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How to Host a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in a family that holds time together very dearly. Some of my most treasured memories are those where we were all gathered together around the dinner table, reminiscing and encouraging each other.

That said, Thanksgiving dinner comes with its challenges. 

Today, in the midst of your own planning, nothing may sound more intimidating to you than trying to pull off a Zero Waste holiday.

“Go Zero Waste, right now?” you say. “I’m already overwhelmed!”

Friends, I hear you. But to be honest, hosting a Zero Waste Thanksgiving requires little more than a pinch of proactivity and a dash of some good old-fashioned creativity.

You can do this!

So, in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, here are my top ten tips for how to host a Zero Waste Thanksgiving and cultivate gratitude in the process!

How to Host a Zero Waste Thanksgiving


Zero Waste Thanksgiving Ingredients

1) Set aside the status quo and open your eyes to new opportunities to make a difference.

The Zero Waste lifestyle is simply a shift in perspective. Keep your eyes wide open to the many ways you can cut out food waste and packaging waste this Thanksgiving.

Maybe try shopping at a bulk grocery store this year, or focus on homemade rather than store-bought dishes. Every little thing makes a difference!

2) Plan your meals ahead of time using recipes that make the most of your ingredients.

It’s so easy to let food go to waste if you’re caught with bits and pieces you don’t know how to use. Does your stuffing recipe only call for half an onion? Maybe there’s a way you can integrate it into your gravy?

Check your recipes ahead of time to see if you have an opportunity to adjust proportions and use whole ingredients.

3) Shop from your fridge and pantry first, leading up to the big event.

Eat down anything in the fridge that may go bad while you’re cooking and enjoying your Thanksgiving goodies. Get creative!

4) Don’t trash the scraps.

Still have leftovers? Save your veggie scraps to make a stock after the holiday or compost whatever you can’t use.


zero waste thanksgiving leaves

5) Use natural beauty to decorate your table.

Decorate your home and table with lush greenery and locally grown squashes, then eat or compost them afterwards. There’s nothing more autumnal than a gorgeous spread of pumpkins.

6) Avoid paper-products and break out those beautiful linens you always forget about.

Odds are, you have a lovely stash of linens and cloth napkins in your linen closet. It’s easy to forget about the special items that only come out a few times a year; let them shine!

7) Label place settings with lovely fall leaves.

There are few decor elements classier than a hand-lettered autumn leaf at the head of a place setting. It’s time to break out that metallic sharpie and get craftin’!


josh and lauren thanksgiving

8) Gift your friends and family with leftovers stored in mason jars.

Don’t let your delicious dishes go to waste in the back of the fridge. Pack them up into pre-portioned lunches for the freezer or send some combos with friends and family in glass containers. You’ll be able to escape Thanksgiving waste-free and give a small gift in the process. 

My family has a tradition of saving Thanksgiving leftovers in the freezer, then breaking them out during the summer for “Thanksgiving in July.” Worth it.

9) Arm yourself with recipes that help you make use of leftovers. 

Leftover mashed potatoes make a delightful roll or breakfast hash. Overloaded with turkey? Go for a classic turkey and cranberry grilled cheese or sneak into a turkey pot pie. 

10) Focus on the moments that matter.

Keep a polaroid camera on the table to capture moments as they happen. Share stories of Thanksgivings past. Give your grandma a hug. Rather than letting a Zero Waste Thanksgiving become your goal of the big event, focus instead on cultivating gratitude. 

I hope that you all enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving celebration! Have questions about some of my tips? Ask me in the comments! I will answer you personally as soon as I can.