A Greener Gathering: How to Host an Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving table spread with the words: A Greener Gathering.

Food waste in the U.S. is a serious problem that only gets worse during the holidays.

Here are a few tips to help you have a sustainable Thanksgiving with friends and family while reducing your carbon footprint...

Two people in discussion while looking at a phone.

Coordinate with guests.

If you have guests contributing dishes to the feast, keep tabs on what everyone’s bringing to avoid making too much food — or duplicating a guest’s dish.

Food in ceramic serving dishes in a row.

Make it a group effort.

Engage your family and friends in a quest for a more sustainable holiday. If they’re bringing a dish, ask them to bring it in a reusable dish rather than a disposable one.

 A close up of hands peeling carrots.

Cook it from scratch.

Food is responsible for 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions created by everyone in our community — the less prepared and packaged food you buy, the lower your carbon footprint.

 A woman opens the draws in her fridge.

Clean out the freezer and fridge first.

Make room for groceries and leftovers in the refrigerator to find what you need quickly — plus, leftovers won’t be as likely to get lost and forgotten.

 A woman transfers food to a glass Tupperware container.

Plan for food storage options.

Resist the temptation to buy disposable plastic containers for leftovers. Figure out what you’re going to save and choose reusable containers.

 An ambrosia salad.

Leave lackluster dishes off the menu.

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, but if no one ever eats the jello mold salad, save the time and skip it.

 A woman scoops bulk items at the grocery store.

Buy in bulk.

Nuts, spices, and dry baking ingredients are just some of the things you can buy in bulk from the bins, which reduces packaging waste and saves you money.

 A bowl of roasted brussel sprouts.

Easy on the dairy.

Choose recipes that call for little or no dairy and eggs. If you do use dairy or eggs, choose organic and cruelty-free brands.

 A pitcher of lemon water.

Serve sustainable sips.

Instead of bottled water, serve filtered water from the tap. Make it festive by putting it in a clear pitcher with some ice and sliced lemons. If you’re offering soda, choose aluminum cans and be sure to recycle them.

 A family sits at a table while a mom and daughter work together to carve a chicken.

Make it a green gobble gobble.

Here are a few eco-friendly options for cooking a turkey this year:

  • Consider going meatless: Countless recipes for delicious vegetarian and vegan main-dish recipes are available online.
  • If skipping the turkey isn’t an option: Choose a heritage breed or cage-free turkey — ideally from a local farmer. At the grocery store, look for the “Certified Humane” label.
  • If you need a smaller bird: A cage-free chicken from a local farm could be a good option. 


This year, change up your traditional feast and host a more sustainable Thanksgiving where you can be surrounded by family, friends, and delicious food, all while reducing your carbon footprint.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!