It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and most of us are busy making preparations. Although Thanksgiving can be a great time for most of us, as we get to see our families, relax and eat some good food, like most holidays, Thanksgiving can be a nightmare for the Earth.
Carbon emissions grow tremendously as millions of people travel home to see their family and other loved ones. There is also a huge uptick in the amount of local travel people do as the major holiday shopping season kicks into full gear. Most of us also cook huge meals made from ingredients that come from all corners of the earth, which takes extra energy to ship. Finally, we usually overcook and end up throwing a lot of the leftovers out, so our landfills fill up faster.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to make Thanksgiving more green with less impact on the environment. Here are our top 5 easy tips to make your Thanksgiving more green.
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We love eating out as much as any other family. However, eating out while still trying to be green and eat local foods can be very challenging. Most restaurants depend on the modern food industrial system, where they buy their ingredients from several different suppliers, who buy their ingredients from other suppliers, which are often located all over the United States, if not all over the world. So, when you eat a hamburger with french fries at a fast food restaurant or a regional or national chain restaurant, you are probably eating bread made from wheat that was grown in the middle part of the United States, beef from cows that were fed by corn that was grown in the middle of the United States and that were raised in the Western part of the United States and potatoes that were grown in the Western part of the United States. But that is not all. All of the wheat, corn, and potatoes had to be planted, fertilized and harvested using machines that use oil and gas or coal and the cow from which the beef came from had to be transported and slaughtered by machines that use oil and gas as well. Finally, all of it had to be processed as well, so it is all shipped from point to point around the country until it eventually ends up on your plate at the restaurant.
This process of creating, processing and shipping food emits HUGE amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment, so your simple hamburger and fries ends up having a pretty hefty carbon footprint. A 2000 report from Stockholm University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, called Energy Use in the Food Sector (PDF), calculated the carbon footprint of the average cheeseburger and found that it is between 3.6-6.1 kg of CO2-equivalent emissions per burger (the difference mainly depends on how much oil and gas was used versus coal in the production of all of the component parts of the burger). If you calculate that the average American eats 3 cheeseburgers per week, the total amount of carbon emissions generated just by the cheeseburgers Americans eat in one year is the same amount emitted by 19.6 million SUVs in one year. Wow.
So, if you want to go out to eat, but you don’t want to generate a huge carbon footprint when you do so, what can you do?
We had our first real local food meals last weekend. We picked up our first CSA basket on Saturday, which had a bunch of great local produce in it. Also, Steph’s parents were in town visiting from North Carolina and brought a bunch of food that they bought from local roadside stands with them. Finally, we were also able to use some vegetables from our backyard garden, making a good portion of the foods we used come from within about a 100 mile-range. Here are the details on what we had:
One of the main reasons we decided to enhance our green living was because of our daughter and our health. After watching several documentaries and reading some books on modern food production, we decided that we wanted to eat better. This meant eating fresh and organic food whenever possible. However, we did not want our fresh, organic food to come from all corners of the Earth with a high cost of carbon emissions. So, we started to look around for a way to get fresh, organic produce locally. Our research quickly turned up Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Read more on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)…