why it’s a great, green holiday and to find ways to make it even more eco-friendly.
A Day for Sharing
Thanksgiving, at its heart, is about sharing. For some extended families with crazy schedules, it may be the only meal they eat together for months. Thanksgiving is also a great holiday to share your green message with the extended family. Whether your green intentions are subtle, such as saying thanks for the trees, or more obvious, such as proudly providing a rundown of all the local and organic ingredients used in the making of the Thanksgiving feast, your family and friends will learn that celebrating can be done in an eco-friendly and fun way – all without losing the traditions of the holiday.
My favorite part about Thanksgiving: no gifts are required. I love giving and getting presents as much as the next person, but honestly, there’s a lot of stress that goes into choosing the right gift for everyone (as well as hoping that your children are thankful and polite when they are on the receiving end). There’s none of that of pressure on Thanksgiving. Even without us as parents drumming it into their brains, I think the message of the holiday – that being together is the fun part, not getting presents – is so important and also obvious to kids. It’s a holiday that focuses on the importance of family and togetherness. To strengthen this message, create traditions such as playing freeze tag, touch football, or going for walks. If you’re up for a bit of planning, try creating a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood or even around the yard. After a long morning or afternoon playing outside, we are all that much more grateful when we sit down for our Thanksgiving meal. Make saying thanks a tradition each year, even for the littlest ones at your table, and try to incorporate it on other days as well. Being thankful for food and family is a sentiment for every season!
Talk About the Origins of Thanksgiving
We often rely on our kids’ schools to teach them about the holidays. Personally, I can’t even remember the last time we talked about the actual (although possibly mythologized) origins of Thanksgiving. This year I’m planning on having a very basic family discussion about the pilgrims and the Native Americans. For my little ones, I want to bring the story up to modern times: my son understands the farmer’s market, so I’ll start with how there was none in the 1600s (as well as no grocery stores at all!) and how all the pilgrims would have died were it not for the help of the Native Americans. Talking about how they shared knowledge could lead to discussing another familiar topic in our household: community gardens and how we help each other learn about different fruits and vegetables. For families with older kids, topics could include immigration, globalization and community.
Let Nature Inspire Your Decor
Thanksgiving decorations don’t generally include flashing lights or spooky scarecrows; instead they rely on nature as your inspiration. Thanksgiving is rife with possibilities for homemade and eco-friendly adornments. You can make a foraged centerpiece with funky looking branches picked up from a family walk or by filling a hurricane glass with pine cones. In many parts of the country it’s still warm enough on Thanksgiving to take a long pre-dinner walk and gather natural goodies like leaves and acorns. Handmade placemats can be made from pressing or gluing leaves onto construction paper or by gluing leaves to a name card for a holiday touch. Create little acorn people to greet each holiday guest (these activities are also a great way to keep little ones occupied while moms and dads work on the Thanksgiving feast). For older kids who can write, have them create a personal and heartfelt name card. Underneath each name, the child can write why they are grateful that that person is in their life. Little ones will beam with pride that they were able to make a contribution to the family gathering.
Skip the Turkey
Cut out the turkey for a greener meal. Most of us will agree that it’s all the extras-the cranberry sauce, stuffing, and other goodies that make the Thanksgiving meal as special as it is. There are also plenty of amazing vegetarian main meal options such as Field Roast’s vegan Celebration Roast and Tofurky’s Vegetarian Roast. Roast some local sweet potatoes, onions, and any other veggies from nearby, and your meal will be complete!
Save a Turkey
Start a new family tradition and sponsor or adopt a turkey instead of serving one this thanksgiving through the Farm Sanctuary. Even if you do decide to serve a turkey, it’s a great program and one that kids will surely get a kick out of. If Thanksgiving at your house definitely involves some turkey, visit Local Harvest to find a local, free range, humanely raised turkey near you. Then be sure to call your grocery store and ask them to purchase from that farm in the future instead of buying from mass-produced and cruelly treated turkeys.
Make a Tradition of Volunteering
Not into making a big deal for Thanksgiving or have a super small family? Keep with the message of giving and volunteer for the day at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. It will be an amazing experience for you and your children and will definitely emphasize the theme of giving and sharing. Search for local shelters and soup kitchens in your area through a site such as HomelessShelterDirectory.org. You can even have your Thanksgiving meal at home and help others in the same day – simply choose to serve a Thanksgiving lunch at a shelter and then head home feeling more grateful (and hungry for your own dinner) than ever.
Lead Image © flickr user TheCulinaryGeek