The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Senior Issue 2024
June 5, 2024

Less waste, more thanks

By Giorgia Cattaneo
Truck Editor

On Thanksgiving, an American tradition celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, families come together to give thanks and celebrate the harvest by preparing a large feast to be shared and eaten together. When it comes to the traditional American Thanksgiving meal, the centerpiece turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie come to mind. All mouth-watering and bound to send one into a food coma. Many food options and so much of it, all for one night, a typical thing not many stopped to think about the impact this one night has on the environment. 

In reality over 200 million pounds of turkey alone are tossed out over the Thanksgiving week annually according to the NRDC—National Resources Defense Council, a non-profit organization based in New York—and according to the U.S Chamber of Commerce, the U.S wastes 40 percent of food each year. If 40 percent is what is consumed annually by Americans alone each year, you’d have over 30 million pounds of gravy, 14 million pounds of dinner rolls, 29 million pounds of vegetable sides, 45 million pounds of green beans, 3.5 million pounds of butter, 40 pounds of mashed potatoes, 35 million in cranberry sauce, 48 million in sweet potatoes and 38 million pounds of stuffing wasted each year by Americans alone. This is not the end of the waste, all that means over 225 gallons of water per person are wasted and 476,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted nationally. 

In an effort to combat this, and try to have a more sustainable holiday is by making a plan, try not to overdo it! Pick out how many dishes you want ahead of time and try to scale it back if you begin to hit over double digits. This year, 2020, Thanksgivings will be smaller as the coronavirus pandemic is still devastating the country. Though the environmental impact may still be significantly decreased, as these feats will be limited to a few guests.

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Another important thing is to keep it simple, focus on seasonal ingredients, you do not need to make everything extremely elaborate, allow the food to stand on its own. Traditional Thanksgiving dishes do not always have to be the set menu, deviate from the norm, and create dishes inspired by your heritage. Try to find fruits and vegetables grown in your local area and farmer markets, use those as part of your dishes, and support the local economy all while minimizing environmental harm.

Make sure to prepare yourself! A great way to reduce waste is by making a shopping list with your ingredients and quantities, buy only as much as needed. Double-check what you have in stock in your kitchen to see what you need versus what you already have. Make sure to even have glass jars and reusable bags to store your leftovers and give out to guests. Encourage guests to also bring their own tupperware if they please. 

Keep your materials just as eco-friendly as your food. Use reusable cookware rather than disposable aluminum. Avoid buying plastic plates and utensils. Yes, there will be some dishes, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency,  plastic dishware created 1.1 million tons of waste in 2017, so maybe those dishes seem just slightly worth it. Use real cloth napkins, they are reusable and can even be used as a visual aspect of your decoration. Avoid single-use corporations, especially those made from plastic. If you use gourds or pumpkins as decoration use them to make a pie or another dish. Keep any empty jars or cans, wash them out and upcycle them for whatever use you find for them. 

Portion control is also a huge aspect to keep in mind. You want to avoid overstocking and overcooking, but if such ends up being the case, fret not!  Reducing and reusing potential waste can be quite simple, if you are still filled with leftovers see if your local homeless shelter is accepting any leftovers or extra ingredients (make sure to call as due to the pandemic some may not be accepted due to the risk of spreading). You can even use scraps and leftover ingredients to make a (vegetable or bone) broth. If you had a whole turkey, use turkey bones and scraps to make turkey bone broth and giblets to make gravy. Use those leftover herbs like rosemary and sage and infuse them with your cooking oils or make essential oils. Put leftovers in the refrigerator to store for later consumption. 

Compost what you can not eat! While cooking keep a small container near you to store all compostable items, which includes raw fruit and vegetable rinds such as apple skins, potato peels, eggshells, old spices and herbs, onion skins, liquid from canned vegetables and fruits, and even coffee grinds amongst much more. One can even use extra parts of a plant and animal as a fertilizer, mixing the ground with crushed bones and cracked shells to help grow more food. 

Give those leftovers a second life! If your favorite part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers and you wanna really get creative with it there are a plethora of different recipes and takes. Try making the Ross Geller Mosit Maker sandwich from the show Friends, which is made from Thanksgiving leftovers, including cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, and a slice of gravy-soaked bread in the middle.  Or even make yourself Thanksgiving leftover quesadilla, sliders, nachos, enchiladas, eggrolls, pastries, pot pie, and even a leftover pumpkin pie milkshake! 

Having an eco-friendly Thanksgiving is a great route to take when it comes to doing your part to helping the planet while still enjoying the holiday and all the good food, fun times, and tradition that comes with it. Hopefully, these solutions find a way to be implemented in your Thanksgiving/Holiday meals this year and those to come. In this difficult year, it may just be the best time to experiment with new routes and methods. Try to make less waste and give more thanks. 

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Less waste, more thanks