Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, household waste increases by more than 25%. Food waste, wrapping paper, shopping bags, Christmas cards, bows, ribbons, boxes, decorations, lights and plastic, plastic, plastic add an additional 1 million tons of trash per week to our landfills. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are all kinds of simple things we can do to reduce our waste during the holiday season without sacrificing any of the holiday cheer.

This is a big issue in Central Oregon because at the current rates our Knott Landfill will be full by 2029 and it is going to cost a lot to find an alternative location for our trash. The more we recycle the longer our landfill will last.

This holiday season your Unity Central Oregon EarthCare team will be sharing simple steps to more Earth-friendly celebrations starting with Thanksgiving. What better way to express gratitude for our lovely planet than giving her a little extra consideration during the holidays.

1) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Start with the three Rs of conservation: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

  • Reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying only as much as you need and choosing products that come in packaging that can be recycled.
  • Carry reusable bags when you do your shopping, and use cloth napkins that can be washed and used again.
  • Recycle paper and all plastic, glass and aluminum containers.
  • If you don’t already have a compost bin, use your Thanksgiving fruit and vegetable trimmings to start one. The compost will enrich the soil in your garden next spring. OR, sign up for the new food waste collection service now available through Bend garbage and recycling companies.

2) Buy and Eat Locally Grown Food

Buying only locally grown food is one good way to have a greener Thanksgiving. Locally grown tastes better than food that has to be grown and packaged for maximum shelf life, and it requires less fuel to reach store shelves. Locally grown food also contributes more to your local economy, supporting local farmers as well as local merchants. The Central Oregon Locavore store is a great source.

3) Go Organic

Using only organic food for your feast is another good green Thanksgiving strategy. Organic fruits, vegetables and grains are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers; organic meat is produced without antibiotics and artificial hormones. The result is food that is better for your health and good for the environment. Organic farming also produces higher yields, increases soil fertility, prevents erosion, and is more cost-effective for farmers.

4) Celebrate at Home

Thanksgiving weekend is one of heaviest for highway travel in the United States. This year, why not reduce climate change emissions and improve air quality by lowering your auto emissions at the same time that you lower your family’s stress level by skipping the travel and extra busyness and celebrating a green Thanksgiving at home?!

5) Travel Smarter

If you must go over the river and through the woods, there are still ways to have a green Thanksgiving. Conserve fuel and lower your emissions by making sure your car is in good working order and your tires are properly inflated. If possible, carpool. If you fly, consider purchasing carbon credits to offset your portion of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by your flight. A typical long-haul flight produces nearly four tons of carbon dioxide.

6) Make it a Spiritual, Thanks-filled Day

Gratitude is a fundamental Unity practice, Thanksgiving provides the perfect opportunity to put gratitude front and center. One lovely practice is to reach out to friends, teachers, loved ones we are grateful to or for because we all appreciate a heart felt “thank you.” What we appreciate appreciates so why not include the many ways our beautiful High Desert sustains and enriches our lives? As part of your green Thanksgiving, make time for prayer, meditation, reflection, or perhaps just a walk in the woods to contemplate and give thanks for the wonders of nature. After all, every day should be Earth Day and every day should be about Thanksgiving!

For more information check out the Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste in Central Oregon project.