“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.” – Vicki Robin
As the holidays approach, I feel we are slowly losing the true spirit of the season. Sure, I want that new iPhone, but is it really going to kill me if I don’t get it? Increasingly, we are becoming more and more influenced by powerful cultural ideals brought on by consumerism. Not only does it reinforce the mindset of “Buy, Buy, Buy!”, but it leasds to the idea of “Waste, Waste, Waste!” as well. The average American throws away 209 to 254 pounds of edible food every year! (Source) That means that over the course of a lifetime, the average American will have thrown away about 16,720 pounds of edible food, or 66,880 pounds of food in a lifetime for a family of four. That’s equivalent to the weight of 17 whole cars.
It’s true that this issue is caused by our wastefulness, but it’s more than just that. Today, the amount of energy and resources that go into our Thanksgiving and holiday plates are incredibly harmful to our environment. For example, the average farm-bred turkey will consume 36.4 gallons of water and 80 pounds of feed in its lifetime. (Source: National Turkey Federation) And with the growing demand for more turkey and classical Thanksgiving and other holiday dishes, it’s easy to see the environmental issues that arise. Check out this chart below:
Should We Cancel Thanksgiving?
Well, not exactly. We don’t have to get rid of the holiday itself. There are some ways that we can still keep Thanksgiving while reducing our environmental impact, like saving leftovers for another day or considering composting. You can even take the extra mile and switch out the turkey for a meat-free alternative that is cheap and tasty, such as making a seitan veggie turkey that is 100% vegetarian. By switching to non-meat alternatives, you gain the awesome opportunity to be more environmentally friendly, and all the turkeys will thank you!
In retrospect, it isn’t completely all our fault. In a country where the economy is based on consumerism, who’s to say that we can’t help but keep buying? Especially with heavy annual sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday right after Thanksgiving, it’s no wonder Americans continue to buy unnecessary things. Our culture of consumerism is based on buying things that break, which ultimately leads to replacement. Every year, the United States is continually contributing to the amount of unnecessary waste in our landfills, which amounts to enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks daily in the United States. This is a horrifying figure, especially when you consider that 1,200 pounds of trash that the average American throws away every year could be composted or recycled! (Source)
You Can Still Enjoy a Meal
In the end, you don’t have to spoil your holiday completely (I’m sorry if I did!). It’s completely understandable that the Thanksgiving turkey is something that may be part of your family’s tradition every year. If you can’t remove the turkey from your plate, then consider these tips to go for greener Thanksgiving and holiday season!
Reuse Grocery Bags
Every year, the U.S. uses approximately 100 billion new plastic bags, which ultimately costs 12 million gallons of oil to produce. These plastic bags don’t degrade or break down as easily as paper bag alternatives. In fact, they can take up to a whopping 1,000 years just to break down! Even with paper bags, 14 million trees are cut down just to make them, and a whole lot more energy goes into making them than plastic bags. Solution? Pick up a reusable, 100% environmentally-friendly biodegradable bag today, they can last you long enough for grocery shopping, and break down at a much more rapid rate than their counterparts. (Source)
Today, many corporations and businesses have little respect and care for our environment. This is demonstrated by their often environmentally-unsafe practices, such as the heavy emission of greenhouse gases from factories. For example, the plastic used in making our smartphones is harmful to our environment, as it takes a whopping 450 years for the plastic to degrade. Another example, Monsanto, a GMO company, is infamous for practicing environmentally-damaging methods as they use harmful chemicals that can damage the landscape and wildlife in which their genetically modified crops are grown. However, you can make a change simply by shopping at stores that practice green methods; stores that use biodegradable packaging, stores that have local produce (especially organic). I’d like to talk more about eating organic, but we’ll save that for a later post!
As much as we love eating at our favorite burger joint or deli, it’s time to consider some things that can help change the way we can impact the environment. To start, we should consider eating more locally. When we eat at common-brand restaurants like Burger King, for example, we shut out the business of smaller, family-owned restaurants and mom-and-pop stores. Every year, the growing number of franchises outcompetes their smaller restaurant counterparts, putting many restaurants out of business. By supporting franchise restaurants, we give a name to one brand, one product, and one business. We choose the McDonald’s down the block when we’re in a rush, simply because we don’t have time to sit down for a three-course meal. We choose the Taco Bell on the corner because we’re insecure about what to eat for lunch. But we hardly ever choose the hardworking, lesser known family restaurant over the cheaply run, mechanical fast food joint. And if you do end up eating at a restaurant, don’t feel ashamed to ask your waiter about what’s in the food, or how it’s made. Chances are, you can find out that a lot of food served at restaurants can actually be real harmful agents in the environment, creating carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions as a byproduct. Through this, we can still enjoy our favorite foods while preserving the integrity of our environment.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I hope that you will consider some of the points I mentioned above. By switching over to a more green and environmentally friendly plate, you can enjoy the holiday just the same and help save the environment.