It’s almost Thanksgiving and every year around this time there are articles and blogs reminding all of us to remember the impact of our carbon footprint this time of year. Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel holidays and although it is always good to gather with friends and family from far and wide, it is important to remember the impact our feast will have on Mother Earth.
In a recent article, in The Washington Post, I was alarmed at the high calculation of greenhouse gases on an average Thanksgiving feast. The food miles alone for each food item on a typical Thanksgiving table is enough to make my green savvy head spin in disgust.
Did you know that an average turkey serving can contribute to about 2.4 pounds of carbon dioxide? That’s only for a single serving. Can you imagine what the real calculation is considering all the over-eaters at the Thanksgiving table? Now we can considerably decrease that rate if we buy our turkeys locally but what happens when there are no local turkey farms? If only there was a way to get the turkey to the Thanksgiving table without the use of fossil fuels to ship and transport the oversized bird. I am thinking some kind of homing device where you can select the bird on the internet and it will fly directly to your house. Perhaps, GPS poultry technology will be in our environmental future.
You certainly can’t have turkey without mashed potatoes and gravy on the side but even the potato is guilty of producing a carbon footprint. In fact, once that potato reaches your house and is cooked and mashed to perfection you have added 1.5 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. Perhaps it’s time we do without the high-carb starch on our plates to decrease those greenhouse gases. I am thinking your waistline could manage without it.
I love vegetables and choosing them over meats is always the environmentally-friendly thing to do. However, at the Thanksgiving table even the green foods add to the carbon footprint of the meal. Of course, if you are truly eco-friendly all of the vegetables will be organic and grown from your own garden or purchased at a local farmer’s market. Isn’t it ironic that the same harmful carbon dioxide that causes the catastrophic global warming is the life sustainer and growth element for vegetables? Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my environmental thinking around that one.
If you add wine to the list of previous foods the total carbon footprint on a Thanksgiving meal totals up to about 10 pounds of greenhouse gases. However, we haven’t included cranberries, rolls or sweet potatoes. I haven’t found calculations for my Aunt Sally’s Jell-O salad which is a family favorite but I am sure it too contributes to world pollution in record numbers.
The good news is at least we can control our own method of travel to the Thanksgiving meal. The smart eco-friendly mode of transportation is the train. However, if you can’t use mass transit try to carpool with a friend or family member. I realize that a family of 4 (larger families are not eco-friendly) carpooling with other passengers makes it inconvenient to squeeze into any vehicle that is fuel-efficient. However, that large sports utility vehicle is killing rainforests and melting ice caps. What other option is there? Then again you could purchase a Chevy Volt just in time to travel for the holidays. Just don’t forget to plug it in to charge in advance. Um, the Volt is still on the market right?
I hope I haven’t depressed all my fellow “Go Green” activists out there. Thanksgiving is really a wonderful time of year. However, is the carbon cost to our environment really worth it? Makes me realize how blessed the Pilgrims really were on that first Thanksgiving celebration. They could feast and celebrate without the guilt of knowing that their meal had no impact on their global climate future with a nearly 0% carbon footprint. Then again, I guess overcoming starvation, sickness and being provided food to eat, thanks to their Wampanoag Native American friends, was reason enough to be thankful.
Have a happy Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to compost and remember you can plant some trees or give lots of money to a carbon fund site to off-set your ritualistic, glutton celebration. (All contributions are tax-deductible, of course.)