The holiday season is always one of cheer and togetherness but, it isn’t the most wonderful time of year for the environment. With Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner, consumption is at an all-time high given all our extra eating, shopping, and travelling we are all doing. From food to fashion sales are going up around the country. Whether you're a consumer or a corporate executive, read below for a complete guide on how to keep sustainability in mind this Thanksgiving!
Regardless of the occasion, no celebration is complete without food. Whether you're baking cookies or arranging a huge Thanksgiving feast, it is important to keep sustainability in mind. A lot of the ingredients you find in grocery stores are often grown with pesticides that are harmful to the environment, and can even be shipped from thousands of miles away, all in all resulting in a huge carbon footprint. This year shop local by buying your ingredients from a farmers market. Not only will you help out the environment, but you also support local businesses that may be struggling during COVID-19.
Reduce Food Waste
Now that you have your ingredients, it's almost time to start cooking, but before you begin remember food waste is one of the leading causes of climate change. The average American ends up throwing away 40% of the food they buy and on “food-heavy” holiday’s such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, just a little under 50% of all food bought ends up in the landfill. Food waste has huge impacts on the environment; not only are ingredients that take precious resources to grow wasted, when food goes off to rot in a landfill it releases harmful greenhouse gases such as methane. This year, instead of buying more than you can realistically eat, save some money, and the planet by cutting down on how much you buy. If you find yourself with too much food even then, consider donating the leftovers to a local food bank, where someone in need can enjoy your delicious cooking.
Opt for Plant-based Cuisines
It’s no secret that meat is not the most environmentally sustainable food group out there, and the traditional Thanksgiving cuisine is one that is usually quite meat-heavy. This year, try switching out some of your dishes for plant based ones or even use meat substitutes such as “beyond-beef” and “chickenless-chicken”. You don’t need to completely ditch all the meat on your menu, even just cutting down slightly can significantly lower your carbon emissions.
Rethink Black Friday
Black Friday: the day after Thanksgiving filled with shopping spears, and sales around the globe. What started off as the day workers would call in sick after Thanksgiving in order to get an extra day off work, has become a national and even international day of shopping mania. As great as 75% off sales and day-long shopping sprees may sound, when you look behind the curtain of flashy signs, and discount bins a truth of environmental destruction is revealed. In today’s constantly evolving world, we are jumping from one trend to another and it's in companies and brands best interest to stay caught up. This ends up resulting in industries such as the fashion and toy industry, for example, beginning to mass produce low-quality goods, with horridenous environmental consequences. This year, rather than wasting lots of money and energy shopping for things you don’t even need, try reducing the amount you consume by refurbishing your existing items or shopping second hand.
With all that said, it isn’t just consumers that should be making changes this Thanksgiving. The corporate world is one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gases and one of the root causes of climate change. As concerning as this all sounds, being the root cause of a problem usually makes you integral to the solution. Businesses have huge power when it comes to fighting climate change. Sustainability in business is the key to a sustainable future.
When companies and brands switch to more sustainable practices, whether it’s pledging to reach carbon neutrality or stopping the use of sweatshops and fairly compensating your employees, everyone benefits. This year, rather than mass-producing low-quality products, put your existing items on sale and take a pledge to become more sustainable. Consider donating some of your profits towards planting trees in developing countries or investing in eco-friendly materials and infrastructure. There are so many things companies can do to secure a safe, livable future for our planet.
Although this holiday season may look different than most they can still be incredibly fun, especially when we keep the environment in mind. By following the tips above, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a sustainability guru. The holidays are historically lethal to the environment but, if everyone pitches in they don’t have to be. Let’s make this holiday season just as wonderful for the planet as it is for the rest of us.