Thanksgiving Waste

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is a time to eat delicious traditional food, surround yourself with family and friends, and be grateful for what you have. Whether it’s the history, the food or the being grateful, this can be considered the best US holiday.

Thanksgiving FactsUnfortunately, it is also a pretty wasteful one. After the friends have gone and the food is too much to eat, a lot of turkey meat ends up in the garbage. In fact, 35% of the holiday turkey, valued at more than $282 million, is wasted per year. On top of the nutritional and financial losses, it also leads to environmental ones.

Organic matter that decomposes in landfills anaerobically (without oxygen), produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 21 times more potent at trapping heat inside the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Besides that, it wastes all resources that went into growing the food. For instance, one pound of turkey requires 468 gallons of water to produce, and releases 12 pounds of CO2 emissions. With many US families producing more than one pound of wasted meat, it’s obvious that Americans need to be more grateful and less wasteful.

The Environmental Working Group says that wasting the meat is like driving the car for 11 miles or taking a 94-minute shower. Swapping the turkey waste for a real adventure or a long warm bath sounds like a better option. The choice of which a family can afford depends on the leftovers they produce. Looking at the millions of wasted dollars, Americans can save a lot more at home than through sales on Black Friday.

Let’s eat well, do well and be thankful!

Don’t Waste – It’s Thanksgiving!

The Spirit of Thanksgiving: Don’t Waste Those Leftovers

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.39.56 PMIf you’re American, live in the United States, or are aware of American culture to any degree, you know that Thanksgiving is a mere two days away. Distant relatives and friends are excited to come together to share a huge, delectable meal in celebration of the founding of the US (controversy aside) and, much more importantly, in recognition of what we have to be grateful for. Do we truly appreciate all that we have, though? I’m not so sure.

Somewhere between one-third and half of all of food produced in the US goes to waste. This translates to around 34 million tons of discarded food per year, in which each American is responsible for at least 200 pounds of annual food waste. Meanwhile, over 49 million Americans experience food insecurity: an insufficient or lack of reliable access to food. Not only do Americans not value all the food at their disposal, but heaps of food that is shamelessly, largely unknowingly, thrown away could be put to greater use feeding people in need. The sad truth behind Thanksgiving is that people feel obliged by tradition to express how thankful they are for their meal, but most are ignorant of humbling facts on food waste and insecurity.

The holiday teaches us that a way to show appreciation is through mass-consumption, buying and eating all that we can simply because we can. This seems entirely backwards, considering that value is derived from scarcity. But, on the other hand, at least the whole idea of reflecting and ‘giving thanks’ is emphasized. In other words, it feels wrong to celebrate humility with excess, but at least people are being reminded, albeit superficially, to be grateful when they might not otherwise count their blessings.

If this seems confusing, it’s because it is; Thanksgiving is quite paradoxical. So, rather than weighing the rights and wrongs of celebration, the easiest ethical way to approach the holiday is to minimize waste. Someone truly thankful for food should know better than to throw it out. The tradition of serving gravy already enables cooks to save meat drippings that would otherwise be wasted and put them to a tasty use. Vegetable juices and scraps can also imbue other dishes with flavors, such as when stuffing a turkey. What poses the biggest challenge to many families, however, is the notion of leftovers. I personally love mixing bits of all of the Thanksgiving leftovers together on a plate, but many people are put-off by the idea of eating ‘remnants’ or simply tire of having the same meal over and over again. In the same spirit as last week’s vegetarian post, I decided to compile another recipe list – this time, creative re-workings of some common Thanksgiving remnants.

Miscellaneous Leftovers

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.39.42 PM1. Sandwiches and wraps.
The simplest leftovers solution: pile as much as you want of whatever you want on a couple slices of bread or in a tortilla. For example, you could drizzle gravy on one side of a slice of bread, smear on some mashed potatoes, add a few green beans and some turkey, drizzle one side of another bread with cranberry sauce, and sandwich everything together. Feel free to also add other ingredients from your kitchen, such as using cheese for a turkey quesadilla.

