20 easy ways to host an eco-friendly Thanksgiving dinner

This year, plan and organize a more sustainable supper for the Thanksgiving celebration 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 200 million pounds of turkey alone are wasted every Thanksgiving in the US, that’s an estimated 6 million turkeys. And about 5 million tons of food are tossed out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

Unwanted food ends up in landfill where it releases a warming gas called methane and contributes to the rise of temperature.

Dinner parties also produce plastic waste such as packaging, single-use plates, cutlery, decorations, etc. So what can you do to lower your environmental impacts when throwing a Thanksgiving dinner? 

Eco-friendly event guide: 16 ideas for the festive period!


Here are some easy tips to help you throw a Thanksgiving dinner more eco-friendly.

How to smartly buy groceries and avoid food waste?

By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail. This is especially true when it comes to big festive dinner parties. A little bit of planning can go a long way when it comes to your Thanksgiving dinner party.

  1. Every successful dinner party starts with smart planning. List all your guests and write down what everyone is bringing. This way, you’ll get a better estimation of how much food you need and you’ll avoid ending up with two Pumpkin pies. It’s an efficient way to cut back on food waste. Try out any of these food waste apps. It is a dinner party calculator that estimates how much food you need to keep your guests happy and healthy. Just tell it who’s coming to dinner and find out exactly how much food to prepare.

Practicing zero-waste methods in your day-to-day life


2. Before doing groceries, check your cupboard and make an inventory of the ingredients you already have. It will help you avoid buying unnecessary items.

3. Cut down on meat and add plant-based ingredients. Meat production is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Keep the turkey for the main dish and use vegetable stuffing instead of saucisse, use olive oil instead of butter, etc.

4. Go for a pasture-raised turkey or an organic-certified turkey from local farms. Not only will you limit unnecessary emissions from transportation but you will also enjoy meat free of antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients, says Heidi Diestel, turkey farmer.

5. Buy locally produced or organic ingredients from your farmer’s market or local butcher to reduce your environmental impacts. Don’t forget to bring reusable tote bags for your groceries instead of single-use plastic ones.

20 easy ways to host an eco-friendly Thanksgiving dinner
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

Create a sustainable Thanksgiving decoration

One of the best things about sustainable living is that it often leads to more creativity. Rather than simply buying whatever is new and trendy, sustainable decorators have to be resourceful, finding new ways to use old things. This can be a great opportunity to get the whole family involved in the decorating process. Here are a few ideas for sustainable Thanksgiving decorations:

6. Use natural decorations. One of the easiest ways to add some sustainability to your Thanksgiving dinner is to decorate your home with some natural materials. Pick some autumn leaves, pinecones, berries, and other natural materials to create beautiful eco-friendly centerpieces, wreaths, and other decorations. Place some candles in the middle of your table and it will bring a festive holiday touch to your home.

7. If you have any reusable Thanksgiving, Halloween, or Christmas decorations from previous years, dust them off and use them too. You’d be surprised how many holiday decorations can be used year after year with just a little bit of care. 

8. When setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner, choose reusable plates, cups, and silverware over disposable ones. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will also reduce plastic waste and pollution. And don’t forget to set the table with cloth napkins! They add a touch of class while also being much more sustainable than paper napkins.

If reusables are not an option, then we highly recommend the brand Repurpose. Their motto is: “Single-use does not need to be trash!”

They use renewable, upcycled materials to create all products. All of their materials are completely non-toxic – meaning they’re free of PFAS, BPA, and all those other scary household toxins. As you fill your cart, they calculate your plastic-free footprint and our environmental impact with each placed order. Unlike plastic single-use items, Repurpose wine, cocktail and cold cups, plates and assorted cuttlery aren’t designed to end up in landfill or our oceans, which is why they are compostable! If composting isn’t your thing, rest assured that the waste still have a tremendously lower impact on our planet in comparison to toxic plastic, and they will degrade over time. More party – less landfill!

15 DIY low cost ideas using upcycled gift wrapping materials

Cooking from scratch is a sustainable option

When it comes to sustainability, cooking from scratch is one of the best options to reduce plastic packaging and waste.

9. Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner from scratch means you decrease the amount of non-recyclable plastic used in the packaging of pre-made food. It’s an efficient way to lower your carbon footprint as greenhouse gas emissions come mainly from food production and preparation.

10. During the cooking process, save energy by putting multiple dishes in the oven instead of one at a time. You can create one big meal in less time, and cut down your electricity bill. Cook the dishes that need to be cooked at the same temperature such as desserts and pies. 

8 Practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Repurpose your Thanksgiving leftovers

Thanksgiving is over, and you’re probably wondering what to do with all those leftovers. Here are a few ideas:

11. Give leftovers to your guests so they can enjoy them later. Don’t forget to plan reusable and sustainable containers and wraps to pack the food. This will help reduce waste and protect the environment.

12. Perhaps the simplest way to deal with leftovers is to freeze them for future meals. Turkey, stuffing, and gravy can all be easily reheated and enjoyed at a later date.

13. Repurposed leftovers into new dishes, turkey can be added to soups or salads, or used as a filling for tacos or burritos. Leftover stuffing can be made into stuffing meatballs, and gravy can be transformed into a flavorful sauce for pasta or vegetables. With a little creativity, Thanksgiving leftovers can be just as enjoyable as the meal itself.

14. Ask your neighbors if they want any of your leftovers. They might be happy to have them.

15. Contact your local shelter. They may be able to use your extra food to feed people in need.

Buy from Ethical Brands

Below are the largest guides of ethical brands you’ll find on the internet to be covered for all you need for an eco-friendly Thanksgiving dinner:

16. Fair-trade chocolates 

17. Ethically-made alcohol

18. Plastic-free leaf tea

19. Fair-trade coffee

20. Sustainably-made candles

While an eco-friendly Thanksgiving dinner may sound ambitious, it’s actually quite easy to pull off with a little bit of planning. 

By following some of the tips above, you can be sure to create a delicious festive feast with earth-friendly choices.

Do you have any other tips for hosting an eco-friendly Thanksgiving? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Melanie Manard

Melanie Manard is the founder of The Conscious Insider, a digital platform for sustainable and ethical lifestyle. You can usually find her reading, cooking or riding her bike.

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