Seasonal Sustainability: Thanksgiving Dinner

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 10:27:14 AM America/Los_Angeles

For many, Thanksgiving is one of the most festive days of the year. It’s the first in a string of cold-weather holidays that brings friends and family together for some of the most scrumptious food of the year. However, Thanksgiving is also synonymous with leftovers that often end up in the trash. 

Photo by Patrick Hendry 

Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and is a multifaceted problem. Methane is produced from whatever is sent to landfills and the resources that have gone into making or growing the food is also wasted. What’s worse, even more labor and transportation is required to take waste to landfills. 

Fret not! We have some tips for making Thanksgiving more sustainable. While it may be difficult to have a zero waste dinner, it is possible to be more mindful of how we shop, consume, and travel for this yummy holiday. 

Meal Plan

Meal planning can work two ways here. It’s no secret that Thanksgiving means leftovers (we’re looking at you, cranberry sauce). Rather than making dishes out of habit or tradition, consider asking invited guests about food preferences before you do the shopping. Another way meal planning can help make Thanksgiving more sustainable is by planning out how you want to use leftovers. If you know that no one is going to touch the leftover stuffing, then limit the amount made. On the other hand, if yams are a family favorite, make extra while your oven is in use to be energy-efficient. 


Whether gathering with family and friends feels like a joyous occasion or a dreaded event, chances are you’ll have to travel to get to Thanksgiving dinner. Try carpooling for more local destinations. If carpooling isn’t a practical option, see if public transportation is a possibility.

Rethink Decor

Instead of buying new Thanksgiving-themed decor, opt for autumn-inspired looks. You may be able to just reconfigure some items you already have in your home (think raffia objects, rattan furniture, and natural textiles) to give it that fall vibe you’re looking for. If not, forage for colorful foliage, twigs, and pinecones to make a DIY centerpiece that also gives kids a project while you’re busy throwing the turkey in the brine!

Use Scraps for Broth

Thought the carcass was trash? Think again. The bones of the turkey make for a tasty and nutritious broth. No need to worry about too much broth -- it can easily be frozen and stored to be used throughout the coming winter season.

Donate Unopened Foods

If stuffing or pumpkin pie is a once-a-year kind of dish for you, donate unopened items to a local food bank. Shelters and food banks are especially in need during the holiday season, and every little bit can help others in need.


While that extra apple pie might be worth donating, not all foods can be donated. Compost suitable leftovers in order to prevent them from being trekked to the landfill. Fall is a great time of year to compost, as dry leaves are in no short supply. 

Bark Potty partners with 1% for the Planet to donate 1% of our sales to One Tree Planted. 1% for the Planet is a network of businesses that have committed to taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of their various industries. 1% for the Planet encourages businesses to practice corporate responsibility by facilitating donations to grassroots environmental organizations such as One Tree Planted. Each Bark Potty purchase you make further supports our collective efforts to reduce the ecological footprint that humans have left on the environment!