Universities offer tips for having a 'green' Thanksgiving

Amber Athey
Investigative Reporter

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  • Several universities are providing students with guidelines on sustainable Thanksgiving practices to impose on their families over the holiday.
  • Several universities are providing students with guidelines on sustainable Thanksgiving practices so that they may combat climate change and reduce their environmental impact over the holiday.

    Harvard University, for instance, shared 5 tips from its EcoOpportunity Team for hosting a “green Thanksgiving,” such as using reusable dinnerware rather than paper plates.

    “Encourage [your elders] to talk about when things weren’t protected the way they are now.”   

    “Not only is it better, but who likes cutting turkey with a plastic knife and hoping the gravy won’t soak through the paper plate?” the guide quips.

    [RELATED: Harvard placemat serves up social justice for Christmas]

    In order to have a green Thanksgiving, students must also forgo the usual holiday gluttony and “eat mindfully” as well as regulating their intake of turkey and non-organic food.

    “The meat industry is the number one source of methane gas, which is a major contributor to climate change,” Tip #4 reads. “Another major environmental impact of a meat-eating diet is the depletion of natural resources.”

    Temple University also suggests rethinking the way students buy their turkeys, explaining that “mass-produced turkeys in America are raised in poor, unhealthy conditions, which is why we suggest buying organic!”

    However, an even better tip, according to Temple, is to cut out meat from Thanksgiving dinner entirely.

    “There are plenty of meatless alternatives to turkey,” the website declares. “Just a quick pinterest search will result in hundreds of delicious recipes, but here are some ideas we found on Gourmet.”

    Temple even provides a “green wine guide” to make sure the drinks on the table are “made with sustainable energy.”

    In addition to food tips, the university suggests creating a green tablescape by ditching the “tacky, petroleum-based plastic pumpkin” and instead creating the table’s centerpiece with natural elements like “pine cones and leaves.”

    [RELATED: Stanford students petition for ‘sustainable food-themed’ dining hall]

    The University of California, Santa Barbara takes the idea a step further, suggesting that the Thanksgiving turkey is not the only place students can cut waste—they can avoid turning on their oven entirely by making no-bake desserts.

    “Having your oven on uses energy and creates emission,” UCSB helpfully advises. “This year you can mitigate this by making no-bake desserts that don’t require the oven to be tasty.”

    Outside of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, students can also stay green by skipping Black Friday shopping and instead “make homemade gifts this year or purchase handmade gifts from local artist.”

    Despite many schools urging students to avoid political topics during the holidays, Michigan State University says students should talk to their family members about sustainability efforts.

    [RELATED: Students prep for ‘fundamentally different viewpoints’ at Thanksgiving]

    “When you gather with your elders over the holiday, encourage them to talk about when things weren’t protected the way they are now,” outdoor educator Nick Baumgart suggests. “They could talk about when the Cuyahoga River caught fire, or when piles of alewives washed up on the beaches of the Great Lakes, or local sites of environmental pollution.”

    Finally, he concludes, students must be sure to give thanks for “legislation and laws that protect these resources, the individuals who created them and those who enforce them.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey



    Amber Athey

    Amber Athey

    Investigative Reporter

    Amber Athey is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. She graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Economics, and is currently a member of the 2016-2017 Koch Associate Program. 

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