3 Ways to Green-Up Your Thanksgiving Bird


Go easy on the planet this Thanksgiving with these Eco-friendly turkey ideas

As you’re tallying up all the various stuff you have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, take a moment to recall that without Earth and its delicately-balanced ecosystems, we wouldn’t have any of the things we need to survive. No planet, no nature, no life, right?

One way to show some gratitude for this fact is to keep the planet’s health in mind as you put together your holiday meal. To that end, here are 3 ways to go eco-friendly with your Thanksgiving turkey.

3. Go with a local, organic, pasture-raised turkey to lower your carbon footprint

Why buy a strange bird from a strange land when you can get one from just down the road? Local, organic, and pastured are more than just buzzwords. They stand for practices that make a real difference for the environment and the turkey, in both quality of life and quality of meat.

Getting a local turkey will decrease your carbon footprint, as it takes fewer resources to transport and store a bird that comes from nearby. Moreover, going local often has the added advantage of allowing you to visit the farm where the turkey was raised, thereby ensuring with your own two eyes that sustainable practices are being observed, and that your soon-to-be main course enjoyed a life full of sunshine and free of unnecessary confinement.

Pasture-raised turkeys not only enjoy more humane conditions, they benefit from a more natural diet, which means you’ll get more complexity of flavor and a higher nutritional value than with the bird you’d find in the frozen aisle at a big box supermarket.

Localharvest.org and eatwellguide.org are great resources for finding your nearest eco-friendly turkey farmer. You can search by location, and read descriptions of nearby farms. If you can’t buy directly from a farmer, Sustainable Table has a list of questions to ask at your local market to ensure that you’re getting sustainably-sourced poultry.

2. Bag a Wild Turkey to Lower Your Impact on the Land

If a local, organic, pasture-raised turkey isn’t natural enough for you, try hunting your own bird. If you have all the right permits and follow the right safety procedures, hunting your own turkey may be the best way to ensure you’re getting a bird for which no wildlands were converted to pasture, and that grew up playing its natural role in the local eco-system. For those of you interested in upholding tradition and connecting with your historical roots, a wild turkey is the closest thing you’ll find to what your forebears were serving at their Thanksgiving feasts–certainly closer than the factory-farmed, Broadbreasted Whites available at big box supermarkets.

Look no further than Field and Stream Magazine for a great guide to hunting your own turkey this year. For guidance on hunting safely and responsibly, check out this piece by the National Wild Turkey Federation. To minimize your impact on the land during the hunt, follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

1. For the Greenest Possible Option, Stick with Plants

You can’t get more eco-friendly than a purely plant-based diet. By some estimates, raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the entire world. In fact, studies have shown that going meat and dairy-free is the fastest way to lower your personal contribution to global warming. Furthermore, meat production uses far more water per kilo of food than vegetable production, and factory farming is a major source of the toxins polluting our natural waterways. Growing vegetables uses land more efficiently than raising livestock, and so takes up less space that could otherwise be reserved for natural ecosystems.

Want to try avoiding meat altogether this Thanksgiving? Here are some vegetarian recipes that’ll make you forget that turkey was ever even a thing.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Apple, Chestnut, & Lentil Stuffing from The Flaming Vegan
Roasted Root Vegetable Risotto from In My Bowl
Mushroom & Squash Vegetarian Wellington from Jamie Oliver
Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms from Vegetarian Times
Homemade Tofurky from Chow.com

The Great Pumpkin Stew from In My Bowl
Roasted Red Onion Salad with Cherry Pepper Walnut Salsa from In My Bowl
Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Kale Ceasar Salad from In My Bowl
Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce from Saveur
Broiled Spaghetti Squash with Miso Glaze from Saveur