Zero Waste Your Thanksgiving Feast

A zero waste table set for Thanksgiving, with reusable items like plates, glassware, silverware and napkins

By Keri Greenwalt and Ashley Pace

Who doesn't love a day that's all about eating and gathering with loved ones? But there's nothing to love about extra waste. These tips can help you minimize waste and cut out extra spending. It's easy to zero waste your Thanksgiving.

Be a mindful shopper 

  • Be sure you don’t make too much food that will only go to waste. This handy food calculator will help you estimate the amount of food you need based on size, hunger (how many guests prefer small portions or large portions), food spread and more. 

  • Choose to buy imperfect produce. Grab the oddly shaped carrots or slightly bruised apples that others are less likely to purchase and save them from the garbage pail. 

  • Opt to buy products that contain less packaging or those that come in recyclable packaging. 

  • Don’t forget your reusable shopping and produce bags. 

Set the table for zero waste 

  • Break out the good china and ditch the one-time-use plates or cutlery.  

    • If you don't have enough plates for your guests, consider borrowing them from someone in your local Buy Nothing group.

    • If you must use paper plates, opt for the uncoated kind that can be composted in your green cart when you are through.

  • Throw everything in the dishwasher afterward, which uses less water than hand washing the dishes.

  • Consider using cloth napkins. They reduce waste and add a little extra elegance to your meal. 

  • Create a centerpiece or other festive décor out of reused items that are already around your home.

  • Cook with reusable cookware, rather than disposable aluminum dishes. 

Waste nothing 

  • Realizing you bought more than you made? Drop off unused cans or groceries for donation at a local food pantry to keep them out of the landfill, and help those in need at the same time. 

  • Save the leftovers for a meal to enjoy on another day. There’s nothing like a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich with all the fixings. 

  • Send guests home with an extra serving in a reusable container.

  • Use every piece of what you cook. Keep those turkey bones to make broth, baked potato skins for chips, etc.  

  • Compost what you can’t use. Turkey bones, fat, food scraps and leftovers that go bad before you can use them can be composted in your green curbside composting cart. If you don’t have curbside composting, some items like vegetable scraps can still be composted in other ways