Waste a Little Less This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is upon us yet again and I thought it might be a good time to throw out a few holiday tips both for this T-day and those to come in the next month as well. Some are mine, some are others–all make sense to me. Enjoy.

Don’t fly. OK, the obvious reason I’m writing this is because of the tremendous amount of energy it takes to get a plane off the ground and the pollution and CO2 emitted by these metallic beasts. That said, has anyone flown recently? If you have, you know why I’m really saying don’t fly. Take the car, the bus, or the train, or better yet, stay home! You’ll have a much less stressful holiday.

Watch your food miles. The average American meal travels more than 1,500 miles to get to your plate. Does this make sense on any level? Shop locally and check out farmers markets. You’ll save money, save on packaging, get better food, and pump up your local economy.

Dead flowers do not a nice gift make. Sure it’s a time honored tradition to bring some nice cut flowers, but come on, you’re giving a gift that is in the process of dying! Why not get a flowering plant from a local florist that will live on and remind your hosts of your visit?

Say no to wine bags. So you want to bring some vino to your guest. Great, but before you shell out $4 for that odd little wine bag, check out the ancient art of Furoshiki and wrap your present in another present! Furoshiki–the gift that keeps on giving.

Break out the china. Some folks like to go disposable on holidays for the sake of ease, but come on, isn’t that a little cheap? Besides, those plates and napkins and utensils cost you money every year don’t they? Save yourself some cashola, use your good set for the guests (or your everyday’s and let everyone know why you are doing it) and make Uncle Bud help you wash the dishes for a change.

Reduce, re-use, recycle, even on the holidays. Look, it’s not my fault that your wife invited her entire side of the family including Aunt Grezelda, the one whose feet always sweat. So you have a houseful of guests–it’s no reason to chuck everything in the garbage when you can recycle like usual. Don’t think the holidays give you an excuse to lax up. The three Rs. Learn ‘em, love ‘em, live ‘em.

Can the cans (and bottles). Not everyone needs their own personal beverage do they? Skip the personal sized drink containers, save on some dough, and lighten your impact on the environment. And if you’re feeling really risky, serve tap water in a pitcher at the table and don’t tell anyone. Call it something fancy like Mer de Suiss and see if anyone can actually tell the difference (I obviously don’t know French).

Feed the worms! Don’t have a composter? What better time to start and what a way to teach the family.

“Oh Aunt Fanny, the extra rice on that plate goes in the worm composter, not the garbage.”

“What composter, dear?”

“Oh it’s that square thing in the middle of the dining room table; the worms will love the rice.”

Make sure to catch Aunt Fanny as she falls and perhaps offer her some nice Mer de Suisse to calm her nerves. Once you explain everything a few times, she’ll be worm farmin’ before you know it.

Pass those leftovers on. Too many leftovers for the fridge? Why not pack them up in a Tupperware with some utensils and walk them out to someone who needs it more than you do. If the holidays are truly a time to be thankful, what better way than to help those less fortunate in their time of need.

Craigslist that oil. OK, you’ve decided that you need to deep fry that Tofu Turducken this year. You bought the 10 gallons of peanut oil, used it once, and now you’re stuck with it. What to do? Fear not. Post it up for free on craigslist.org and before you can say tofu turducken, some greaser like myself will be by to pick it up and put it in his car. How sweet is that?

These are just a few ways to minimize your waste on the holidays and as always, I’d love to hear your ideas on the subject.

One final note I’d like to share though. In these uncertain times, when we don’t know what’s on the economic horizon, the job horizon, or the peace horizon, recognize that if you are reading this on your computer, you are more blessed than many, and make a commitment to tread a little lighter and help those who need it even more than you do. Realize that the truly important things in life cannot be bought, but must be earned and understand that we all make our own destinies, but that having said that, we all must help others to reach theirs.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Dave Chameides is an environmental educator and freelance filmmaker. Head over to his Web site 365 Days of Trash now, sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll get a chance to win his bag! While he is presently saving all of his trash for a year to better understand his environmental impact, his main focus is sustainability through education and he believes that with knowledge all things are possible


K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Amanda S.
Amanda S.9 years ago


I am gonna craigslist that oil of mine faster than you can say 'greaser' lol.


Chrissy B.
Chrissy B9 years ago

Great suggestions! Thanks!

Patricia N.
Patricia N9 years ago

Save a turkey and have a Mexican Thanksgiving with rice, pinto beans and warmed tortillas.  Save on plates too...warap rice and beans in tortillas and eat.

Dorisabel Barrantes

Hey! Your ideas are great, not only for Thanksgiving, but for all the year's holidays! And I want to add that using your dinnerware and glassware make your table more elegant, and your guests will love it! Thank you!

Sustainable Dave
Dave Chameides9 years ago

The Tofu Turducken line was actually a dig t both turducken eaters (a turkey stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a duck I believe) and tofurkey folks as it always cracks me up that people try to make tofu taste like turkey. It was an equal opportunity dig at both sides so hopefully people realize it as a joke and not a rallying cry.
Ad for leftovers, sadly there are enough street people in most cities who can use our help. Use your judgement of course, but we usually try to find someone who needs a little help and give it/leave it for them.

Molly F.
Molly S9 years ago

Great ideas. However, where do you suggest donating leftover food? For health and safety reasons, shelters and food banks will not accept leftovers from people's houses.

Diana P.
Diana P9 years ago

Even as a child I liked giving live plants. I could never understand why someone would want to spend a fortune on something that will die in a few days. Save a tree and send ECARDS! Tofu anything, NO THANKS.

Black T.
Blacktiger P9 years ago

Sorry folks you are welcome to your tofu, I am not turned on by the nongreen production of soy beans, of which tofu is made. Also am not fooled by "tofurkey, or toducken" either. To much emphasis is put on "meat" tasting products. If you are going Veg or Vegan go completely and forget meat altogether!!!!

Natalie R.
Natalie Toner9 years ago

what the hell is tofu turducken? sorry - I live in deepest darkest Africa:)