The holiday season makes us think of friends, family, gathering around the fireplace with a toasty warm blanket, and food. Holiday feasting is a big part of holiday culture in just about every tradition. And this year, “green” plays a big part in that — and we’re not just talking about table decorations or salads. We mean “green” everything when it comes to the holiday meal. Let’s take a look at all your options for crafting this year’s meal with the perfect balance health, social responsibility, and tastiness!
Whether your protein of choice is ham or turkey, it’s important to take your meat selection seriously. Since both are incredibly popular choices this time of year, you’ll see an even wider variety of options, including organic and cruelty free choices. An unfortunate truth about the meat industry is that many animals are factory farmed. This means they’re kept in inhumane conditions, corralled in small pens without much attention or care. They’re also often injected with growth hormones that make their muscles larger so the cuts of meat they produce are bigger. Not the most ideal situation.
Cruelty free and free range turkey and ham selections come from farms that have dedicated themselves to allowing their animals to roam in open fields with grass and sunlight. These animals are fed the kinds of foods and grains that are natural to their diet — allowing them to have far more humane lives. The meat is generally better for you as well since the animals don’t contain potentially harmful growth hormones.
Keep It Local
When you’re thinking of which vegetables to serve up alongside your main course, local produce is a great way to keep things green this holiday season. Investing in local produce supports your local farmers and funds your local economy, minimizes the damages done to the environment by cross country or overseas produce transportation, and ultimately results in cheaper products for you and your family. Before you worry that you may be missing out on your staples like potatoes and onions, there are actually dozens of different varieties of each of these, as well as many other vegetables. Ask your grocer which kinds are local to your region and invest in purchasing those. Some markets specifically label produce that’s grown locally to make it easier for you to pick it out.
Food waste is the second largest component of U.S. landfills, and our landfills are filling up quicker than our dumpers can keep up with. If you know you already serve more mashed potatoes than your family can tuck away, cut down the amount you make this year. Not only does this free up space in our landfills and allow that food to go to families that will actually eat it, it saves your family from having to deal with all the leftovers.
Another way you can minimize waste is by keeping an eye on the packaging materials that come with the foods you buy. Try to avoid packaging that contains plastics like baskets, stickers or cling wrap. Purchasing foods without any packaging at all, like most produce, is best; also, paper and cardboard products are biodegradable and are some of the most minimally damaging to our environment.
After you’ve spent a full day in the kitchen, the last thing you want to do is a pile of dishes. This is what makes paper plates and throw-away utensils so tempting: you don’t have as much cleaning up to do after. Unfortunately this also has a huge negative effect on our environment. In addition to feeding into the large amount of food and packaging waste the holidays contribute to, it also contributes to the amount of non-biodegradable plastics being thrown into landfills. See if you can talk someone else in the family into doing the dishes this year to give yourself a break and save the environment in one fell swoop. It also gives you a chance to show off your best china for your guests.
Whether you’re hosting a dinner or going somewhere else for your festivities this year, making a recycling option readily available is a great way to make your holidays just a little greener. If you’re hosting, put out a recycling bin and clearly label it so your guests know what kinds of things can be recycled. If you aren’t sure, call up your neighborhood’s home owners association and see about getting a list. Typically things like napkins, paper plates, plastic serve wear, even aluminum are all recyclable and can make a pretty significant dent in the amount of garbage you put out to the curb the next day. If the party isn’t at your house, ask your host about recycling options. If their neighborhood doesn’t have any, volunteer to take any wine bottles or cans to your local recycling center instead.
Skip the Paper Invitations
Getting a nice card in the mail is something we all look forward to, especially when it’s an invitation to a nice holiday dinner. But it also uses a fair amount of paper, not to mention the fuel used by the mailing service to send out those invitations every year. You can help do your part by sending out electronic invitations this year. Several online services allow you to create accounts with them and customize your invite, then all you need to do is enter the email addresses of your invitees and they do the rest of the work. Another benefit to sending electronic invitations is that your response rate is faster, allowing you to prepare for the proper number of guests with plenty of time to spare. In addition to invitations, you can also send out Hallmark Christmas ecards online.
Author Bio: Miguel Bautista has been the owner of Ranka Lasting Greenery (Max Kaiser) for over 13 years. He is certified with both the AIA (American Institute of Architects) and ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects). Ranka is the next generation of decorative landscaping. This decorating solution is eco-friendly and practical, as it requires no water, no fertilizer, and no pruning. For more eco-friendly design tips, follow his blog.
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