Celebrating Thanksgiving calls for eating delicious meals, seeing extended family, and, of course, giving thanks. The environment, though, is rarely included in our thanks, as we forget to acknowledge all the opportunities it has given to humanity. Providing us with everything from resources to simple beauty, nature is often unnoticed, neglected, and eventually destroyed. On Thanksgiving, being as green as possible effectively shows Mother Nature the thanks she deserves.
Each pound of Thanksgiving turkey cooked releases around 2.14 pounds of carbon dioxide. Thus, 34.2 pounds of carbon dioxide would be needed to cook a 16 pound turkey, a carbon footprint equivalent to that of a combination of cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and rolled biscuits. The amount of carbon dioxide released for every thanksgiving meal is different for every family. A study led by Carnegie Mellon showed that families in Kentucky released an average of 77.1 lbs of carbon dioxide with only 5% using electricity from carbon-free sources. On the other hand, Vermont families averaged an outstanding 0.2 lbs of carbon dioxide per meal and all of them used carbon-free sources.
Although having a turkey is an old and prevailing tradition, if everyone were to stop eating turkey, we would save 2 billion pounds of carbon dioxide. The average turkey now weighs 30.2 pounds, and approximately 46 million turkeys are consumed every Thanksgiving. People who continue to uphold this old tradition also support the inhumane conditions and slaughter methods used by multiple turkey-producing companies. From 1960 to today, the average weight of a turkey has increased by 81% so companies could increase profits. This excessive weight inhibits female turkeys’ ability to breed and they must be artificially inseminated. The birds are kept in such poor conditions that many die due to stress or other injuries before reaching the kill floor.
Additionally, ingesting this meat is a health risk. Processed meats link to higher chances of colorectal and stomach cancer as well as heart disease. They can also contain life-threatening bacteria such as e. coli, salmonella, listeria, etc. The antibacterial formulas that the FDA sprays the meat with cause harm as well because of their negative effects on the healthy bacteria in the human body.
Many groceries contain great plant-based turkey alternatives such as Field Roast or Tofurky. Traditional side dishes that use non-vegan products such as mashed potatoes can also be made vegan by using plant based butter and milk. By implementing these little changes into everyone’s thanksgiving meal, we could reduce our carbon footprint by billions of pounds.
Furthermore, traveling for Thanksgiving is more detrimental to the climate than the actual food. A family of four flying 600 miles leaves a carbon footprint equivalent to 10 thanksgiving meals. In 2019, a total of 925.5 million passengers (38.9 million planes) took off, releasing 915 million tons of carbon dioxide. Of those passengers, about 31.6 million people flew during the 11 day travel period around Thanksgiving. Additionally, 49.3 million citizens traveled by car, releasing 8,817 grams of carbon dioxide per gallon of gasoline or 10,180 grams of CO2 per gallon of diesel.
Of course, hurting the climate by traveling is not solely a Thanksgiving problem–– it’s an everyday problem; but around holiday seasons, there is always a surge in travel. Using public transport is one of the best ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint; examples include carpooling or flying economy. While environmentally friendly planes are still something of the future, electric cars are becoming cheaper everyday, making ground transport a viable option to travel without harming the environment.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, people should be resisting the urge to visit relatives, instead quarantining at home. Alternatives include using FaceTime or Zoom to virtually see families and friends. As the pandemic continues to infect people worldwide, the environment is healing from the destruction that humans have caused. The first half of 2020 saw a shocking 8.8% decrease in carbon dioxide compared to the same time period in 2019. As quarantine continues to be mandated in multiple countries, scientists hope that this trend continues. Through healthier eating and environmentally friendlier travel habits, people can slowly but surely reduce their carbon footprint and help Earth heal, giving Mother Nature the thanks she deserves.
Carnegie Mellon University (2016, November 22). Thanksgiving dinner's carbon footprint: A
state-by-state comparison. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://phys.org/news/
Hetter, K. (2019, November 25). Record-setting air travel expected for Thanksgiving. Retrieved
November 30, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/thanksgiving-travel-2019-united-states/index.html
EPA. (2014, May). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle. Retrieved
November 29, 2020, from https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=P100JPPH
Vultaggio, M., & Richter, F. (2019, November 27). Infographic: Carbon Footprint of
Thanksgiving. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/chart/
Meek, T. (2020, November 18). 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Eat Turkey This Thanksgiving.
Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://sentientmedia.org/10-reasons-why-you-
Liu, Z., Ciais, P., Deng, Z., Lei, R., Davis, S., Feng, S., . . . Schellnhuber, H. (2020, October 14).
Near-real-time monitoring of global CO 2 emissions reveals the effects of the COVID-19
pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18922-7
Copyright © 2020 Change the End - All Rights Reserved.