WooHoo, it’s Thanksgiving! It’s my family’s favorite holiday because this is the holiday we have designated to be together. Once kids entered our world, traveling with little ones for Christmas got complicated as we live all over the Southeast, so, Thanksgiving became our holiday. Of course, there is the bonus that we are Southern, and we love to eat and cook!
We all gather at my mother’s house for the holiday. She is a United Methodist Preacher in itty bitty Alabama. The great thing about mother’s parsonage is that it’s plenty big for all of us and there is really nothing to do. The closest mall is an hour and half away. The closest movie theater is an hour away. So, we really do spend time together, even if it’s just sitting next to each other playing Words with Friends.
As I started my journey of caring for God’s creation, holidays started to change. Yes, there is still plenty of good food but it’s made from better ingredients and more whole foods. We also got more conscience about food waste and packaging recycling. The following practices don’t detract from our family time, and we find that they actually enhance the holiday by making it healthier for us and God’s beautiful creation.
Here are 5 ways to make Thanksgiving a reflection of creation care:
Shop local when possible. If you live somewhere warmer like we do, farmers markets are still going strong. Eating locally grown produce is healthier for your family because it’s more nutritionally dense because it hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse for six weeks. In fact, it was probably picked that morning. The longer produce sits around, the nutrients that are so good for you are depleted from the produce.
This is also the time to get farm fresh eggs if you haven’t tried them. Those gold yolks are a thing of beauty and add a richness to your cooking.
Did you know that the average piece of food travels 1,500 miles to your table when you shop at big grocery stores. By shopping local you are also reducing the amount of fuel it takes to get to your table. Here’s an idea, have the kids calculate how much fuel was saved for each item you replaced with a local item. Why not add some math to the conversation?
Reduce your waste while shopping. Do you really need all those plastic bags for the produce you buy? I stopped using those bags long ago. No one is upset and I am saving the stores from having to buy more. Plus, I am saving nature from all those bags that get blown all over the place.
I also carry my own shopping bags. It makes me so happy to see other people using them too. It’s like our own little tribe of folks making a statement without saying a word. You can also turn it into an eye spy game for the kids. It’s their job to find all the other shoppers who are carrying their own cloth bags.
Combine trips so you only have to go out once or twice. This saves gas. Take a cooler if you need to keep refrigerator foods cool. Some of ya’ll are already have snow. So, keeping cold things cold isn’t an issue.
Use your family’s china. If someone has it, why not use it? This reduces the paper waste or even worse- styrofoam waste. Yes, washing the dishes becomes an issue but if you use a mild soap with no abrasion you can wash china in the dishwasher (check online to make sure you can this with the china you have.) This was a great reduction of work once we switched dishwasher soap at our Thanksgiving. Plus, dishwashers save water use over hand washing.
Don’t have enough China? Have someone else bring their china, too. It doesn’t have to match! Eclectic is fun and trendy. Don’t want to have the kids use china? Understood, but let them use an everyday dishes. If you can’t have a special meal at Thanksgiving, when can you?
The goal is to not create a bunch of landfill waste that was used for an hour or two but will sit in the landfill for 500 years. Yes, that is the projected life of styrofoam in the landfill.
In our family, we have compromised because we do like the holiday plates and napkins.Now we purchase dessert paper plates and napkins that have recycled content. Finding recycled content in paper products now is pretty easy, too!
Paper towels and toilet paper should be made from recycled content. Oh yes, I did go there. Your home is about to be descended upon. Make the quiet statement about using recycled content products. You can’t recycle paper towels, so you should buy 100% recycled content whenever possible. Major grocery store chains are carrying them now. Here in Atlanta, both Kroger and Publix have their own “green” brands that have high recycled content. You can also look for national brands like Seventh Generation. Want to try something different? You can now buy toilet paper made out of bamboo.
It’s Thanksgiving so I will not delve into the toilet paper conversation but check out a video I made about it here. Could I convince you to try recycled content toilet paper if I told you that we are deforesting Indonesia old growth forests for toilet paper? Your choice of toilet paper might not feel like caring for God’s creation, but we are putting large species like tigers at risk for this most sensitive subject. Read more here.
While we are at it, why not get recycled aluminum foil? Aluminum is unlimited in its recyclability. So, buy recycled foil. This is also popping up in major grocery outlets.
Use decorations that you can eat later or compost. One of my favorite things about fall is the variety of foods that you can use to decorate. I love to use apples, acorn squash, small pumpkins and other gourds to decorate. After you use them as decorations they are ready to be eaten or thrown into the compost. One of my favorite things to do is use a pumpkin as a vase and have a flower arrangement come out of the top of it. If the arrangement is going to sit long, a put a glass vase on the interior for the water. This “other” way to stuff a pumpkin with mums and branches is a wonderful way to remind us of the bounty God has given us with nature. He has decorated his earth so wonderfully and it’s something we can give thanks for every day and on Thanksgiving.
Bonus ideas: Okay, these are not “green” but my family has found these to be very helpful to build our relationships as the children have gotten older and new family members have been added. For grace, everyone at the table says one thing they are thankful for. After the meal, everyone gets a pen and paper. We are asked 5 questions which change each year. My brother, voted class clown, mixes up everyone’s answers and reads the answers and then we have to guess whose answers are being read. Some of the grown-ups groan but the kids love it so much and ask for it each year.
Do you feel like your Thanksgiving would be less thankful if we all took a few of these ideas and incorporated them into our family traditions? Let me know in the comments what your family might be doing to care for God’s creation while the family is gathered together.
Wishing you and all of your family a blessed, safe and very Happy Thanksgiving!