Thanksgiving is best known for gargantuan feasts, football and insane holiday shopping. The excess of food and consumerism can be overwhelming. And the emphasis placed on “the turkey” is enough to alienate (and turn off) any vegetarian from this otherwise family-centered holiday. So, this year, why not be creative, go green and turn “Happy Turkey Day” into a truly happy day for everyone, including the turkeys? You may even find you save some money and get closer to your friends and family in the process! Here’s how.
Visit a Farm Sanctuary (and take your friends and family with you).
Do you know that turkeys are not only beautiful, but gentle and surprisingly intelligent creatures? Even if you do, your friends and family may not. Clue them in by introducing them to a rescued turkey at one of the many farm sanctuaries throughout the world. After all, your loved ones are much less likely to eat an animal they just hung out with on the farm. And even if they aren’t ready to forgo eating turkey this year, you are gently planting the seeds of the future – all while having a fun outing. Sanctuaries can be found around the world, including in states throughout the U.S., countries throughout Europe, and in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and many other countries.
Host local friends.
If you aren’t able to make it home this holiday, gather up a group of friends in the same boat and have a veggie-themed potluck dinner. It’s great fun to create a home-cooked, eclectic meal. And you can show your friends that a delicious feast doesn’t need to include a turkey. Make it an event to look forward to with games, movies or even holiday crafts. Whether you are hosting or going to a dinner, make it a full day of celebrating so that no one is feeling lonely. And, if you are going to someone else’s dinner, make sure that you “represent” with a meat-free main dish. It’s also fun to host a Thanksgiving-leftovers brunch (see pg. 56 for The Sexy Vegan’s leftover recipes). This way, food won’t go to waste and you can continue the fun over a lovely holiday weekend.
Be creative with your meat-free menu.
If you can’t afford all of the usual holiday fixings, or specialty fake birds, cook up a more affordable menu like pasta, salad and rolls. Or if you’re looking for something different, try a themed dinner. Just remember, no matter what is served, it’s all about the compassion and the company.
Buy local and organic.
Do your best to make wise choices and choose locally-grown and produced products. Lower your carbon footprint by saving the shippers gas and stimulating the local economy. This goes for your booze too. Don’t just be veggie this Thanksgiving – be green too!
Make your own decorations and start a family tradition.
Whether or not you’re hosting dinner this year, decorating is a wonderful way to get into the spirit of things. Instead of buying seasonal decorations, make them. Have your kids collect pine cones and acorns and sprinkle them with glitter. Place them in a glass vase you already own or a hollowed out pumpkin for a beautiful end result. Decorating with natural products like fallen leaves, gourds and corn makes your home look festive without wasting money on disposable, environmentally unfriendly decor. And you can create a beautiful, new tradition with your family while you’re at it.
Make use of what you have.
This is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to go green any day of the year, and it works on Thanksgiving too. You don’t need fancy tableware; your everyday stuff will do just fine. If you’re the Martha Stewart type and feel like everything must match perfectly, consider renting tableware, chairs and linens. It costs less than buying new and, because everything is reused again and again, it’s the green choice.
There’s no need to turn on every light in the house for your guests. Create a romantic atmosphere without adding to your electricity bill by placing beeswax or soy candles around your home. Avoid paraffin candles, though – they’re made from petroleum and emit nasty fumes into the air.
Don’t toss those potato peels, celery tops and carrot ends into the trash! If you’re not the type to save them for soup broth, toss them in a bucket along with a handful of shredded paper, leaves or other carbonaceous material. If you don’t already have a compost pile or bin, now is a great time to get a head start on next spring’s garden by creating free, fertile compost.
Give instead of receive.
Volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or animal rescue and help those who are less fortunate. Clear your cupboards of nonperishable food you know you will never make and donate it to a food bank to help feed a needy family this year. Rally your friends and teach your kids to do the same and make a day out of it.
Whatever you do this Thanksgiving and through the holiday season, don’t forget to keep it green and compassionate, give thanks and surround yourself with people you love!