This Thanksgiving, America will throw away four Statue of Liberty’s worth of turkey (by weight). Based on estimates, we’ll discard 203 million pounds of turkey, at a cost of $282 million. That’s fowl.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful for and celebrating abundance. Yet these days, we tend to do that by serving an overabundance.
While I think there’s room to cut back on the quantity of food we serve, I can’t see that part of the holiday changing any time soon.* Yet our holiday overindulgence needn’t prompt a corresponding increase in waste. We just have to do a bang-up job using our leftovers.
Of course, many Americans are quite adept at transforming turkey into a variety of other dishes. Compared to leftovers from the rest of the year, Thanksgiving remains are a hot commodity. Indeed, what many call Black Friday could well be called National Leftovers Day.
Still, there’s room to step it up. This year, let’s strive for a Zero Waste Thanksgiving.
Now, I know what you’re thinking–No, that doesn’t mean everyone at the table has to clean their plate (but it can’t hurt). Instead, it means we strive to send nothing to the landfill by using as much as we can (and composting the rest). The best way to do that is to plan ahead. Unless you’re going to invite this guy over, it’s essential to plot out leftover recipes and/or plan to redistribute the leftovers.
Most people are fairly adept at repurposing turkey, but don’t forget about those sides (Using up desserts aren’t much of a problem.) Whether protein or potatoes, creating a game plan for those extra pounds of food is vital. There are so many ideas out there, the possibilities are endless and fun (i.e. deep-fried stuffing bites).
In terms of planning ahead, let’s share leftover ideas by commenting here, tweeting with #ZeroWasteThanksgiving or commenting on the Wasted Food Facebook page.
Whether or not you’re excited about making the traditional turkey soup or pho, it will likely make sense to send food home with others. I’m guessing you’ll have enough to do both. Here’s a strategy that promotes both the use and sharing of leftovers: Send guests home with a hastily-assembled turkey pot pie. Have pie crusts ready (either homemade or store bought) and make an assembly line after dinner to fill each pie shell with layers of leftovers. They can then be baked or refrigerated or frozen for later.
However you do it, why not share that abundance with friends and family on another day (not just Thursday)? To ease logistics and put guests in the leftover mindset, tell them to bring their own takeaway containers. Everyone having reusable containers will also help avoid plastic or paper waste.
So this Thanksgiving, my request is simple: Try to use all of your food. What better way to say thanks for all the natural and human resources that went into creating your food
*It’s the excess on the other 364 days that’s the more important and realistic target.
CORRECTION: We’ll throw away more than 400 Statue of Liberty’s worth of turkey! I messed up the calculations, as Kyle Curtis noted. (Thanks, Kyle!)