A Green Living Thanksgiving

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Make your holiday a little more Earth friendly by choosing an eco-theme for your feast, like one of the three outlined below — it’s a fun way to start a new tradition with an environmental impact.

From The Nature Conservancy in New York
• The Locavore: Eat Local and in Season
This means doing as much of your Thanksgiving Day shopping as possible at local farmers markets and farms — for food items like eggs, milk, veggies, turkey, potatoes, pie fillings and more.

Nature ConservancyThe eco-benefits of eating locally? Food grown or raised in your region has fewer food miles: The carbon emissions associated with local foods are smaller. The plus for you is that local fruits and veggies usually taste better because they’ve been picked at the peak of freshness, rather than produce shipped from thousands of miles away that had to be picked before ripening.

What about the turkey? There’s a growing number of small farms that sell turkeys directly to the public. Localharvest.org has a searchable map so you can hone in on foods sustainably grown and raised near you.

• The All Organic
The benefits to your health might not be proven yet, but there’s no doubt that organic agriculture is better for the landscape — fewer pesticides and other toxic chemicals seeping into soil and running off into rivers and lakes.

If you take on this eco-theme, remember to go organic from start to finish — and don’t forget to include organic wines and other beverages on your menu!

When it comes to turkey, pasture-raised, organic turkeys are the way to go. Or consider buying a heritage turkey this year, defined as centuries-old breeds of turkeys that need to be raised over longer periods of time (unlike the sped-up rearing process of today’s breeds).

• Go Vegetarian/Vegan
Eating vegetarian has been touted as one of the best ways to help save the planet. So, whether you’ve been vegetarian for years, you want to make a statement this holiday, or you’re ready to start a new daily diet, there are easy ways to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving:

o The feast usually has so many vegetable-based sides — mashed potatoes, caramelized brussel sprouts, roasted carrots, pumpkin soup, cranberry sauce and more — that you could easily go without a main course and feel completely satisfied. And have room left for dessert!
o If you want to try out a turkey alternative, there are plenty of companies making plant-based meat alternatives. These are likely available in your local grocery or health food store.

ASIDE FROM THE MEAL…
So you’re going green at the table, but what about the all those other holiday elements? — decorations, recycling, composting and travel. Here are a few quick tips to round out your big day:

Decorating: Use the beauty of nature instead of man-made plastic. Step outside and gather some pretty oak leaves and acorns to arrange on the table. Clip some branches and put them in a vase. Use squashes or gourds as centerpieces. You get the point – BRING OUTSIDE, IN!
o Make sure you burn candles made from soy or beeswax rather than paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum and produce more soot than these alternatives.
• Composting and Recycling: Do it! There’s not much more to say on the subject matter — it helps reduce the amount of waste going to landfills every holiday. If you don’t know how to compost, here are some easy tips for getting started.
• Travel: Thanksgiving is often the biggest holiday for travel. And it’s often something we won’t compromise on just for eco-reasons. Skipping the family get-together because of climate change probably won’t fly with most relatives.
o So offset the carbon emissions of your holiday travel. Resources like The Nature Conservancy’s own carbon calculator help you calculate the amount of carbon you emit and offer ways of offsetting those emissions.
o If you’re driving, check your air filter and make sure your tires are fully inflated; you’ll reduce your carbon emissions and get better gas mileage.
For more information about The Nature Conservancy and the organization’s work in your region, go to the global website and select your state. For updates on the Conservancy in New York, check them out on Twitter: @nature_ny and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tncny