Three Thoughts for a Climate Change-Friendly Thanksgiving

Is it possible to have a carbon-free Thanksgiving? Not likely unless you’re planning on buying offsets. A University of Manchester study found that an average Thanksgiving dinner for eight is going to cost about 44 pounds of carbon (and that doesn’t even include drinks!). That’s the equivalent of burning over two gallons of gasoline. Not good for climate change.

Should you forget Thanksgiving and just eat some dry toast instead? You could. Or you could just be smart about what you put on the table.

Perhaps you’ve heard of local food?

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably found a number of articles on the benefits of local food. This might seem obvious but it can’t be reiterated enough: local food has a much smaller carbon footprint than items from afar.

In California, the tomatoes you buy from Mexico have traveled almost 1200 miles according to a report from Natural Resources Defense Council. The average trip for produce to get to you is around 1500 miles.

So look around for local sources of food. You can reduce your carbon footprint by taking just a few footsteps to the farmer’s markets, local grocery store or food coop, or even your neighbor with a green thumb.

Get into the season

This goes hand-in-hand with eating local: eating seasonally. Peach pie wasn’t on the menu in Plymouth for a reason. Think about where you live and what’s in season. Not sure how to figure that out? has a handy map that shows what’s likely to be in season by region. Turns out in California, you can have peach pie after all!

The piece de resistance

Ah the turkey. The LA Times recently mentioned that shipping turkeys across the country eats up 915,200 barrels a year So it's likely the turkey is the biggest part of your meal’s carbon footprint unless you’re drinking nouveau Beaujolais with dinner. On the bright side, turkey is much less carbon-intensive than beef or other four-legged animals, but it’s still not quite as efficient as vegetables.

Tofurkey might be a more climate change-friendly alternative. However, in a globalized world, soy used in your Tofurkey could have come from the Amazon. Deforestation is a huge cause of climate change, counting for up to 25% of global emissions. Maybe not the best choice after all.

You could really go for gold and cut the turkey entirely. (This could benefit the planet and your waistline.) But what would Thanksgiving be without it? In the LA Times article, the head of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Mike Tidwell admits,  “One day a year I wake up in the morning, and I consciously decide to eat meat, and that's Thanksgiving Day…But the rest of the year I'm a vegetarian."

Heeding the first piece of advice, you could seek a local turkey. That would at least cut transportation costs out of the equation. And if you feel like atoning, you can cut meat out of your diet for a few weeks after.

Even better: if you have a few family members who deny climate change or are sitting on the fence, share some of the facts you’ve picked up here at justmeans. Getting another person on board in the fight against climate change is something to certainly give thanks for.

Photo Credit: Wild Turkey- Flickr