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Eco-friendly Thanksgiving: Tips for a locally-sourced holiday meal

If you are eco-minded and want to show the local farmers your gratefulness in providing food for our tables, make your Thanksgiving feast a sustainable occasion.

Have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving
Chef Bryant Terry

We turned to Chef Bryant Terry, cookbook author and food justice activist, for tips on how to prepare a locally-sourced holiday meal. Chef Bryant, who recently gave a talk at Wanderlust on mindful eating, shares his top eight eco-friendly eating tips.

Chef Bryant Terry, author of Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, is passionate about food, particularly the availability of food for all, no matter the locale or income level. Growing local is the key to feeding a community, and it is up to us to buy what’s grown locally to support the local farmers.

Focus on locally-grown, seasonable produce

The Inspired Vegan

Eating locally and seasonally could mean your usual Thanksgiving recipes needs an update. Chef Bryant says, “Plan your Thanksgiving menu around local, seasonal and sustainable produce growing in your area, and create new family traditions — incorporating into your meal original recipes that celebrate your cultural foodways and use local produce and value-added food products.”

Visit the farmers market

Chef Bryant emphasizes that as consumers, we play a vital role in ensuring the survival of small farmers. “If you can’t harvest food from your home or community garden, buy fresh produce from a local farmers market or food co-op,” the sustainable chef suggests. “Check to find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.”

Use the foods you have

Before you run to the grocery store for Thanksgiving ingredients, consider using what you have on-hand. “Even if it is hard to grow food where you live in November, it is typically easy to grow herbs in a kitchen windowsill,” recommends Chef Bryant. “Also, incorporate fruits and vegetables preserved from the summer and fall.”

Drink locally

“If you plan to serve alcoholic drinks, buy local (preferably organic) wine and beer,” encourages Chef Bryant. “In addition to supporting a healthier environment by minimizing fossil fuel use associated with shipping, supporting small businesses helps ensure communities thrive economically.” The chef also recommends serving homemade kombucha for teetotalers.

Traditional vs. Modern Thanksgiving

Go a’picking

Whether you do it before Thanksgiving or as part of the post-feast activities, Chef Bryant recommends planning an apple-picking trip with family and friends. If there are orchards nearby, then use your harvest to make locally-sourced holiday dishes. “Make homemade Apple-Cranberry Sauce using fresh cranberries and locally grown apples,” the chef adds. “You can even make hard apple cider or Cinnamon-Apple Jack Toddies from your bounty.”

Minimize food waste

Plan your Thanksgiving meal before rampantly buying ingredients to avoid throwing unused food away. In addition, Chef Bryant suggests getting the most out of the food you buy. “For example, if cooking pumpkins or other winter squash for your meal, roast the seeds — they can be eaten as a snack or used as a garnish for soups or stews,” he explains.

Ditch the disposable dinnerware

Though paper napkins and plastic dinnerware are convenient and require little clean-up, they also contribute to waste. “Instead, buy cloth napkins from a local flea market or even make your own,” says Chef Bryant. “Also, buy your plates, bowls and serving platters from local artisans. Besides adding unique dinnerware with unusual designs to your collection, you are putting money in the pockets of independent craftspeople.”

Share your Thanksgiving

Give thanks by giving others a reason for Thanksgiving. “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, share your bounty (both ingredients and finished dishes) with friends, family and community,” concludes Chef Bryant.

More healthy Thanksgiving tips

A vegan Thanksgiving menu
Healthy Thanksgiving side dishes
Healthy Thanksgiving dessert recipes

Photo: Sara Remington

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