2. Crostini.
Cut up some baguette and top the slices with whatever leftovers you like to make dainty appetizers.

3. Salad.
Pairing any leftovers with leafy greens will alleviate some of the post-feast guilt.

4. Pizza.
Swap tomato sauce for cranberry (or gravy) and toss whatever else you’d like on a pizza crust.

Mashed Potatoes

1. Loaded Mashed Potato Cups.
Use puff pastry or Pillsbury dough to make adorable tartlets filled with mashed potatoes and typical baked potato toppings.

2. Potato Pancakes.
Soft, fluffy, and cheesy latke variants. These are closest to American buttermilk pancakes.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.40.10 PM3. Mashed Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Waffles.
Transform your potatoes into a comforting weekend brunch.


Muffins: Mix the remaining stuffing with an egg or two, fill it into a muffin pan, and bake at 300°F for 20-25 minutes to make a nice batch of snacks.


1. Croutons.
Cube the bread, drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, or other desired spices (such as rosemary), and bake on a cooking sheet at 400°F for 15 minutes. They will keep well for a couple weeks and spice up any salads.

2. French toast.
Slice the bread and soak it in a mixture of eggs, milk, and any desired spices (such as nutmeg and cinnamon) overnight, then cook it in a pan the next morning for a sweet breakfast.

3. Bread pudding.
There are thousands of other bread pudding recipes that are also great for leftover bread, but this one will also help take care of those leftover sweet potatoes.

Let’s really show how thankful we are for our food by not wasting it!


How to Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Don’t let the turkey centerpiece fool you – Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a meat-centric holiday. In fact, most of the traditional side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, cornbread and stuffing, are vegetarian in their standard form. A vegetarian should be able to fill themselves up quite nicely on non-turkey fare. However, many cooks, striving to serve unique interpretations of the holiday classics, use meat to liven up their feasts. One might find that bacon has wormed its way into the cornbread, mashed potatoes are served submerged in authentic gravy (made from meat drippings), and a horrific turducken sits at center stage. I go on, I should admit that I am not a vegetarian. I often feel that I ought to be, given the deplorable consequences of the industrialized meat production system, but that is a long discussion that can be saved for a later post. Nonetheless, I love vegetables, and I find many dishes tastier when the diverse flavors at play aren’t overpowered by the taste of meat. Since our readers are definitely food-conscious, presumably environmentally-conscious, and probably health-conscious, I thought many could benefit from a list of vegetarian dishes that could yield a delicious and inventive Thanksgiving dinner.

Entrée: Carving the turkey out of the meal

  • Vegan shepherd’s pie (or a sweet potato version). If veganism is irrelevant to you, feel free to use butter instead of oil and dairy milks. Either way, the hearty mix of lentils and vegetables topped with whipped potatoes are sure to be satisfying.
  • Pumpkin Pot Pie. Pumpkin, kale, and carrots are just some of the vegetables held together by a lovely flaky crust (which could also be bought in a store, if time is short).
  • Butternut Squash and Asparagus Torta. Preparation might be a bit challenging, but the creative combination of squash, asparagus, and cheeses is very rewarding.
  • Kale and Sweet Potato Gratin. This casserole-like dish is rich, creamy, and surprisingly simple to make.


Mashed Potatoes


Sweet potato



  • Vegetable stock gravy. You probably already have all the ingredients – it’s that straightforward.
  • Onion gravy. Essentially the same as the other gravy, only with the tang of diced onions.

Vegan Desserts* (since desserts are normally vegetarian anyway)

*These all happen to be gluten-free as well, but there’s really no need to bother with that complexity if you don’t have gluten sensitivity.

  • Apple Crisp. Gluten-containing substitutions can be made to simplify this already easy-to-make spiced treat.
  • Pecan Pie. Maple syrup, dates, and cashew butter allow you to skip the eggs to veganize this timeless dessert.
  • Pumpkin Pie. For many, this classic is the single best thing about autumn; and it’s just as delicious vegan.

Reference: many of these recipes were drawn from this list.

Eat up, my friends.