We’re all excited for the upcoming holiday, but let’s also be conscious of our environmental impact. According to the USDA, Americans will throw away more that 200 million pounds of edible turkey meat this Thanksgiving holiday. Here are a few ways to prevent the wasteful and tragic aftermath of Thanksgiving.
- Eat local and/or organic. Many Thanksgiving foods like squash, potatoes, and apples are seasonal in the U.S. during the fall and can be purchased from a local farm. Local farms reduce the miles that the food has to travel to get to your kitchen, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Some local farms are certified organic, but you should ask the farm if they have organic practices. You can also purchase organic produce from a grocery store. Organic produce protects farm workers from harmful chemicals and is safer for humans. Most importantly though, local and organic food tastes better!
- Don’t waste food! Americans waste 40% of all food produced in the United States according to the NRDC. You could give out leftovers to guests, eat it as breakfast, or even compost and transform food waste to benefit your garden. “Begin with the Bin” has a great resource for composting leftover food.
- Use reusable plates, silverware, glasses, and napkins. This is better for the environment, and no one likes cutting turkey with a plastic knife and having gravy soak through paper plates.
- Eat less meat. The meat industry is the largest source of methane gas, which is a major contributor to climate change. You don’t have to be a vegetarian, but try having less meat on the plate and filling the rest of it with healthy sides like squash and green beans! You could also consider purchasing a smaller turkey.
- Drink tap water. Americans spend $18 billion on bottled water, which creates mountains of plastic that will stay on this earth for a long time. If you are concerned about the water quality, investing in a filter for your tap water is a wiser alternative.
Participants in the Eco-Ambassador program are eligible to receive a sustainability grant of $200 towards a sustainability initiative or project in their office or department.
Last year, Lynne Ramsey, an Eco-Ambassador in the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), noticed that participants in the Center’s summer workshops for children were using up to 5 disposable cups a day during snack breaks. So for this summer’s sessions, Lynne used her grant to purchase CEEO-branded reusable plastic cups from a local producer. All workshop attendees, instructors, and CEEO’s undergraduate student workers received a cup. Lynne estimates that the initiative eliminates the waste of over 5,000 disposable cups.
The cups not only replaced single-use paper cups during the event but also display information about the waste and deforestation created by paper cups every year. In this way Lynne’s initiative fulfilled a key principle of sustainable events: to extend sustainable behavior and awareness beyond the single event and into the future.
Lynne and CEEO hope to continue the initiative into the future, incorporating reusables into all of their summer workshops.
For more information about sustainable event principles as well as checklists to guide you through hosting your own events, review or download our Green Event Resources ebook.
Learn more about the Eco-Ambassador program and consider applying to become a sustainability leader in your office.
You may have already heard the good news: paper cups are now recyclable! That’s right—the hot cups you use for tea or coffee can now be placed in paper recycling bins. All hot cups are made with a thin plastic lining that seals them and makes them waterproof, but since plastic only comprises less than 5% of the whole cup, the cup can be recycled as paper.
Some things to note:
- Rinse out your cup before putting it into the recycling bin in order to remove residue that could be harmful in the recycling process.
- Wax-lined cups are still not recyclable. In order to tell the difference between a wax and a paper-lined cup, you can simply scratch the lining of the cup with a fingernail and if anything comes off under your nail, the lining is likely wax.
Of course, while this is great news, the best way to lessen your impact with your morning coffee is to use a reusable mug. The Eco-Ambassadors at University Advancement (UA) are leading the charge.
Meaghan shows off her reusable glasses
Kim Moniz, Mini Jaikumar, and Marny Ashburne recently pioneered a UA Green Team and one of their goals is to convert their office to using only reusable mugs. The UA Green Team’s founding members have been recruiting others in Advancement to join them in thinking up ways to “make University Advancement more sustainable, raise awareness of green initiatives, and encourage people to adopt habits that will help make UA more eco-friendly.”
Their first program was a Mug Drive and Raffle. The Green Team asked office members to start the New Year by bringing in reusable cups and mugs to use at work. Every person who brought in a cup or mug could then register with a member of the Green Team and receive a sticker for their mug or glass announcing that “[Name] Thinks Green.” Then every Friday for a month, the UA Green Team pulled a name from the list of people with registered mugs to win a $25 Target gift card.
Andy's mug has something to say
At the time of the last drawing, 114 people had registered a mug or reusable cup. With 171 people in the office, about 67% of office staff participated! Some final steps in the plan included encouraging office members to bring in cups and mugs from home to donate to the office so that there would be enough reusable cups and mugs for everyone. The UA Green Team is now looking into discussing with senior management the idea of eliminating the purchase of paper cups in Advancement altogether.
The Eco-Ambassadors/UA Green Team’s success really shows how far a little initiative can go and how successful office environmental campaigns can be! However, it is important to note that although paper cups are now recyclable, they are still not the most sustainable option. It is best to still try to use reusable mugs and glasses whenever possible, but now if you cannot avoid using a paper cup, at least you can remember to recycle it.