It's time, once again, for Americans to give thanks and enjoy a bountiful meal. It's also a day to watch what you eat—and not just in regards to your waistline. The year 2009 was notable for an emphasis on greener, more sustainable eating, from the White House garden to the movie Food, Inc. Last Thanksgiving, I wrote about saving money, starting traditions, decoding turkey labels and defending your vegetarianism. Here are seven more money-saving tips for a green Thanksgiving.
1. Use a slow-cooker. Fall is the season for slow-simmered soups, so there's no better time to bust out the Crock Pot. As an added bonus, the slow-cooker is one of the most energy-efficient devices in the kitchen. According to Planet Green: "When compared to a conventional oven which uses 2.7 pounds of CO2 for one hour of use, a slow cooker uses .9 pounds of CO2 for seven hours of use." The Daily Green offers some slow-cooker Thanksgiving recipes here.
2. Plan ahead for your leftovers. After three days of turkey sandwiches, it's easy to let leftovers linger in the fridge too long while you decide on a novel way to use them. Before you know it, they've spoiled, and you have to thrown them out—a waste of food and money. Look up some Thanksgiving leftover recipes before the feast, and plan out a whole week's worth of meals in advance. Here is a nice collection of leftover recipes from Serious Eats. Not sure how long those mashed potatoes will keep? Plan ahead with StillTasty, which tells you the average shelf life of nearly any food.
3. Light up your table with soy or beeswax candles. They're better than your everyday tapers made of wax paraffin, which will keep you breathing in soot and chemicals such as volatile organic compounds and phalates. Not to mention, soy candles burn longer, are biodegradable, do not contain petroleum, and emit very little smoke.
4. Run the dishwasher efficiently. Holiday guests dirty up many dishes, but when it's time to clean up, make sure that you're running your dishwasher in the most efficient way possible. Energy efficiency software company OPOWER recommends scraping plates instead of rinsing them with hot water, and making sure the dishwasher is full each time it's run. To save on the costs of heating water, avoid special cycles like pre-rinse and rinse-hold, which can be unnecessary, and stop the dishwasher before it's time to dry—the dishes can air dry, instead.
5. Don't feel like you have to follow tradition. Just because our country's Norman Rockwell vision of Thanksgiving involves turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green beans, it doesn't mean you're obligated to make any of those dishes. So if you notice year after year that the stuffing goes uneaten, replace it with something a little less traditional, or eliminate it entirely. If the turkey comes out slightly dry each year, try fish instead. And for vegetarians, there's no rule that says that turkey must be replaced with tofurkey. Get creative.
6. Go without the plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is a single-use petroleum product, and contains PVC, a chemical that can leach into your food. The most environmentally-friendly way to store food is in reusable containers, such as glass jars. You can start saving these ahead of time, so you'll be prepared to send guests home with leftovers. Aluminum foil is a greener choice than plastic wrap because it can be recycled.
7. Travel green. You'll have to expend some resources to get from point A to point B, but if you plan ahead, you can keep your travel footprint light. Take a train or public transportation to your Thanksgiving feast, if it's available. If you're flying, choose a non-stop flight and bring your own snacks to the airport to cut down on waste. If you're driving, make sure that your car is tuned up so that you can drive as efficiently as possible.