Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Zero Waste Thanksgiving

How to Host a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

If you’re like me, you are thinking this blog is entirely premature, and then *checks calendar* you realize Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away.

Yep, that’s me!

In an effort to reduce chaos, stress, and waste, we’re rolling out our Zero Waste Thanksgiving guide -- just in time!

We were inspired by Kathryn Kellogg’s tips on zero waste holidays, and you can find her original blog post here for more details, including her tips on getting a package-free turkey.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

Step one: Take a few moments to plan the meal. The best way to reduce waste is prepare what you need, and, in our house, enough leftovers for day-after-sandwiches. This tool by the National Defense Resource Council, the Guestimator, helps you plan enough food for your guests (or just your family!) without the waste. Make a list of recipes, keep most of them simple, add in one of two show stoppers, and then get to preppin’!

wooden picnic table outside with natural tablescape for Thanksgiving dinner


Farmer’s markets are the best way to reduce waste and support sustainable, local farmers. You’ll find seasonal, local produce that will look and taste great on your Thanksgiving table. Peruse the market the week before to see what’s in season and determine whether the produce you need will be there. If not, head back to the “plan the work” section and make a new plan for the seasonal produce on hand!


No farmer’s market? Shop in the bulk section of your grocer -- aim for produce that’s not packaged, and either bring your reusable produce bag (like these or these), or just throw it in the cart like we do. You can use this simple recipe for washing your produce at home. No plastic bags, lots of fresh veggies. Almost there!


Cooking from scratch will reduce waste. Fewer containers to open (and toss), and more ways to make it yours. We roast a lot of veggies, puree a lot of soups, and bake a lot of desserts (my personal favorite) but we do always acquiesce when it comes to stuffing -- no matter what, our kids love the Whole Foods bagged vegan stuffing mix. They talk about that stuffing all year long. We’re trying our best! A more sustainable alternative would be to try your hand at homemade stuffing recipes, complete with baking your own bread. Sound intimidating? Bread for your stuffing can be made days in advance -- remember that first step: plan! Check out this article that taste-tested the best breads for stuffings. Yep, we’re drooling...


Decor & Place Settings

The fun part! Natural decor is the most sustainable, zero-waste option. Live in a place where fall reigns supreme right now? Send the kids outside to collect leaves, pinecones, cattails, pussywillows. Live somewhere tropical? Add monsteras, fresh-cut flowers, ti leaves. Beachside for the holidays? Driftwood and stones make great tablescapes, too. Even your kitchen can provide the ingredients for a sustainable tablescape, like this rosemary place setting or this edible tablescape that has us absolutely drooling. Use your imagination and your natural environment and your table won’t disappoint. Or, just ask Pinterest.

cloth napkins thanksgiving dinner table sustainable design


And remember our sustainable birthday party blog where we mentioned cloth napkins and place settings? Well, new blog post, same recommendation! We use the same napkins and placemats for holidays as we do for Tuesday night dinners -- it always feels dressed up. Invest in some solid colors to make your dining feel more formal. Need more mood? Check out some of these soy wax candles to add some natural light ambiance. 


Avoid the plastic cutlery and dishware by committing to washing dishes throughout the day -- run your dishwasher or hand wash dirty dishes before the big meal to lighten the load. Or, embrace the post-meal clean up with a killer Thanksgiving playlist. Disposable dishes are tempting but, trust us, once you toss them, the only place they’ve left is your kitchen. They’ll be in that landfill forever! 

Storing Leftovers

Hands down, leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. But leftovers don’t have to be a plastic, waste-filled affair. There are so many great options for sustainable food storage now. Here are some of our favorite swaps:

  • Swap plastic baggies for mason jars (great for soups and dressings) -- this is one of our favorites. Salsa jars become dressing jars, sauerkraut jars become soup containers.

We haven’t bought Ziplock baggies for 3 years. And we’ve never looked back!

Do The Best You Can

Feeling inspired to make your own zero waste Thanksgiving? Amazing! Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t! Choose a few of these zero waste Thanksgiving hacks to implement this year, and don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We all need to start somewhere, and every effort is a step in the right direction.

We love Thanksgiving, a time to indulge, relax, and share. This year will look a lot different for us, and for most, with the widespread pandemic hampering plans. But we still intend to cook, bake, and eat - a lot! We hope you do, too.

sustainable thanksgiving zero waste tablescape apples, pie, thanksgiving dinner


See something missing from this list? Send us a note or comment on this post on our Instagram or Facebook!