1. Choose Scratch Over Store-Bought
Most store-bought dishes from supermarkets and restaurants will be packaged in plastic containers. To avoid the unnecessary plastic, focus on cooking from scratch. Ingredients like vegetables, flour, butter, and nuts can be commonly found in non-plastic packaging. For items like nuts and dried fruits, see if your local market, co-op or health food store has a bulk section and bring your own bags to fill up! When faced with a choice of packaging, choose glass or paper over plastic. If you’re looking for inspiration, see our (newly expanded) recipe suggestions below.
2. Shop Local
Shopping locally not only reduces your meal’s carbon footprint, but you can bring your own bags and containers and you’re less likely to encounter plastic packaging than at your grocery store. Small businesses also need our support more than ever during the pandemic. Give your community your thanks by supporting each other!
If you don’t have the time or inclination to make pumpkin, pecan, or apple pie from scratch, check your local bakery. While you’re there, pick up the bread you’ll need to make your stuffing and bring it all home in your reusable bags. Visit your local farmers market to pick up potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, greens, and more. If your farmers market is closed for the season, many CSAs (community supported agriculture) also offer a special one-time Thanksgiving share of goodies to anyone, even if you’re not a subscriber.
3. Use Sustainable Decor
Forget the dollar store, make the perfect fall decor for your table setting with things from your backyard and local farm stand. Pressed leaves and pumpkins make for great wall and table adornments! Check out some DIY ideas here. And don’t forget to get the kids involved!
4. Serve on Reusable Dishes & Dinnerware
Plastic utensils and cups end up in landfills, incinerators, or waterways where they can pose a threat to wildlife. Set your table with a beautiful tablecloth, ceramic or metal plates, cups, serving platters, metal utensils (got a set of silverware from your parents or grandparents you can bust out?), and cloth napkins. This can also include glass pitchers or bottles for drinks. If your family enjoys seltzer, consider investing in a SodaStream or other carbonation machine (tip: choose the model that comes with glass bottles over plastic). If you have kids, assign them the task of polishing silver—they may find it deeply satisfying. Sticking to reusables only will not only reduce your waste but also save you money. Get family or friends to help wash anything delicate that can’t go in the dishwasher and toss all your cloth items in the washing machine afterwards. No muss, no fuss, and, more importantly, no WASTE.
5. Provide or Bring Reusable Containers for Leftovers
Going to family or friend’s home for dinner? Bring your own glass or metal containers to cart home some delicious leftovers. There are also some great beeswax-coated fabric wraps out there these days that can take the place of plastic wrap or tinfoil. If you are hosting the dinner, remind guests to bring reusable containers with them. If you have extras to spare (say from all those take-out containers you saved during COVID lockdown), you can offer them to guests who’ve forgotten to bring their own. If you haven’t yet invested in glass or metal containers, don’t let that stop you – just bring plastic tupperware or clean yogurt containers, etc., but make sure not to heat anything up in those containers later to avoid the chemical leaching that occurs when hot food comes into contact with plastic. If you do use aluminum foil, when you’re done, don’t forget to gently clean and dry it and save it to use again.
Compost any scraps from cooking or leftovers that aren’t being saved, as well as any compostable decor you’ve put up or used on the table once you tire of it. Reminder, if your Thanksgiving dinner includes a turkey, make stock out of the carcass before you compost it—you can make an excellent, very flavorful turkey soup or freeze it for months. If you’re not sure what can and can’t be composted, check out this helpful list. If you don’t have a backyard compost, see if your city or town has a local composting system. If they don’t, look into how to start one.
This post was originally published on the Beyond Plastics website.