Curious Nature: How to mitigate Thanksgiving food waste |

Curious Nature: How to mitigate Thanksgiving food waste

Zoe Bliss
Curious Nature
Americans waste around 30-40% of food according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This amount of waste spikes significantly during the holiday season.
Courtesy photo

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on what we all love so much about Thanksgiving. Is it seeing family and friends that we haven’t seen in a long time? Is it a nice home-cooked meal made with love?

Whatever it may be, I’m sure your least favorite part about the upcoming holiday is how much food waste is produced. In any given calendar year, Americans waste around 30-40% of food according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This amount of waste spikes significantly during the holiday season. That amount of waste could lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars lost each year for a single family.

Not only is this food waste detrimental to our wallets, but it also has many harmful consequences for the environment. Excess food waste leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions, added pollution to our water systems, and can put stress on other natural resources such as water and land.

So what can we, as consumers, do to help mitigate these harmful effects? This effort can come in two parts — being more conscious consumers and using your leftover food waste in creative ways. Often the journey of producing less food waste begins before the grocery store. has a helpful tool where you can input different popular Thanksgiving foods and the number of people you need to feed and it will calculate the amount of food you “actually” need instead of you having to guess at the grocery store. Additionally, look in your own fridge and cupboard before going to the grocery store. There’s a good chance you will be able to make more dishes than you think with just what you have already!

OK, so you’ve taken stock of what food you already have, you’ve portioned out meals as best you can, and Thanksgiving has come and passed with full bellies and lots of smiles, but you still have lots of leftover food — what do you do now? The next step is to be intentional about what you do with your leftovers.

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The simplest way to prevent leftovers from being thrown in the trash is to freeze them. Additionally, any leftover food waste or any waste you may have produced during the cooking process can be sent to your local composting facility. As of now the composting program in the Eagle Valley requires a membership, but with this membership, you get access to all composting drop sites throughout the county, educational materials, the ability to get free compost for your garden each spring, and more. For more information, check out the Vail Honeywagon website!

Another way to be intentional about your leftovers is to use them to make yummy food for the next week. Growing up my mother would use the leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, add some brie cheese, and create a delicious sandwich that would cost upwards of $10 at your local fancy deli or coffee shop. This is just one way I enjoyed my leftovers growing up and below is a recipe for this delicious sandwich (adapted from a recipe found on

Turkey brie cranberry spinach panini


  • 2 slices of bread
  • Leafy greens of your choice
  • Brie cheese
  • Slices of leftover cooked turkey
  • Leftover cranberry sauce
  • Butter


  1. Add brie, turkey, leafy greens, and cranberry sauce onto one side of bread
  2. Add the other slide of bread making sure to butter both sides
  3. Cook the sandwich in either a panini press or skillet, making sure to cook until both sides are a golden brown color
  4. Serve immediately

Zoe Bliss is a Naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center where she enjoys teaching the public about the beautiful mountain ecology that surrounds them. In her free time, she likes to play ultimate frisbee, hike, and stretch out with a nice book in her hammock!

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