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If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, you’re probably already the type of ambitious person who has goals. Most of your goals likely pertain to the nitty-gritties of throwing the perfect holiday get-together: the shopping, prepping, cleaning, and cooking. But what about the planet? Even cooks who make all kinds of sustainable choices the rest of the year can let their usual habits slide in the holiday frenzy.
In many ways, hosting a more sustainable Thanksgiving isn’t just about one day. These efforts can also make your kitchen greener in the long run.
A Canvas Tote
Your sustainable Thanksgiving actually begins in the days leading up to the holiday. To minimize your food miles, you’ll want to get what you can at a farmers’ market and bring your harvest haul home in a reusable bag. This one is plenty roomy for your big butternut squash and Brussels sprouts on the stalk. Even more importantly, it’s comfy to carry. And let’s face it, for a sustainable life, you need a reusable bag you’ll actually want to carry on every grocery run.
You need more than just a tote to keep it plastic-bag free on your Thanksgiving shopping sprees. These reusable mesh cotton produce bags mean you can give those filmy plastic ones you tear off the rolls in the produce section a hard pass. This set of nine bags have the tare weight printed right on the tag for easy checkout. They’re also durable and washable.
Shopping on Thanksgiving Eve is a rookie mistake that I’ve vowed never to make again. Even if you have a leafy green salad on the menu, you don’t need to shop last minute when you’ve got these terry cloth sacks, which prevent wilting by wicking moisture away from delicate leaves. I’ve relied on them for years to keep greens shockingly fresh and crisp for days on end. I’ve managed to keep farmers’ market greens good in these bags for up to two weeks. This is a clear environmental upgrade over the zip-top storage bag lined with paper towels method. Bonus: you can keep herbs fresher longer in these bags as well.
One more suggestion for sustainable grocery shopping: Buy your dried and ground herbs and spices in the bulk section, and keep them in reusable glass spice jars. Every year as I review my recipes and dust off my dried sage, rosemary, and thyme, I open up all my spices, sniffing for freshness. If you don’t get a good hit of aroma from a dried herb or ground spice, it’s time to restock. I make it an earth-friendly holiday tradition with these handy jars.
Skip the plastic turkey brining bag and dry-brine your bird this year instead. Not only is this method more sustainable, but you’ll also get crisper skin and meat with a better texture than a soggy wet brine. Use a V rack both for elevating the turkey as it dries in the refrigerator and roasting it when the time comes. And unlike a giant plastic brining bag, a V rack is a versatile piece of kitchen equipment you’ll use again and again.
It can be tough to go without aluminum foil and plastic wrap, especially on Thanksgiving when there are casseroles that need to be covered as they cook and leftovers that need a lid before refrigeration. This is where silicone lids can save the day. Oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe, these lids are workhorses in the kitchen every day of the year. You’ll want both rectangular ones for baking dishes and round ones to fit your bowls.
Countertop Compost Bin
Given the inevitable mountain of vegetable trimmings, Thanksgiving is a great time to start composting if you aren't already. Make it easier with this good-looking countertop canister. Best feature: a charcoal filter that eliminates those undesirable composting aromas.
Elevate your Thanksgiving table with cloth napkins. Not only do they say “adulting!” to your family, but they also let you say your goodbyes to disposable paper napkins. Sure, you could go for napkins sporting a leafy print or a turkey, but it might be a little on the nose and they’ll be out of place on your dinner table the rest of the year. Instead, choose high-quality cloth napkins in a solid color. Linen is understated, yet still special.
You can never have enough sheet pans. Especially on Thanksgiving. Having plenty of them means you eliminate those disposable foil baking tins that somehow creep into the mix on Turkey Day because you’ve run out of sheet pans and baking dishes. Pro tip: smaller quarter sheet pans are especially useful because you can fit up to six of them in your oven at one time. You know the beets take longer to roast than the brussels sprouts, and rolls warm up in no time.
Want to really commit? Ditch the turkey. Eating lower on the food chain is unquestionably better for the planet. Try this Butternut Squash Vegducken instead. Serve it on a stunning platter to make it feel extra main-dish worthy. Here’s a piece you’ll want to show off through the rest of the winter holidays and all year.
Banish disposables at dessert with a holiday-table-worthy pie plate or two. A basic glass pie pan is fine, but a gorgeous one can make your pumpkin pie extra smooth and give you a flakier crust. Okay, not really, but they do make a visual impact.
Homemade whipped cream not only tastes better, but it’s also more sustainable than those aerosol cans of cream. The plastic tops and metal bottles are single-use, and the can is pressurized with nitrous oxide, a gas that contributes to global warming. All you need to avoid all that is a cold bowl, chilled cream, and a superior whisk. You’ll get fluffy homemade whipped cream that’s just exactly as sweet as you want it.
Picture the scene at the end of Thanksgiving night. In most kitchens, relatives and friends help themselves to the excessive amount of leftovers, piling stuffing in foil pouches and wrapping fractions of pie in plastic wrap to take home. End this wasteful practice and stock up on cheap, reusable deli containers in various sizes instead. It’s true that plastic isn’t the most sustainable material, but it beats disposal packaging that you use once and toss—and it means you won’t be giving away your prized glass containers. Guests can reuse them to store leftovers and bring work to lunch for a year or more.
Reusable Sandwich Bags
Let’s face it: You’ll be eating turkey sandwiches for lunch for a week. Now is the time to switch to reusable sandwich bags if you haven’t already. See-through, sealable, and washable, these bags can be a big help if you are trying to break free from single-use plastics. You’ll actually want to bring lunch to work just to show them off.
The Instant Pot
It’s possible the best part of Thanksgiving is the rich stock you can make from your turkey carcass. An Instant Pot makes quicker work of it than simmering it for hours on end on the stovetop. The Instant Pot is 70 percent more efficient than other kitchen appliances, according to the manufacturer. The resulting golden liquid is richer and more flavorful, too. Read up on which model is right for you here, and start planning what to do with your bounty of bone broth.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious