Sustainability | Ecotrope

Your Sustainable Thanksgiving Ideas

Ecotrope | Nov. 21, 2012 3:41 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:28 p.m.

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Many of you said you're making your Thanksgiving more sustainable by eating local foods, choosing your turkey wisely, avoiding packaging and disposable flatware and composting your food scraps.

Many of you said you're making your Thanksgiving more sustainable by eating local foods, choosing your turkey wisely, avoiding packaging and disposable flatware and composting your food scraps.

You sent in some great responses to my question about making your Thanksgiving sustainable. Some of you said that the word “sustainable” is hard to define. That’s a great point. But you still shared ways to minimize the environmental impacts of your Thanksgiving celebration: Eating local food – including food from your garden, choosing your turkey wisely, avoiding packaging and disposable flatware, staying home and composting food scraps. Thanks, and keep them coming!

You can also check out this EarthFix podcast where I talk about a variety of sustainable Thanksgiving ideas.

Choose Local Foods

Many of you are conscious of the fact that food miles add environmental impacts to Thanksgiving meals. So you’re making an effort to eat local foods that don’t have to travel as far to your dinner table.

Oregon grows only 4 percent of the cranberries for the U.S., but that's more than enough to feed Oregonians. Oregon farmers grow five times more cranberries than Oregonians eat every year.

Oregon grows only 4 percent of the cranberries for the U.S., but that's more than enough to feed Oregonians. Oregon farmers grow five times more cranberries than Oregonians eat every year.

Marilyn Veomett of Portland said her eating habits have changed since moving from the Midwest as she has adopted the more environmentally conscious ethic of the Northwest.

“This year it seemed perfectly natural to order a fresh, local, non-hormone treated turkey, purchase local organic cranberries and yams and we’ll no doubt buy a local wine,” said Veomett.

Michael Wherley of Eugene said his Thanksgiving menu includes Northwest salmon, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkins in his pumpkin pie. He’ll also have greens from his own garden. It doesn’t get more local than that!

Jennifer Creswell of Portland said she knows the farmers who grew most of her Thanksgiving food, which she will pick up in a “Thanksgiving box.” She is getting a turkey that was harvested in Oregon less than a week before the holiday.

“I am deeply grateful that I’ve developed relationships with our farmers who are now our friends,” she said.

Susan Dean McReynolds of Creswell said she will be serving an elk her husband hunted locally.

Patty Taylor Dutcher will be making an applesauce cake from apples in her backyard using a recipe that, according to family lore, stretches back to pioneer women on the Oregon Trail. Her great grandmother Bessie Lukinbeal adapted the recipe and she herself added frosting that wouldn’t have been possible in the olden days (see recipe below).

Choose Your Turkey Wisely

Heritage breed turkeys are raised for outdoor life, so they can live on pasture instead of confined indoor quarters where their droppings accumulate and can later pollute nearby waterways.

Heritage breed turkeys are raised for outdoor life, so they can live on pasture instead of confined indoor quarters where their droppings accumulate and can later pollute nearby waterways.

If you’re choosing a local turkey that was raised Oregon, chances are it’s a pasture-raised, heritage turkey fed with organic feed, as Anne Taylor of Portland will be eating.

Christine Llobregat of Portland will be eating a Bourbon Red turkey, a specific kind of heritage breed, from the Kookoolan Farm in Hamhill. She’s cooking it on her “Big Green Egg” barbecue, which is known for its efficient use of charcoal.

Rebecca Thistlethwaite of Bingen, Wash., is having a heritage turkey from her neighbor’s farm. In exchange for her husband helping with the turkey harvest, her family is getting a free bird.

Wendy Posson of Portland plans to get the most out of her turkey by using its carcass to make stock the day after Thanksgiving.

Avoid Packaging, Disposable Napkins, Plates And Paper Towels

Roxy Miller of Lebanon said her family will avoid paper napkins and plates and minimize their use of paper towels. Reusable napkins, plates and silverware reduce waste from Thanksgiving meals.

Wendy Posson of Portland said her family uses fresh fruits and vegetables in part to avoid packaging. She has reusable containers for storing leftovers so she doesn’t have to use plastic wrap.

Stay Home Or Minimize Travel Impacts

Several people mentioned they will be minimizing their vehicle miles by staying home this year. I suppose people who do have to travel could consider carpooling to reduce their individual carbon footprints. Others said they will avoid Black Friday shopping in favor of making their own holiday gifts for people.

Sources for this story came to us via OPB’s Public Insight Network. You can share you experience and insights at http:opb.org/publicinsight.

Great Grandma Bessie’s Applesauce Cake

Set oven temperature to 350 degrees

Grease two loaf pans

Mix together:

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup boiling water

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup raisins (if desired)

1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts (if desired)

Sift together:

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

Blend together and bake one hour at 350 degrees and cool on wire racks.

Frosting (if desired)

1 8-oz package cream cheese

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup butter

1 lb box powdered sugar

Optional : 1/2 cup crushed pineapple (drain well)

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My Local, Heirloom, Organic, Free-Range Turkey »

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