Friendsgiving is a great opportunity to sit down and have fun with the people you’re closest to. It’s perfect for those who are living far from home or may have a complicated relationship with their family. Instead of sitting out Thanksgiving and feeling sad about things, you can bring your friends together for a memorable evening.
That said, waste is a significant issue with these kinds of gatherings. So why not go a little out of your way to be sustainable? With that in mind, here are a few ways to be more eco-friendly this Friendsgiving.
The Benefits of an Eco-Friendly Friendsgiving
There are multiple benefits to an eco-friendly Friendsgiving, one of which is waste reduction. The average American tosses 35 pounds of garbage per week, and that figure increases to 43 over the holidays. Mother Earth doesn’t appreciate a “thank you” gift of landfill fodder.
Other benefits of an eco-friendly Friendsgiving include:
- Conserving resources: The planet has finite resources. Taking only as much as you need leaves an ample supply for all other living creatures.
- Preserving biodiversity: A turkey on every table may sound like a twist on an old political slogan. However, imagine the demands on resources if everyone ate the same meal.
- Feeling good about yourself and others: Remember the emotional component. Friendsgiving is about feeling good, not guilty, and the positive energy you generate by celebrating the eco-friendly way creates a ripple effect that leaves you with a warm, happy glow.
Planning an Eco-Friendly Friendsgiving
Here are three steps to planning the perfect eco-friendly Friendsgiving.
1. Choose a Sustainable Menu
Consider the total carbon footprint of your meal. While poultry production isn’t nearly as damaging as beef or pork, meat uses far more resources than plant-based foods. Therefore, consider vegan and vegetarian options. Today’s tofurkeys have come a long way, but they aren’t your only choice. You might also consider:
- Lasagna: It’s easy to make a vegetarian or vegan lasagna using tofu as a substitute for ricotta. You can also experiment with butternut squash, zucchini or pumpkin versions alongside the traditional if you’re expecting a crowd.
- Lentil and mushroom stew: This stew is even heartier over mashed potatoes. Use coconut milk to whip them to creamy perfection.
- Vegan pot pies: These meals in a dish are the ultimate comfort food. Store-bought crusts provide a cheat if you’re time-crunched.
- Whole roasted cauliflower with pistachio pesto: If you need a roast as the centerpiece, make it plant-based.
- Mushroom etouffee: Mushrooms practically scream autumn, and you can serve this dish over wild rice or seasonal grains like quinoa and amaranth.
Keep sustainability in mind when sourcing your plant-based ingredients. For example, potato production has a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions than pasta or rice. You might even forage a few goodies from the nearby woods — teaberry jam makes an interesting alternative to traditional cranberry sauce.
2. Select Earth-Friendly Decor
Decorating for your eco-friendly Friendsgiving is even easier. Greet your guests with a stylish wreath, but opt for a natural straw base instead of synthetic foam. Then, add leaves, grasses, drying wildflowers, pine cones, acorns and ribbons into a festive holiday welcome.
You can do the same for your centerpieces. Natural mini straw bales make the perfect base — the rest can come from your backyard.
3. Use Sustainable Place Settings
Fortunately, using your dishwasher is more energy efficient than hand-washing dishes for big loads, so don’t feel guilty about filling this appliance. Whatever you do, avoid plastic — despite claims, waste management crews do not recycle most of it. If you must go disposable, opt for natural, composable bamboo products. Otherwise, fill a large basin with soapy water where guests can leave their plates, making them a snap to rinse and stack.
What about cloth napkins? They are reusable and look elegant but require a washing machine. Keep in mind that you can compost unbleached paper napkins and towels.
Sustainable Etiquette and Hosting Tips
How can you make your eco-friendly Friendsgiving even greener and more memorable? Get the gang in on the fun! Broadcast your theme in your invitations and encourage each guest to contribute a sustainable dish. You could also have everyone come prepared with something earth-related they feel grateful for.
You’ll want to manage your waste and energy usage. You’ve probably already switched to energy-efficient LED bulbs for your primary lights. String lights look elegant while setting the mood, and soy wax candles create an atmosphere without the toxins paraffins emit.
Establish recycling and compost bins — how many you need depends on your gathering size. If hosting outdoors and in, include containers in both locations. Clearly label them with signs indicating what goes where for guests who might not sort trash as thoroughly at home.
Sharing Gratitude for the Planet
The best part of Friendsgiving is the opportunity to create new traditions, and everything humans have comes from planet Earth. Since the holiday centers on gratitude, why not devise fun ways for you and your guests to show your thankfulness for nature’s bounty? Here are some ideas.
1. Get Outside
The weather might be chilly, but unless an early-season blizzard howls outside, you can venture out for a bit. Doing so improves everyone’s mood, gets them a boost of natural vitamin D and burns a few of those feast calories. You might:
- Walk in a nearby nature preserve: Do you have a park or nature center near you? A post-dinner group walk is a great way to bond while digesting your feast.
- Do a scavenger hunt: Do you have a passel of littles on the guest list? Kids love scavenger hunts, and their parents will appreciate how a brief stint outdoors makes bedtime easier.
- Plant a tree: Trees are nature’s scrub brushes, taking in carbon dioxide and toxins while exuding clean oxygen. The more Earth has, the better, so consider planting one as a group to show your appreciation.
- Turkey trot: Is your friend group athletic? Although turkey trots usually take place before the big meal, there’s no law saying you can’t begin your gathering early at the starting line, retreating to your home after the event for the feast. It’s even better if you can find an event where the proceeds benefit earth-related charities.
Many people think of soup kitchens as Friendsgiving volunteer locations. While that’s one option, you can also have a more private celebration. Round up a few grabbers and bags and head to the park with your clan. You can enjoy the outdoors while cleaning up litter.
3. Carry the Spirit of Stewardship Forward
Friendsgiving comes once a year, but the planet always needs human help. When sharing what you feel grateful to the Earth for around the table, consider creating a pledge. What’s one thing you and your friends can commit to doing for the next year to make the planet a cleaner, greener place?
Serving up a Sustainable Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving combines several feel-good elements already, including gratitude and your chosen family. Throw sustainability into the mix to remind yourself that everything good ultimately comes from the Earth and create a trifecta of positivity on this special day.
Follow the steps above to serve up an eco-friendly Friendsgiving. You’ll enjoy a memorable celebration with those you love most while expressing gratitude to the mother of all blessings.