How to Lower the Carbon Footprint of Your Thanksgiving Meal
Brightly’s report ranks carbon emissions based on the average 12-person table during this holiday dinner. The study highlights that the central problem is the most popular centerpiece for the Thanksgiving feast: Turkey. Turkey is the centerpiece for 81 percent of Thanksgiving tables across the United States, presenting a substantial environmental impact for a single day. Other dishes include stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, and mashed potatoes.
Brightly recorded that an average Thanksgiving dinner produces approximately 103 pounds of CO2. Typically, the Thanksgiving table is dominated by meat and dairy products, which cause significant environmental strains on the supply system.
Brightly’s report aims to raise awareness during the holiday season by asking people to consider introducing more eco-friendly and plant-based options without abandoning all of their traditional dishes. The report is meant to visualize the impact that a single dinner can have on the planet, further advocating for plant-based and eco-friendly solutions beyond the Thanksgiving table.
"No one is expected to forgo their favorite holiday dishes in order to reduce their carbon footprint, but we can all take small steps in order to make it a more planet-friendly feast,” Co-Founder and CMO of Brightly Liza Moiseeva said. “We recommend making vegetable stuffing instead of pork stuffing, using non-dairy swaps in some of your recipes, and cooking the meal all at once. It's common to cook dishes ahead of time to reheat later, but that increases the carbon emissions associated with cooking."
Make Your Thanksgiving More Sustainable
Brightly presents a six-step solution to the environmental problems that stem from Thanksgiving dinner. The report suggests that American consumers make vegetable stuffing, leave behind roast beef, cut down on dairy, cook in unison, defrost overnight to save water and energy, and add more veggies, especially as an alternative to Turkey.
The eco-friendly publication determined that a typical 20-pound turkey would account for 64 pounds of the total 103 pounds of CO2 emissions during Thanksgiving dinner. Between the animal agriculture supply chain and the energy it takes to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, it ranks as the most environmentally harmful dish on the table.
Read More: Your Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide: 50+ Plant-Based Recipes
Experts predict that 4.5 million plant-based turkeys will be served on Thanksgiving. With this in mind, a previous study concluded that a turkey dinner produces twice the greenhouse gas emissions as a vegan nut roast, meaning that omitting turkey from the table could slash the carbon footprint almost in half.
Some other signature dishes that Brightly suggest being made plant-based include:
- Stuffing: 25 pounds of C02)
- Mashed Potatoes: 9 pounds of CO2
- Cranberry Sauce: 2 pounds of CO2
- Pie: 3 pounds of CO2
By cutting the dairy and meat ingredients, Brightly intends to lift the disproportionate environmental burden from a single holiday dinner.
Eating Plant-Based to Protect The Planet
A recent study from the scientific journal Nature Food concluded that meat production is responsible for 57 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than twice the level that plant-based food production generates. The alarming statistic is a key motivation for Brightly’s report to promote a national shift to plant-based, sustainable foods.
“The emissions are at the higher end of what we expected, it was a little bit of a surprise,” Climate Scientist at the University of Illinois and co-author Atul Jain wrote in the report published in Nature Food. “This study shows the entire cycle of the food production system, and policymakers may want to use the results to think about how to control greenhouse gas emissions.”
Avoiding beef and dairy products is necessary to curb the dangerous consequences of climate change, according to research claiming methane is 80 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres even claimed that to avoid a climate "disaster" then the world needed to turn to plant-based solutions.
The UN-funded think tank Chatham House released a report last year that claims the best thing that consumers can do for the environment is reduce meat and dairy purchases and incorporate more plant-based diets. The report states that “the largest differences occur between animal-sourced and plant-sourced foods, with the latter having smaller footprints; in some cases, substantially smaller."
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