Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Zero Waste Thanksgiving Feast and Decorations

Nov, 13, 2023

Zero Waste Thanksgiving Feast and Decorations

Pretty much every year, my family hosts Thanksgiving. Over recent years, though, I’ve become focused on (a.) not going overboard and (b.) hosting with as small a carbon footprint as possible. So here are my tips for zero waste Thanksgiving Feast and Decorations. Read my list of tips for simple ways we can be a little more sustainable and environmentally friendly without losing our sanity.

Zero Waste Thanksgiving Feast and Decorations

IRemember, it’s all about reducing our carbon footprint, not about being perfect; so you don’t have to use all the ideas. Even if we all choose a few ideas that resonate with us, we will making a dent in the loads of waste that will be filling up your trash cans post-celebration.

Shop local and zero waste—I like to shop for my holiday food at the local farmers’ market because I can find the freshest, local organic food with little or no wrapping at a low price. I plan my menu according to what is available locally. I buy everything else in bulk at my co-op. 

Decorations—There is no need to buy brand new decorations for Thanksgiving. Instead, use things you already have around the house, like neutral colored candles and glass vases or jars. Use natural elements like twigs, leaves, mini pumpkins, Indian corn, flowers, etc.; and upcycle them into great Thanksgiving decorations. How about the fun idea of creating place cards made from leaves?

Borrow Dinnerware-Do you not have enough plates, silverware and glasses? Borrow from someone who is not using theirs. If you must get new, go shopping at a thrift store for that perfect shabby chic look.

Use a cloth table covering and napkins-Skip disposable napkins and table clothes and use a reusable ones.

Drinks—Skip water bottles and serve tap water infused with herbs and fruits. It looks very nice. Buy beer and wine in bulk.

Save leftovers- Let your imagination turn them into to new fun dishes. (Or search Pinterest.) Give guests the leftovers in mason jars. If you’re serving a turkey, save the carcass of the turkey breast and use as a base for making broth the next day, either on the stove or by slow cooker.

Compost what you can’t eat—Food waste costs money, but more importantly, it is a huge environmental problem, so compost any food that simply cannot be eaten as leftovers.

For my family we serve and eat vegan Thanksgiving meal and I have been asked what some of our must-haves on our Thanksgiving dinner are and here my two favorites:

Mushroom Gravy

  • 3 tbsp. vegan butter
  • ½ medium onion, sliced
  • 4 medium white mushrooms, diced
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour (I use gluten free from Cup4Cup)
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp. Bragg’s liquid amino
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. Parsley, minced (optional)


Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Sauté onions and mushrooms until soft and onions are translucent. Sprinkle flour all over and stir until vegetables are coated. Slowly whisk in the broth little at the time. Add Braggs and poultry seasoning and whisk on medium heat until gravy is slightly bubbling and getting thicker. Add seasoning. Sprinkle parsley over if using. Done!

Fruity Kale Salad

  • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 8 ounces kale 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries 
  • 1 medium apple


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons  maple syrup
  • Pink salt and ground pepper, to taste


  1. Toast pumpkin seeds in a frying pan on medium heat until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they toast evenly. Remove from heat set them aside to cool.
  2. Pull the kale leaves off from the stems and chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Put the kale to a big salad bowl. 
  3. add the dried cranberries to the bowl. Peel and chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. 
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the salad before serving. 

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

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