Bye Bye Birdie

Photo: istockphoto/nstaykov
Recreate your Thanksgiving feast—without ruffling any feathers!

Thanksgiving signals a time of family, friends and stuffing oneself to the gills with heaps of festive fare. Unfortunately, high-spirited feasts can pack a hefty environmental punch. With a little creativity and a few painless modifications, this year’s celebration can focus on giving thanks to the Earth by treading a little more lightly.

Don’t preach

Thanksgiving is a time for traditions that can be decades old, so introducing your eco-savvy ideas requires tact, especially if you’re not playing host. “Be sensitive to the usual way of doing things,” says Louise Fox, a Toronto-based etiquette expert. To get your family or friends on board, “ask for suggestions and take a vote on one or two ideas to start.”

Keep it local

Autumn’s harvest brings a variety of vegetables that are in season in many parts of the country. Try to purchase as much as you can at local farmers’ markets or rural roadside stands to minimize your meal’s carbon footprint. Find your local farmers’ market in this city guide.

A kinder, gentler bird

In 2008, Canadians purchased 2.7 million whole turkeys for Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of bird. So this year, consider buying free-range, organic turkeys for the festive season, making sure they are certified under the new Organic Products Regulations that came into effect this year. These are raised without antibiotics and enjoy far less harsh living conditions than their factory- farmed brethren. Go one better and try a festive meat-free entree, like a nut-based roast with mushroom gravy or veggie lasagna (If making it yourself is too daunting, order a main dish from a nearby vegetarian restaurant.) Only a fraction of the natural resources required to provide a meat-focused meal are drawn upon with vegetarian fare.

Don’t overdo it

Statistics Canada estimates Canadians waste almost 40 percent of available food. Everyone enjoys a holiday gorge, but making enough food for an army often can mean sending a portion of it to the landfill. (For the same reason, don’t forget to set the table with cloth napkins!)

Get the kids involved: “Kids today have lots of knowledge about ecological issues,” says Fox, so tap into it. Harness their eco-smarts and creativity to, for example, decorate the table with ornamental squash, colourful maple leaves and beeswax candles. After all, it’s their Thanksgiving, too.