Sustainability Tip: Reduce food waste and environmental impact this Thanksgiving |

Sustainability Tip: Reduce food waste and environmental impact this Thanksgiving with these 5 tips

By Paul Abling
Sustainability Tip

Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American household waste will increase by more than 25%, according to a 2016 blog post by the Environmental Protection Agency?

Holiday food, packaging, shopping bags, wrapping paper, and other items will contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills, the EPA also reported. As we prepare to feast and give thanks, it’s important to remember what happens to food waste and other organic materials in the landfill. When food waste decomposes in the landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

Limiting food waste this Thanksgiving isn’t just about saving the environment and wasting food. It’s also about money. Last year, MarketWatch reported that Americans throw away roughly $165 billion in uneaten food every year, and that 160 billion pounds of uneaten food are currently sitting in landfills.

Here are some tips to limit your food waste this Thanksgiving. 

1) Portion control. Serve smaller portions, initially. You can always go back for seconds or thirds, but only serve yourself what you know you can finish. Not only are you saving pounds from the landfill, but perhaps pounds from your waistline the day after.

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2) Coordinate your recipes with friends and family so you don’t end up with 13 green bean casseroles or seven turkeys. A little communication and planning can go a long way to reduce food waste. 

3) Freeze your leftovers. Some people can’t eat leftover turkey sandwiches for 13 consecutive days and food left in the refrigerator too long inevitably ends up being thrown away. If you freeze your leftovers, you can eat them at a later date or turn vegetables and meat scraps into homemade soup or broth.

4) Eat less meat, but more turkey? The average American could cut their diet’s environmental impacts in half just by eating less meat and dairy. For many (including myself), however, it would not be Thanksgiving without turkey. In fact, many studies have shown that turkey and other poultry have a lower environmental impact than beef, lamb or ham – something to keep in mind when you finally need to go to the grocery store after the festivities are over.

5) Compost. If you can’t eat it, freeze it, leftover it, reduce it, or donate it to the Earth via compost. Send your food scraps to Eagle County’s local compost facility, Honeywagon Organics in Wolcott. Properly composting helps make healthy soils, improves water retention, supports native plants and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. 

Paul Abling is the Marketing and Communications Director at Walking Mountains Science Center. He can be reached at

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