How to Reduce Waste this Thanksgiving Holiday


 - By Kailey Bradt

How to Reduce Waste this Thanksgiving Holiday


Thanksgiving is an American holiday when gratefulness is practiced with friends and family over a delicious meal. Probably most known outside of the US for serving turkey, stuffing and potatoes- the holiday varies table-to-table with what is being served. However, we’re highlighting some facts around the most consumed foods for the Thanksgiving holiday and what can be done to reduce waste!

Americans throw away 25% more waste during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. Let’s reduce waste together this holiday season, starting now.

Fresh Food

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a feast--so it’s not surprising that Thanksgiving generates so much food waste. 

According to Nielson, each year at Thanksgiving Americans buy:

  • 365 million pounds of turkey
  • 250 millions pounds of potatoes
  • 77 million pounds of ham
  • 57 million pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 483 thousand pounds of fresh pumpkins

According to Neilson, 25% of Thanksgiving meals end up in a landfill. 35% of the turkey purchased ends up in a landfill- some quick math and that’s over 125 million pounds of turkey wasted each year. It’s estimated $293 million worth of food total is wasted during Thanksgiving.

Here are some ways to reduce food waste during Thanksgiving (and all the time):

  • Shop for only what your family needs (ie. 1lb of turkey per person is recommended)
  • Save (and eat) your leftovers 
  • Compost food scraps instead of sending them to a landfill

Packaged Food

According to the EPA, food and packaging account for almost 45% of the materials in landfills in the US. Much of the food we purchase for Thanksgiving is sold packaged- stuffing mixes, pie fillings, pie crust mixes, gravy packets, rolls, frozen veggies and the list goes on. 

According to Nielson, each year at Thanksgiving Americans: 

  • Buy 17 million pounds of fresh cranberries ( + separately spend $42 million on canned ones)
  • Buy 28 million store bought pies
  • Buy 40.5 million rolls
  • Spend $137 million on frozen vegetables
  • Spend $112 million on spices/seasoning
  • Spend about $96 million on breadcrumbs/stuffing mixes 
  • Spend about $88.8 million on prepared deli entrees
  • Spend about $50 million on pre-made filling
  • Spend about $37 million on baking mixes
  • Spend about $37 million on jams/jellies

Fortunately, there are alternatives which reduce food packaging waste:

  • Shop fresh, package-free produce at your local grocery stores or farmers markets
  • Shop at bulk food stores for spices and refill packaging you already have
  • Pick items with less packaging when available (loose apples versus apples in a plastic bag)
  • When selecting packaged foods, look for packaging that is recyclable (aluminum, cardboard, paper) instead of plastic packaging.
  • Instead of buying store bought baked goods (pies, rolls, etc.), make them at home. They will be healthier (and taste better too)!


Lastly, for those who celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, which is typically a more casual, serve-yourself dinner, there tends to be a lot of single-use serveware. According to the EPA, plastic dishware generated 1.1 million tons of waste in 2017 alone. 

There are so manys to reduce waste associated with single-use plastic serveware though!

  • Avoid single-use serveware altogether. Bring your own reusable containers for the dish you're bringing and to take home leftovers in!
  • If you are required to bring single-use items, shop recyclable containers like aluminum tins and cover them with aluminum foil. Paper or wooden plates and utensils are a great alternative to single-use plastics as well.

We hope with this information you can have a more mindful Thanksgiving holiday and take the time to make changes for the planet while enjoying quality time (and food) with friends and family.

We’re grateful for you!

From Team Susteau, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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