Try This, Not That: Easy Ways to Reduce Waste on Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: I’ve never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve helped my parents host it, and I’ve been a guest at many a Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving events.

This year, the Revolution team is thinking of all the ways we can be a little friendlier to the environment at Thanksgiving. It may seem like a bit more work, but the pay-off is reducing waste on a holiday that sees over 6 million turkeys in the trash, a ridiculous amount of carbon emissions from all the holiday travel, and other harmful effects on the earth. 

For that fateful day when I finally get to host, I’ll be using these tips and tricks to reduce waste on Thanksgiving! 

Let’s start with the plastic problem.

Plastic wrap (otherwise known as saran wrap, cling film, shrink wrap and plenty others) was a go-to product in my mom’s kitchen growing up. This year, we’re swapping that clingy roll of plastic for two reusable products: Bee’s Wrap and silicone suction lids. Bee’s wrap is just as sticky as plastic wrap, but it’s biodegradable and just needs a quick rinse/light soap to be used again. Cover those leftover dinner rolls in some Bee’s Wrap and be on your way.

For food you’re keeping at home after the big meal, cover bowls, pans and pots with a silicone lid instead of aluminum foil or plastic wrap. These babies can do more than just store leftovers in an eco-friendly way: use them as a lid for rice or other food that needs covering, or to keep dinner warm while everything else finishes cooking. P.S. we hear Food 52’s got some stylish, dishwasher-safe lids in trendy colors!

Credit: Rocky Luten, Food 52

Your leftovers should be eaten within a couple days after Turkey Day. Your containers should not take thousands of years to break down in landfills.

If you’re a host, you’re probably thinking about all the cheap, plastic to-go containers you’ve collected from take-out and delis over the last year, and how you’ll pack up each guests’ leftovers in those containers. But we all know about how plastic actually seeps into our food and messes with our hormones (gross!). This year, swap the plastic with something that’s easier to recycle and doesn’t leach into your leftovers. Plenty of companies have super affordable glass containers that are perfect for portioning out leftovers, like these mini ones (perfect for gravy or cranberry sauce) or glass jars from Anko. Plus, your guests will be impressed that you’re giving them a glass container to keep!

Not hosting this year? We’ve all definitely brought our side dishes over in plastic containers, thinking we can get rid of our low-quality Tupperware by leaving it with the host. Instead, give thanks to the host by bringing your part of the meal in serving-ware you feel good about leaving behind. Whether it be a Pyrex pie pan, a cute baking tray for casseroles, or brussel sprouts in these sierra bowls, opt for a guilt-free container for your food that doubles as a gift for the host.

What about the stuff(ing) I don’t eat?

Rule #1: Compost the food you don’t eat. It’s the easiest thing on this list, period. We’re lucky to live in Seattle, where compost pick-up happens every week!

If your city doesn’t offer compost pick-up, then do your best to get crafty with the leftovers. We’re in the heart of soup season, so make your own stock. I’ve also had success with adding leftover meat and veggies to my Instant Pot, along with stock or water and spices, for a healthy soup. Additionally, get creative with some recipes that use up all the various ingredients in your fridge. Check out Supercook, which matches the ingredients you have with a recipe from the web. I also love typing an ingredient into, which has an easy-to-follow video for every recipe.