How to Start Green Thanksgiving Traditions

More tips on how to go green for cheap on Thanksgiving.


Last week, I spoke with Lynn Colwell, and her daughter, Corey Colwell-Lipson, about how to have a green Thanksgiving based on their book, "Celebrate Green." Lynn correctly noted that Thanksgiving can be a hard time to go green - not only because of the expense of buying sustainable turkey and organic food, but also because it is a holiday where tradition is extremely valued. Lynn's solution? Make new (green) Thanksgiving traditions. Here are a few:


— It's easy to make Thanksgiving decorations green because so many of them are edible. Colwell likes to decorate with gourds and berries. "It looks beautiful, it's colorful, it's enjoyed first and then consumed," she said. These items could also be composted.

— For place settings and wreaths, gather natural materials you can easily find in your own yard - branches, pinecones, beautiful autumn leaves. Not only will it create less waste, but you'll also have fewer items to store, since everything is disposable. It's fun for kids, and better yet, it's free. For daily green decorating tips with a natural feel, check out decorator Danny Seo's blog.

—Find new uses for things you already have. "We were setting a Thanksgiving dinner for a talk we gave, and we didn't put too much planning into what we would do. We did a hunt around the house," said Colwell-Lipson. "We had a fun time opening cupboards and putting things together, and came up with 90 percent of what we needed there. We found a glass bowl, and had idea that if we filled bowl with leaves, pinecones, berries, and put a glass plate on top, it became a seasonal centerpiece. We found some table cloth that wasn't so fancy - it was my grandmothers. It's not something you would have picked up at the store, but with everything else it worked."

Place Settings:

—"Many people don't have enough glassware and they buy disposable items," said Colwell-Lipson. "It's not good for the planet. So, to bring meaning into the place setting, you could ask each guest to bring their own, and tell the story behind it. It could be their grandmother's, or it could be from a thrift store. People laugh and learn and reduce their footprint."

— You could also try a thrift store for place settings, tablecloths and flatware. Mix and match to add character to your table.

Giving Thanks:

— Colwell's idea for a new tradition: Ask each guest to bring an item that represents something they're thankful for. "Put the items in a glass bowl or spread it down your table, and ask everyone why they brought each thing," she said. "You create a tradition, start a conversation, and ask a question that many people never ask on Thanksgiving."

— If you need to cut back a little this Thanksgiving, whether you're doing so in a green way or not, "look at it as an opportunity and not as a punishment," said Colwell. "When you were a child, you were creative. Talk to your family about how to make it fun and spend less money on food. Get neighbors together for a potluck. There are wonderful ways to do it."

— Look to the past. Ask grandparents how they celebrated with less, and how they brought together the family. "We've been convinced that we need more than we do, and we need to spend money to be happy," said Colwell. "We don't believe that's true."