With any great feast comes the not-so-celebratory aftermath. You dread it, we dread it, but someone’s got to do it. And the best way to tackle your Thanksgiving cleanup? Sustainably, of course. Before everyone is stuffed with grateful bellies, consider these tips for a waste-free and eco-friendly holiday.
Do some pre-planning
Thanksgiving preparation can be a lengthy process — from multiple trips to the farmer’s market and grocery store to all the hours of cooking and baking. It’s exciting and exhausting. However, if you want to make your cleanup easier, you must start here.
How can you help clean up before the dinner has even started? There are two main things you can do. One is to limit the number of dishes you use. For example, use one colander to rinse off veggies and limit your use of spoons and knives in the cooking process by giving them a quick rinse in between uses. Two is to wash dishes as you go. This is a great job for the less culinary person in the family. When you finish up using a set of dishes, have a soaking station ready for them to get washed, dried, and put away by someone else. This will cut down on your Thanksgiving cleanup while also reducing clutter — and stress.
Stock up on reusable paper towels and cleaner
If you want to avoid being wasteful, skip the single-use paper towels and napkins. Luckily, reusable paper towels exist to help curb single-use cleaning. You can also purchase a set of reusable dinner napkins to distribute to all the guests. We recommend keeping these simple (not Thanksgiving-themed) so that they can be incorporated during other holidays. Have what you’ll need for the cleanup process ready and set aside. That includes cleaning supplies like reusable paper towels, an eco-friendly cleaning spray, and compostable dish sponges.
Make sure you have space in the fridge and freezer
Before you’re left with several portions of tasty leftovers, make sure you have plenty of space in the refrigerator or freezer to store everything. You don’t want to end the night with the added stress of reorganizing and stuffing the fridge just to make everything fit. Plus, you might be more likely to throw things out and create unnecessary waste. See our blog on tips for eco-friendly Thanksgiving for more must-know details.
Have guests bring their own to-go containers
If you’re planning on having loads of leftovers this Thanksgiving, plan ahead and ask guests to bring their own takeaway containers. This not only will ensure you’re not left with too many leftovers, but also ease the Thanksgiving cleanup process. From there, you can easily shuffle the empty serving trays and dishes to the soaking station for washing.
Create a sustainable clean-up station
Make this part a team effort. Have someone scrape food scraps (aside from meat, bones, and dairy — eggshells being the exception) into a compost bin. Composting meat can be tricky and it’s best to do some research before efficiently composting meat scraps.
Then, have someone else take the freshly scraped plates to be soaked. Then distribute people to scrub, dry, and put away the dishes. You can make this fun by playing a game or listening to music while you do it! Thanksgiving clean-ups don’t have to be boring.
Use a tablecloth
A reusable tablecloth is going to make the post-Thanksgiving cleanup a lot easier. Once the table is clear of plates and silverware, fold it up into itself to prevent crumbs from falling to the floor. Then, shake it out in the backyard before taking it to be washed with eco-friendly laundry strips.
You can leave some things until the next day
You deserve to relax after a long day of cooking, eating, chatting, and spending quality time with your loved ones. So, don’t stress yourself out about every last dish. Wine glasses and cups can easily be left until the next day. If there’s red wine, just put a few drops of water in each glass so that red wine doesn’t build at the bottom.
Give the kitchen a quick clean
Once the dishes have been sufficiently soaked and cleaned, you can wipe down the counters and sink with your reusable paper towels and cleaning supplies. Wipe crumbs to the floor and then sweep them up to speed up the Thanksgiving cleanup.
And you’re done! Take out your compost, recycle wine and beer bottles, eat your leftovers, and be proud of the steps you have taken toward a more sustainable Thanksgiving!