Guest post from Tara Alley. Whether the thought of crafting up a ravishing display of turkey and sides for this year’s Thanksgiving meal leaves you beside yourself with excitement or trembling with a bit of trepidation (I am the latter), I’m finally realizing that much more important than what celebrity chef’s stuffing recipe I go with or what style green beans I opt for, is how much celebrity stuffing and green bean casserole I whip up, how I make it all and of course, what I do after the fact.
Over the last year I’ve written frequently about the increased waste that’s pretty much synonymous with most holidays, so obviously I couldn’t pass up looking at Thanksgiving and what amounts to be the biggest “food” day of the year. For, no matter what: even if I pick the greenest recipe out there and promise to use only local, organic, sustainable ingredients, if in the end I make 5 times too much of that organic goodness and it ends up in my trash can, I all but nullify my green efforts.
Statistically, given the fact that the average American will consume 3,000-3,500 calories during the Thanksgiving meal itself (not counting any other meals or snacks during the day), it seems hard to imagine that there could possibly be any waste left over after that, but sadly enough, there is. There’s a ridiculous amount, and it’s just one meal on one day.
Now, clearly I’m not saying that waste on Thanksgiving is anything remotely new, and the fact that most of us cherish those demanded Thanksgiving leftovers does actually help to combat “some” of the waste. But, let’s take this back to basics with some general food waste ideas. According to a study at the University of Arizona Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, average American food waste looks something like this:
- Not counting what we throw away on our plates after we’re done eating, American households throw away approximately $43 billion dollars worth of food every single year
- That $43 billion dollars of wasted food equates to approximately 14% of what we buy
- 15% of that waste is food that was food thrown away that was not expired and never even opened
- We could feed 4 million people around the globe for a day with just 5% of our leftovers
- American retailers (restaurants included) throw away around 35 million tons of food every year
- That 35 million tons of wasted food is worth approximately $30 billion dollars
That can be pretty disheartening, no matter how you want to look at it. These are the sorts of numbers that overwhelm me and make me feel more or less like there’s nothing I could possibly do that would make any difference. But, we all know that’s just not true. While maybe none of us on our own are going to make a dent in $43 billion dollars worth of food waste, combined we certainly can.
This year, I’d like to say that Thanksgiving is the perfect launching point to start bringing our food waste numbers down. Instead of making 20 pounds of extra turkey just because it’s tradition to have “plentiful abundance,” make what you actually know you can eat. Planning ahead for leftovers is fine, as long as its an amount of leftovers you can legitimately eat. I have a feeling starting with Thanksgiving and implementing saving patterns from the very start of the holiday season can launch us into the upcoming holiday month with the motivation to continue resisting wasteful patterns or habits.
Now, here’s the best part, and the positive side of it all:
If we reduced our food waste by just half, we could reduce negative impacts on the environment by up to 25%
So, we can start with the turkey (after all, according to the Center for Food Safety, we’re going to use around 915,000 barrels of oil just to produce and ship in the turkeys we will consume on Thanksgiving). If you’re feeling really adventurous and serious about this, opt for a plant based main dish and skip the turkey all together. Otherwise, let’s aim to make the amount we can actually eat and cook it in the greenest method our homes can afford. It’s these little decisions that are going to make the difference in your home, and I think when we combine my home with your home and all of the other green homes out there, we can start chipping away at that $43 billion dollar mark.
Ready to join in with me? Team up with your neighbors, your Thanksgiving day guests, your blogging friends, your work companions, you name it. In fact, I hope you’ll share some ideas or thoughts here about what you plan to do to cut food waste in your home. If you’ve got good ideas, we can all use them!
Freelancer Tara Alley is passionate about living green and cutting down the daily damage to the environment. She writes full time for Heater Home and delivers content for their energy saving oil heaters. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.