Just because you escaped hosting Thanksgiving this year doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. After all, hosting is a hair-pulling, nerve-shredding challenge — from choosing the menu to prepping the food to ensuring everyone enjoys themselves. So, the least you can do is be a top-grade guest. (Your presence alone, no matter how charming you think you are, isn’t enough.)
This holiday, you may even want to consider these ideas for taking it up a notch by making Thanksgiving an eco-conscious celebration. Bonus: it will totally show you should be invited back next time.
Don’t show up empty-handed
Whether it’s a dish or an appetizer, any contribution to the evening, no matter how small, will underscore your appreciation. If you want to make an impression, think about bringing a home-cooked dish prepared with organic ingredients. Just head to your nearest farmers market or locally owned shop to source ingredients. You’ll be supporting farmers who grow their produce organically, using non-toxic chemicals and sustainable practices that reduce water consumption.
You can also familiarize yourself with some foods that have a lower impact. For example, wheat requires three times the amount of water as corn. So, instead of whipping up buttermilk biscuits, bring along a homemade cornbread instead. Check out some other low-impact Thanksgiving swaps here. You might also consider creating something vegetarian or vegan friendly. On average, the meat industry has a significantly higher carbon footprint (30-90% higher) than plant-based alternatives.
Lend a hand in the kitchen
Instead of arriving with a dish or bottle of wine, offer to show up a few hours early and help cook. You can even offer to bring along those locally sourced, organic ingredients.
Use eco-conscious cooking methods
If you do end up helping in the kitchen, use energy-efficient appliances and techniques that minimize environmental impact. Convection ovens, for example, use less electricity and heat up faster than regular ovens. Another eco-friendly Thanksgiving tip? Bake multiple items at once to maximize efficiency.
Offer to handle the table decor
Maybe your host could use an extra hand outside the kitchen. If so, offer to handle the table decorations. In addition to adding candles and other touches, check out the local farmers market for fresh produce that can double as decorations. In case your host doesn’t have them, bring cloth napkins to minimize your single-use waste since paper towels and napkins will just wind up in the local landfill.
Carpool to dinner
On one of the busiest travel days of the year, reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling with other guests. Not only is it eco-friendly, but it will give you a chance to socialize before dinner. Best of all, you won’t be driving alone in all that grueling holiday traffic.
BYO (Bring Your Own) reusables
If you know your host will be using single-use plastic, consider bringing your own set of reusables — from water bottles to utensils to reusable straws made of stainless steel or silicone. And don’t forget a receptacle for leftovers so good food doesn’t go to waste. Fill your container (and your belly) with Thanksgiving leftovers.
Bringing a gift? Shop local
If you’re bringing your host a present, think about supporting local artisans or choosing sustainable items like local organic wine or farm-fresh produce. This will show your appreciation while also promoting conscious consumerism.
Mind the dinner conversation
Family gatherings are famed for their mealtime clashes. And if you bring your own reusables — cutlery, cloth napkins, or bamboo straws — you’ll no doubt spark conversation about your eco-friendly practices. Some relatives may express curiosity while others may be skeptical about sustainable living (or even — gasp — climate change). To keep things from getting out of hand, remember no one likes to be told what to do. Instead of preaching, be positive. Share tips, ideas, and experiences with those interested in listening. And a few well-timed jokes probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Help clean up with eco-friendly products
If you didn’t help prepare the feast, help clean up afterwards. Your host will appreciate the effort since tackling the aftermath is always the worst part of Thanksgiving. Instead of relying on chemical cleaners, bring along surface cleaners free of phosphates and bleach. If your host needs to clean placemats or tablecloths, bring along a lightweight pack of SaltyLama’s eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets.
Unlike a plastic jug of liquid detergent — or a box of powder — these sheets slip easily into a pocket or purse. The ingredients are plant-based and hypoallergenic, meaning it’s a perfect detergent for people with allergies or sensitive skin. Just rip a strip (two strips to a sheet), toss it in where liquid chemicals used to go, and add whatever tablecloths or napkins need to be washed. Done! And not a spill in sight.